You can't throw a rock in the Stockton CA area without hitting at least 2 Mexican restaurants and a Chinese Restaurant. I lived in the area for nearly 20 years and now visit frequently on business so I know most every place there is by now. Sadly, the great majority of Mexican restaurants are indistinguishable from each other - they all pretty much follow the same concept - a "mom and pop" type place with pretty standard menu - maybe if you're lucky, one place may have a specialization in one or two dishes but again - very hard to tell any of them apart...
However, there is a gem located downtown on Market street near the Police Department and right off El Dorado called Maria's.
The appearance is fairly typical of most Stockton downtown restaurants, they usually started out as a different place and as restaurants would come and go, they pretty much kept the furniture and "decor" regardless of what it was before. This is one reason you walk in to a Chinese restaurant for example that has matador pictures on the wall.
But once you sit down, you realize this is a different experience. The service is excellent and the food is very good. The menu isn't huge and features much of your standard Mexican menu for the area but the quality is way above standard.
You get two kinds of salsa with your chips on sitting - and right away you can taste the difference and know the rest of the meal will not disappoint.
Try the Carnitas - try the Mole - try just about everything on the menu and you will have a tasty, satisfying and well portioned meal (not too much but enough to fill you up) and the prices are outstanding.
This place does a huge lunch business so if you come a little earlier than noon or after 1pm for lunch, you're more likely to find a table.
Maria's is what you would expect and enjoy from "mom and pop" restaurants and not what most of them have become. It's clean, friendly, a great value and most of all features a good selection of tasty Mexican dishes.
Even though we no longer live or have our office in the area, we always stop in on our visits and it's consistently stayed the same over the past few years - another rarity in the Stockton restaurant scene.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.