Note: Casa Maria was closed down in 2004 for health code violations. It then reopened in mid-2005, but after a couple of months closed again.
Casa Maria #2 (#1 is in Jalisco, I think) is the type of restaurant you can find in any town in Mexico. It's completely unassuming; all that passes for decor are some posters with Mexican iconography on a wall and neon beer signs on the others. The TVs are almost always on, invariably to soccer games or other Spanish-language programming. At least half their tables are communal (just like you'd find in any Mexican market) and they offer plastic tablecloths and paper napkins.
Their clientele is almost totally Mexican. The place is quite child-friendly, at noon on weekends the restaurant is full of multi-generational families.
The food is also what you'd expect to find in any Mexican fonda. They cater to Californian tastes with a burrito or two (Mike had one before, but said it wasn't very good), but most of their menu is more classical. They have a variety of sandwiches ($6-9) and meat dishes, including barbacoa on weekends.
I can't say much about their menu, however, because we always order the same thing - a huge "Cubano" sandwich ($9), which includes a milanesa (breaded steak), grilled ham or carnitas and cheese in addition to lettuce, tomato and avocado between in a large bun. It's impossible for one person to finish one, no matter how much you try, so we now order one for the two of us (or plan on taking half home).
On our last visit I also had a chicken quesadilla. I wasn't thrilled with it however, as I felt that the thick corn tortilla overpowered the taste of the Mexican cheese, but this may be my gringo bias.
In all, Casa Maria is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner when you want a taste of the real Mexico.
Casa María #2
1660 E 14th St
San Leandro, CA