Maria's Tacos

Japan Fundraiser

Haiti Fund Raiser

Devotion shines through in Mexican dishes   (9/22/10- Auburn Journal Article; Auburn, CA)
Restaurant owner developed booming business from trailer
By Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
Ben Furtado/Auburn Journal
Maria Moreno stands next to a drawing of her in her trailer, which she used to start her business in 2000. Moreno came to the United States when she was 16 years old and moved to Auburn with her husband, Ramon. Moreno says her children were the reason she kept going after her husband died suddenly in 1983.
Maria Moreno never thought she would be where she is now when she immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1969, but her children have been her inspiration throughout the journey.

Moreno, 57, is the owner of Maria’s Mexican Tacos on Bowman Road. She started the business in 2000 after buying a trailer in Sacramento. She used the trailer to sell her now-famous tacos on the side of Luther and Bowman roads for six months before moving to her current location.

“My business was doing better and better and … people kept telling me I needed a kitchen,” Moreno said.

Moreno grew up in Michoacan, Mexico with her parents, six brothers and a sister.

Moreno said life definitely wasn’t easy, and she used to tell her mother she wanted to move to the United States so she could have a car.

“I think everybody comes to the United States for a better life, and that is why I left my town so young,” she said. “People (were) poor, and it (was) too hard for our parents to buy clothes … to raise a big family. It was hard. I think all the time (I) had the ambition to come to the United States.”

When Moreno arrived in Oxnard from Michoacan, Mexico as a 16-year-old, she was poor and didn’t have a high school degree. It was in Oxnard that she met her husband, Ramon. Ramon Moreno was also from Michoacan. The couple came to Auburn, where Ramon was working for Machado Orchards. They got married in 1970, and Ramon started to work for Auburn Disposal.

They had three children, Ramon Jr., 37, Clara, 36, and Pancho, 34.

When Ramon was 33 he died suddenly while working. The cause of death was unknown, Moreno said.

“When I lost my husband it was very hard, because we were a beautiful couple,” Moreno said. “We were poor, but we were happy.”

For 27 years Maria Moreno worked at Machado Orchards and began taking English lessons when she started interacting with customers.

“I was working for them and they opened the bakery in 1984,” Moreno said. “That is when I started to work … with people. That is (when) I started to learn.”

Moreno used CDs and took classes in Roseville to learn English.

“I don’t know perfect English, but at least I am able to talk with people,” Moreno said. “I just went to school and learned what I learned. You learn with your kids when they go to school, and sometimes your kids correct you.”

Moreno said her ultimate goal when working at the orchard and opening her business was not to make a lot of money but to provide as much as she could for her children.

“I don’t think I care about money,” she said. “I care about people, I care about my kids. Until I die I want to be like this.”

Seeing the Machados work inspired her toward starting her business, Moreno said.

“When you work with somebody in business you want to do what they do,” she said. “When I was working in the pie shop, they let me make burritos there.”

Manager Shawnie Machado said Maria’s legacy continues at the Orchard.

“We wish we had her back, she’s that great,” Machado said. “People still ask for her now. Maria is liked by everyone. She sends people up here. We send people down there. There is no better person than her in my book.”

Ramon Moreno Jr. said times were tough growing up, but his mom always managed to put money aside to give him and his siblings special treats.

“She told us it would be OK,” he said. “We didn’t have the best things. We went shopping at second-hand stores. She did what she could. She was devoted to us. She still saved enough to take us to Disneyland, take us on vacations.”

Clara Moreno said her mother worked extra hard to save money for a special event.

“I had a quinceañera, and my mom saved for that party for me to have,” Clara Moreno said. “Even through rough times when things happened to her, she always found a way to get it done.”

Maria Moreno not only has her children to be devoted to now, but four grandchildren, Sicilia, 14, Mia, 5, Diego, 6, and Aidan, 3.

Maria Moreno said Sicilia helps her with the restaurant and pushes her to keep going when she feels overwhelmed.

“That is my big reason to be here: my kids and now my grandkids,” Maria Moreno said.

Local customers are glad Maria Moreno struck out on her own.

Auburn resident Ed McCarthy, who said he goes to the restaurant once a week, said the laid back atmosphere and Maria Moreno’s caring nature make for a great dining experience.

“It’s relaxing,” McCarthy said. “We just sit back and talk, and it’s a nice place to hang out. She always comes out and just chats with us for a few minutes.”

