Into Shelley’s Belly: What to Eat in Marfa, Texas

Downtown Marfa (photos by Matthew Shelley)

On my second venture to Marfa, I again found myself in absolute marvel of its energy, beauty and endurance. It is a strange little place, seemingly asleep and unkempt, but all the while buzzing with big city attitude and enchantments. Clean air and quirky sophistication abounds in this little big city. It wrapped me in its velvety overcoat, made no doubt from a designer you’ve never heard of. Marfa doesn’t need you, and at many times makes you feel like the awkward accountant who typically keeps his mouth shut in the office but decided to be daring at the Halloween party, and because of his social ineptitude has worn something disturbingly inappropriate. Either way, I set out to taste and here is what I have to tell.

Food Shark freshness

1. Food Shark

Due to the extremely disappointing realization that Pizza Foundation was closed on our arrival, we quickly pulled an audible. Fortunately, the famously renowned food truck, Food Shark, was nearby serving at the Pavilion between the train tracks and the bookstore. I never cared much for Mediterranean food, but what an earth pounding relief it was to taste these fresh bites. The falafel balls are something you should not miss – crunchy, rich, and coated with three sauces. I almost went into labor from the phenomenally fantastic textures and brightness that exudes from the freshness of this food. The red chili pork tacos from the specials board were full-flavored with tender meat and slightly spicy with a balanced lightness that tempted me to order more. The bottom line is this, don’t not go.

Late night grilled cheese. There is no better time.

2. Museum of Electronic Wonders and Late Night Grilled Cheese

For dinner we decided to hang on with a light appetizer from Hotel Paisano and some drinks to wait for another famous venture from the same folks who run the food truck where we had lunch. The Museum of Electronic Wonders and Late Night Grilled Cheese opens at 9:30pm and closes at 1:30am on Fridays and Saturdays. Dallas, are you listening? The number one on the menu is the classic, cheddar, and bread. It’s perfectly toasted, crunchy, and gooey in all the best ways. Second is the Gruyère with caramelized onion, sautéed mushrooms, and Dijon mustard. Divine. And the third, which was my favorite, is the barbeque pulled pork, jack cheese, and jalapenos. I’ll let you soak that in. It was nothing less than an orgasmic, unbridled joy as it danced across my palette. I made noises and finished off with some fresh coconut lemon cookies that I ate in the converted school bus outside adorned with tables and chairs.

Marfa Burrito: big, bold and simple.

3. Marfa Burrito

The next morning we ate at the lovely Marfa Burrito. It’s a somewhat unknown spot, but locally loved for good reason. Ramona works in the kitchen preparing homemade tortillas to wrap her beautiful burritos. It’s a Spanish-only joint, so learn the necessities: huevos, papas, frijoles, queso, and chorizo. You tell, and she delivers from her friendly kitchen as you sit in the quant dining room. The burrito is large and sensational. Again, you will be wowed by the comfort and simplicity.

Frama Coffee

4. Frama

After a short shopping and art tour, we dipped into the coffee shop, Frama for two cortados and some ice cream. It’s full of Bluebell Ice Cream goodies and barista bountiful coffee from Big Bend Coffee Roasters, which is roasted in Marfa. You can count on getting your fix, but not much else. It’s a great go-to for the bean lovers amongst you guys, and if you get there early enough, you may just find some Food Shark pastries.

Padres burger

5. Padres

You will find in Marfa that between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., not many places are open for dining. The Spanish custom of napping betwixt these hours is alive and well in west Texas. Fortunately, there is always Padres. It’s an excellent live music venue with a great patio and many games. I heard about the burger so I decided to give it a try to hold me over until dinner. It was hearty and well cooked, but not overly gourmet. It’s exactly what a bar burger served at 3 p.m. should be: not too fancy, not too greasy, but plenty to fill a mouth with flavor.

Maiya’s modern delight

6. Maiya’s

Before dinner we stopped at the modern Italian bistro, Maiya’s. They maintain the attitude of a Tavern on the Green, but bring the heart of Tiny Boxwood’s local chef inspired delicacies. We had only the cheese plate, adorned with grapes, garlic, toasted hazelnuts, olives, sliced pear and their own locally made “Cabra Isle Verde” goat cheese. Topped only by their organic bread loaf, which they cook in house each day, it was a flawless accompaniment to guide us into the evening. The rest of their menu is nothing to shy away from, and during our first visit in March, the pastas and locally grown arugula salad with lemon and parmesan made love to our mouths. I love Maiya’s.

Cochineal, ’nuff said.

7. Cochineal

Our final escapade led us to the highly coveted Cochineal. With a charming outdoor seating area and cozy insides, Cochineal keeps you comfortable and impressed. Be sure to make a reservation well in advance if you expect to dine on the weekend. With a mixologist’s dream cocktail menu, sumptuous wines, and an ever changing menu of small plates and formidable entrees, this restaurant is everything one dreams about. Panko-crusted tiger shrimp with a sweet chili dipping sauce, hand cut papardelle with toasted garlic, fresh basil and chili flake, and Texas quail over sweet potato puree and cherry wine sauce delighted our every inch at every moment. All the vegetables are grown in their own backyard garden and they generally use only locally sourced meats and cheeses. Marfa maintains Marfa, and Cochineal makes me want to carry the sword of the ancient unicorn goddesses to the mountain of glistening diamonds regardless of my Aunt Susie’s staunch curfew enforcement. For every kiss I never had, Cochineal has given me three.

Downtown Marfa, the other side

To end, I say that everyone should visit Marfa. It’s intriguing and guileless to no circumstance. Though I could not visit Pizza Foundation this time around, it will soon be open again and the pizza they make is some of the best I’ve had. In Dallas, I love Louie’s, Marco’s, Cane Rosso, and Nonna’s pizza. I love Grimaldi’s in New York, Back Road pizza in Santa Fe, and Lou Malnati’s in Chicago. I’ll finish bragging about my pizza travels, but know this: Pizza Foundation rivals them all. The other places I wanted to try were Tacos Del Norte, Boys to Men food truck, and Alice’s Café, but unfortunately I did not have the time. Also, I know everyone loves Squeeze, but they have been closed every time I tried to go. If you have anything to add, let me know. Go, Marfa.



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