Maria Mazon, Executive Chef and Owner of BOCA Tacos Y Tequila, knew her move from Speedway to the Historic 4th Avenue was coming, especially when the high rises started being built in the area. Being on Speedway was “seven years temporary.” What first began as a desperate search to find the right space, Maria came to find out through word of mouth that Delectables Restaurant & Catering was going to be closing its doors. “I was very nervous and excited because, obviously, it’s five thousand times bigger than BOCA on Speedway but I’m 36-years-old and if I didn’t do it now... I don’t know when I would’ve done it. I was very content [on Speedway] but I wasn’t growing as a cook,” says Maria.
Shortly after her move, she counted eighty tequilas in her new location. The old location couldn’t even make space for twenty! The expansion (beyond the tequila shelf) has given Maria the opportunity to grow and expand her play on food. Every weekend she has a new special inspired by how she’s feeling that day. She also has a soup of the week, a salad of the week, and of course, she still gets creative with her salsas daily! Maria quotes, “That’s why I’m in this business. To create!”
Her favorite dish is always her weekend special. In my visit, she put a twist to huevos rancheros and replaced the tortilla with a portobello mushroom. She shares, “For me having breakfast for dinner is the best thing ever!” As excited as I was to taste something different, I can count on one hand the times I’ve eaten mushrooms in my whole life, thus I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my honest surprise, the texture of the mushroom was just right and the combination of the over-medium egg on top of it, doused with one of the best ranchero sauces I’ve ever had was really, really tasty. Never would I think to replace a tortilla with a mushroom.
Of course, I also ate some tacos. One must always taste the carne asada taco when eating at a taqueria (or restaurant that specializes in tacos). Maria also served me the pescado taco (beer battered, fried white fish) and what I loved about this one is the fact that it wasn’t greasy! Fried food is delicious unless the grease overpowers the taste and the experience of biting into it.
Maria adds, “We are a restaurant that specializes in Mexican food and for that matter, we specialize in tacos. People think tacos are cheap, greasy, and fast. I think people need to chill, slow down.
“Take your time. Those three minutes you have to yourself or with your significant other, eat well! We are a chill, laid back restaurant that serves food. Not fast food.”
During my visit, I sat down with Chef Maria and fed her my five q’s along with our conversation.
Why are these your favorite dishes on your menu?
Honestly, every weekend special is my favorite. I work hard on keeping it fun! In regards to the tacos, my favorites are the fish taco and the macho taco by far! Even though there are twenty-six of them and they all are my recipes, my creations, those two... I don’t know why but I love them!
What is your favorite food memory?
In my house (it’s really always my parents house), it’s always just about being in the kitchen. Family means food and food means family! It’s just one of those things.
I remember when I was my son’s age, nine-years-old, in a small city in Sonora, Mexico where I’m from... my grandma and I used to hear the guy with the little cart with the whistle selling camote (camote is a candied sweet potato). I close my eyes and I remember running to grab the green tupperware to buy it and just have a glass of milk. I can go back to that memory over and over again.
Without getting sentimental, my grandma was the coolest lady I’ve ever known in my whole life. She never cooked though. She never cooked a day in her life! She said anytime she saw a stove she wanted to grab a machete and just murder the stove! Everything that I learned, I learned from the nanny that took care of us or tv or magazines. I didn’t go to culinary school, so I have nothing to lose. To me, food is a lot of things but if you have “it” then you have it - school or not. If you have it in your heart, the passion, if you have the ability to distinguish flavors... that is it.
What would you say is the hardest ingredient to cook with?
It’s not hard but I’m allergic to shellfish. And I love cooking with shellfish! For me, it’s challenging not being able to try the last bite. I cook the sauces and whatever is going to compliment the shellfish but to not be able to taste it all is challenging.
You’re eating at a restaurant other than yours, where is it?
Even though I try to support 100% local, Whole Foods is always in our radar. You can shop and have a glass of wine at the same time! But we do eat a lot of Saffron Indian Bistro and Sushi Garden.
My wife and I only do nigiri. In my opinion, Sushi Garden has good fish. My son loves it! He asked for nigiri octopus the other day. It was cool. ZPizza we do a lot in Oro Valley. We like their wings because they don’t fry them. They bake them. Pho 88… best pho! It's on Campbell. Something about the broth. It’s not overpowering.
We do a lot of grilling at home! To buy proteins and stuff we go to Dickman’s Meat and Deli. My son loves a good medium rare steak. That kid… the bloodier the better.
I’m a pretty easy, simple person. Like right now for lunch I’m going to cut a tomato, cut half an avocado, grill chicken and cover it with lime. That’s it. If I ate sandwiches and salads all day I’d be the happiest person in the world.
Last weekend on Earth, what city are you eating in?
I’m going back to my Sonora, Mexico! I’m not kidding. I’d do a Sonoran hot dog. I’d do tostadas and gorditas. I’d do a couple tacos and I would finish with shellfish, f*** it I’m dying! I really, really like crab and I cannot have it. I would stuff my face with crab. Oh with a nice bottle of wine too. Might as well go tipsy! (laughs)
Mexico is so rich. Sonora especially. You can have the high of the high and the low of the low and still have that food with pride. I think food should be served with pride! Those people you find on the corner selling hot dogs (or whatever they’re selling) they’re proud of their product.
I would definitely be eating my way through Mexico!
BOCA Tacos Y Tequila is located at 533 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705 and is open Monday-Saturday, 11am-10pm and Sunday, 11am-8pm. Visit them online at bocatacos.com