by Nathan Boddy
Maria Chavez has wanted to “give back” for quite some time, and says that her personal experiences make giving something that she does from the heart. Indeed, just a quick look at the decor within Maria’s Restaurant, upstairs at 217 West Main Street in Hamilton, and a patron can easily feel the support that Maria and Martin would like to express for others. Paying it forward, being good to people, and having a positive outlook are all common themes, and might even be as warming to one’s heart as the salsa.
For three and a half years, Maria and her family have been making authentic dishes for connoisseurs of tacos, rellenos, enchiladas and burritos.
“We specialize in street tacos,” says Maria, adding that the menu is pretty small but their focus is on making sure that everything is top notch. “Everything is fresh and homemade.”
While Maria takes care of the business and the front end, Martin Morales is the talent behind making the food such a success, bringing to life recipes passed down from his grandmother. Although Martin enjoys making the tacos, Maria says that her favorite would “probably be the enchiladas.” She adds with a smile, “it’s my comfort food.”
The quality fare at Maria’s is not the only reason to take notice of the restaurant. Maria and her family have also been active in sharing and facilitating giving throughout the year. A cork board outside the restaurant’s door is filled with ‘pre-paid’ meals that can be redeemed by those in need of a delicious, quality meal. These ‘giveaway meals’ were an idea that a friend passed on to Maria long before Covid, and she says that, “It’s been a huge hit. I don’t think we’ve ever had the board empty. People are very grateful and thankful that little board is outside.” She adds that at least one of the meals is used almost every single day, and a basket full of redeemed meals in the back stands as testament to the amount of giving that has been done.
The giveaway meal is only a part of what Maria and Martin have done. Over the last few years, they have assembled and given away hundreds of backpacks and school supplies for school-age children in need prior to the start of the school year. Additionally, this Thanksgiving as well as last, they have placed their efforts toward providing sustenance to those in need by providing free Thanksgiving meals that can be picked up at the restaurant in the days prior to the holiday.
“I’ve always wanted to do it,” she says. “I want to give back. My husband and I, we know what it’s like to have nothing.” Maria also expresses her appreciation of the community for its amazing support. “Obviously, without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We are very grateful for that.”