For 14 years Maria Selma Restaurant has been known for its laid-back patio with its thatched palapa, its cold margaritas and creamy queso, and the plentiful soccer games and pay-per-view boxing matches on the flat screen TVs. Restaurateur Tony Vallone once called Maria Selma his favorite Mexican eatery, and for many in the neighborhood it’s a weekly stop. The problem is, there just aren’t as many regulars as there once were.
So Maria Selma’s last day will be July 2.
There’s just too much competition now,” says owner Rene Hidalgo. “Too many Mexican and Tex-Mex places in the neighborhood.” In recent years El Real Tex-Mex opened to the east and Arnaldo Richards’ Picos to the west, both practically within walking distance.
And then there is the standard list reasons so many restaurants shutter: rising food and liquor costs, shortage of trained staff, and diners—surrounded by choices—who want to try new restaurants.
But Hidalgo has another concept he’s going to try.
“Hopefully we’ll only be closed for a few days,” he says. “I want to repaint and change the art, make some small changes and then we’ll reopen as the Texas Shrimp Shack.”
Hidalgo describes the concept as a Mexican/Texas casual seafood place. He plans on keeping his staff although the new concept will be counter service.
“The focus will be on Gulf Coast shrimp,” Hidalgo says. “I already have a supplier in Palacios.” He’ll serve a variety of shrimp with different spice levels by the pound, because, as he says “when you sit down to eat shrimp you eat a pound before you even know it!”
What will stay the same are the margaritas—although he won’t stock 80 different tequilas—and the TV screens. And you can still get nachos, but they’ll be shrimp nachos. Also on the menu: shrimp enchiladas, ceviche, crawfish, and oysters when in season. Chicken wings and a rib-eye steak are also in the works, though the menu will be greatly reduced from the one at Maria Selma.
And while reducing the tequila choices, Hidalgo says he'll increase the beer selection, relying on local brews and offering creative micheladas, beer-based bloody marys, some with over-the-top garnishes. (Clearly, you should expect shrimp in some of those garnishes.)
The Texas Shrimp Shack sounds like a good idea, but in the current restaurant market nothing is guaranteed. New concepts come and go quickly and even longtime places, like Mark’s American Cuisine, and now Maria Selma, eventually give up.