We recently tried Maria's, a new Mexican restaurant in Vestavia -- located, interestingly enough, where Sol Azteca used to be years ago. It was a busy weeknight and we were too tired for a full-fledged review, but here are our impressions.
The decor might be described as economic eclectic, with about half the decorations consisting of freebies from the beer companies, interspersed with the usual sorts of sombreros and other Mexican accoutrements. The service is friendly, although our server's English fell somewhat short. Maria herself came by to check on us a couple of times.
The cooking is better than the decor or the language skills. It's pretty standard Mexican-American fare like you see in other restaurants around here, but it's cheap and in many cases seems just a bit better in quality. The chile relleno wasn't as greasy, the Mexican rice and beans more flavorful, the chicken chimichanga filling moister, than some other places. The guacamole actually had a little pep to it, for a change.
There were a few dishes we weren't familiar with on the menu. Unfortunately, there were no descriptions, and we didn't even try to get our server to describe them, after he had trouble understanding when we were asking what was inside the chimichanga.
Our visit ended on a bit of a sour note; we escaped our table as quickly as we could once we got the check because the table next to us was served a dish with a very strong "fishy" smell.
Overall, while we thought Maria's was good, cheap, food, we didn't think it was up to the four-star rating Susan Swagler gave it recently in the Birmingham News' City Scene.
Want to read more about Maria? Check out the Birmingham News' recent "Dishing With" articles.