Maria Corbalan, owner and namesake of the South Austin institution Maria’s Taco Xpress, announced today via press release that her business has been sold after 24 years in operation.
Maria Corbalan of Maria’s Taco Xpress in March 2014 (Photo by John Anderson)
Maria’s Taco Xpress started as a food truck in 1997 and expanded to its current full-size brick and mortar in 2006. In 1998 the Chronicle awarded the spot, a favorite among local musicians, a Best of Austin Critics Pick for Most Necessary Restaurant Expansion: “Her funky little taco trailer on South Lamar proved to be such a success that she had to expand into the Sugar & Spice General Store to stay ahead of the demand for her delicious tacos and other homestyle Mexican delights.”
In addition to serving food through the end of the year, Corbalan will also be selling all of the restaurant’s decorations and fixtures – including the iconic bust – “so that the Maria’s flair can find a place within other’s homes and hearts,” the press release explained.
Maria’s Taco XPress was included in our January 2020 deSIGN feature “The Stories Behind Austin’s Iconic Signs,” in which we wrote:
Austin signage, some eclectic and some classic, has always been cool, but at the time Maria’s Taco Xpress opened 23 years ago, much of it was made just with what small-business owners had on hand. That’s the case for her welcoming Maria, said owner Maria Corbalan: “I am from Argentina and Eva Perón always welcomed everybody with open arms, and my friend Michael Peschka [the sign’s designer, who also constructed it] decided that it would be awesome to create a sculpture that reflected that message.” They wanted something different from the neon (which was “everywhere at the time”) and found inspiration from Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. Over the years, they’ve repaired the bust many times – “Her arms were even stolen once 12 years ago” – but it’s always remained a beacon. “Our sign is the most important piece of this building. People use her as a wayfinding marker to give directions – even in this time of phone maps, she is an iconic marker in Austin.”
Corbalan continued in the press release, “When I came to Austin from Argentina as a young girl, I fell in love with this city and its people. My restaurant has allowed me to touch so many lives over the years and for that I am incredibly grateful.”
She gave the restaurant’s name and equipment, as well as a trailer, to longtime employees. Corbalan said, “They have been amazing, especially during these recent hard times, and I hope they can bring the same delicious tacos to Austin for many years to come. The best gift the community can give me is supporting my employees on their new endeavor.”
The property was slated for sale in 2017, but the deal fell through; it went back onto the market in 2019. Bradley Bailey, First Vice President at CBRE, which represented Corbalan in this property sale, said, “We were glad to find a locally based buyer who will bring the next phase of this location to life.”
The sale is expected to be finalized in early November, and the release explained that the “new ownership entity is working with Britt Morrison and Brett Maze from the Weitzman Group to find the perfect tenant for this iconic location.”
“I have worked very hard as a woman in this city,” said Corbalan. “When I started my restaurant in 1997, beginning with a small food trailer, I never imagined how I would be able to give back to my community and bring smiles to faces with Hippie Church and food made from the heart.”