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Is There Room For More Than Tex-Mex And Cheap Tacos In North Texas?

Gus Contreras
Revolver Taco Lounge owner and chef Regino Rojas.

North Texas is filled with taquerias and Tex-Mex restaurants, but there aren’t many places that specialize in Mexican fine dining. In Dallas, Revolver Taco Lounge in Deep Ellum is changing that with its new dinner concept. It’s bucking the trend that good Mexican food has to be cheap.

Regino Rojas is from Michoacan, Mexico. And he doesn’t do Tex-Mex.

"Me as a Mexican, raised and born over there, I don’t get it at all," he said. "I think it’s really bad Mexican food, but people enjoy it because people were born and raised with that stuff here. They have never really been exposed to the real deal – the real flavors."

That real deal is what Rojas is adding to the North Texas food scene. He started off by opening his original Revolver Taco Lounge in Fort Worth, and it became a hit. He opened the Dallas location in April. He said it’s the perfect spot for his new idea – a fancier side to his taco lounge.

“People in this neighborhood, they come with a different mentality,” Rojas said. “They want to try different things — it’s Deep Ellum.”

Fine dining with home-cooked meals

With the opening of the Dallas restaurant out of the way, Rojas is focusing on his “Purepecha” room. Named after an indigenous group from back home.

For $85-a-head, by reservation only, you’ll be treated to an eight-course-meal of modern Michoacan style food. It’s in a private room at the back of the restaurant. Rojas’s inspiration? The meals his mom used to cook him at home.

Customers get a home cooked meal from scratch by his mom and other Mexican women. Rojas said it’s designed to feel like you’re in a Mexican home.

Credit Gus Contreras / KERA News
Pots hang from the wall inside the "Purepecha Room" to give the authentic Mexican home look.

“We’re cooking in front of them, they’re part of the whole scenario,” he said. “They’re family, they come and sit at my mom’s table type of thing. It’s going to be fun.”

The concept of modern Mexican dining is catching on in places like Los Angeles and Chicago. In 2015, Dallas Morning News food critic Leslie Brenner wrote a feature about how Mexican fine dining was taking off across Dallas-Fort Worth.

“Since then, a number of the restaurants that I mentioned excitedly in the story have closed,” Brenner said. “So, I sort of feel like it should be happening here big time. It’s one of the most exciting food movements going on in the world right now. And we should be doing it here, and we are not as much as I wish we were.”

Chef Anthony Bourdain said the cuisine is underappreciated. He talked about it on an episode of his CNN show “Parts Unknown.”

“People love it but their expectation is Mexican food should be cheap,” he said. “And the fact is, there are always going to be new arrivals from Mexico who are perfectly willing to sell you, unfortunately or fortunately, really good Mexican food for very cheap, but not the kind of deep flavors that you find or I found in my travels there.”

Respecting Mexican culture

Those deep flavors are what Rojas is trying to show off — not just the hits like fancy tacos al pastor at swanky places in Uptown Dallas. One of the items on Rojas’s rotation is medium-rare duck in a traditional mole sauce.

Credit Twitter / @RevolverTaco
A plate of duck in traditional mole sauce.

“I’m respecting my culture, and I’m showing them that it can be done,” he said. “Just respect the techniques and stuff. Look at your proteins, people will buy it. People are not stupid. People know when they’re eating a good ribeye taco and when they’re eating a really bad skirt steak low-quality taco.”

But are people willing to drop $85 for what some think should come cheap?

“That’s why I’m doing a small place,” Rojas said. “I don’t know if it would work with one of those big, massive places. I would not do it at all; I don’t think it would work. That’s why we’re keeping it low key, very underground, 12 people, that’s it. Two seatings a night.”

It's an experiment he hopes works not only for him but also for the Mexican food scene in North Texas.

Gus Contreras is a digital producer and reporter at KERA News. Gus produces the local All Things Considered segment and reports on a variety of topics from, sports to immigration. He was an intern and production assistant for All Things Considered in Washington D.C.