McCarthy said at other Mexican restaurants he usually gets a platter, because he isn’t sure what to order, but that is not the case at Maria’s.

“It’s good Mexican food,” he said. “I come here and I get particular things, because I like them.”

The restaurant can be overwhelming sometimes, but her customers make it worthwhile, Maria Moreno said.

“I love to deal with people, because I love my customers,” she said.

Now Maria Moreno is involved in community events and caters for weddings and parties. When she took some time off to visit Mexico, she said her customers expressed concerns that her business was closing, and this showed her how much the community cares for her.

“Everybody was worried,” she said. “You know why? Because they care about (me). That’s beautiful.”



Maria’s Mexican Tacos fundraiser for Japan earthquake victims

What: Tacos $2; burritos $5. All proceeds for the day will be sent to the Salvation Army to be donated to the earthquake victims’ fund

Where: Maria’s Mexican Tacos, 13483 Bowman Road, Auburn

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, March 28

Info: (530) 823-8540 or www.mariasmexicantacos.com

Maria reported that the fundraiser was quite a success! She said they raised $1500.00 for the Japan earthquake victims!



Auburn taco eatery aids Claire’s Haiti orphanage    (1/25/10- Auburn Journal Article; Auburn, CA)
7-year-old girl adopted by Auburn family visits restaurant during fundraiser for New Hope for Haiti
By Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Ben Furtado/Auburn Journal
Haitian orphan Claire Bryditzki, 7, gets a first hand experience eating at Maria's Mexican Tacos in Auburn. She drizzles lime juice on the lunch of her neighborhood friend Summer Wilson, 5, during the restaurant's $2 taco Haiti Earthquake Benefit Monday afternoon.
Maria Moreno’s hands worked double-speed in her Auburn restaurant chopping meat and heating tortillas.

But today was far from a normal work day.

Instead, it was her labor of love for Haitian relief efforts.

Maria’s Mexican Tacos opened on what is a day off for the eatery to raise money for New Hope in Haiti, an organization that helps children like Claire Bryditzki – a 7-year-old now in Auburn who was rescued by her adoptive parents days after an earthquake struck the nation.

All the money raised from sales of tacos and other meals is going to the New Hope for Haiti orphanage Claire came from, Moreno said.

Diners crowded Maria’s on Bowman Road for a chance to contribute. And Claire was a special guest, a diminutive figure sitting in a new, pink-trimmed winter jacket that customers had to crane their necks to catch a glimpse of.

Sonja McEntee of Auburn took part of her day off to lunch with husband Jason, an Auburn Toyota employee. She called Claire’s story inspiring.

“Something good came out of something bad,” McEntee said. “Even one good thing makes a difference.”

“We saw the picture of Claire at the airport with her sisters on the front page of the Journal,” Jason McEntee said. “It was heartwarming. She looks so happy.”

The rare Monday opening was an opportunity for regulars and new customers to give.

Many knew the story of Claire – how her Auburn parents had adopted her but then hadn’t been able to secure a visa or passport before the earthquake struck Jan. 12. The flight to safety occurred last Tuesday, with Claire accompanying Scott and Debbie Bryditzki aboard the plane back to Florida.

“I’m glad to see it so crowded,” said California Highway Patrol Pilot Jeff Watkins. “Haiti’s story really tugs at people’s hearts.”

Others agreed.

“It’s important we share our support and love for our brothers and sisters in this world,” said Rick Pisanu, coordinator of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in Auburn.

Maria’s stayed open through 4 p.m. and was particularly crowded during the noon hour. Claire’s visit provided a much-anticipated highlight for Moreno.

“I’m happy they brought her over,” Moreno said. “It’s beautiful.”

Claire reached Auburn on Thursday after a miracle flight in and out of Port-au-Prince’s clogged airport on billionaire Ted Turner’s private jet.

She is now the sixth member of the Bryditzki family in Lake of the Pines and visited Maria’s late this morning. She’ll start classes next week at Cottage Hill Elementary School. Because English is new to her, Claire will start in kindergarten, said her adoptive mother, Debbie Bryditzki.

The Cottage Hill school will be holding its own fund-raising drive later this week for the orphanage, Bryditzki said.

Bryditzki said the family is touched by Moreno’s willingness to devote her day to raising money for the children of the orphanage in Haiti.

“We just feel thankful to her and her kind heart,” she said.