The buzz surrounding the relocation of Mariachi’s Dine-In was concurrently met with the unexpected news that the taqueria’s longtime chef, Angel Fuentes, would not be joining the new Westside location. Without providing details, Fuentes recently told me that he wishes Mariachi’s Dine-In’s owner, Ashley Miller, only the best as she heads up her first brick-and-mortar location. Visitors to Mariachi’s former gas station-based home can still find Fuentes cooking up all-new menu options as part of his new restaurant, Guapo Taco (“Guapo Taco Lands,” June 2).
Mariachi’s Dine-In, 5724 Locke Av, FW. 682-760-9606. 11am-10pm Tue-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Located in a strip mall near Camp Bowie Boulevard, Mariachi’s Dine-In’s first stand-alone restaurant offers something the former location couldn’t — ample space. The new locale is clean and simple in appearance, partly thanks to the lack of distracting knick-knacks on its dark blue walls. There are basically two eating areas that meet near the entrance. The long bar is adorned with sheet metal and holds around 10 stools. Several beer draughts are topped with liquor bottles, and there’s a frozen margarita machine.
Possibly due to the larger kitchen, Mariachi’s Dine-In now offers an expanded menu that is divided between vegan options and traditional Mexican fare. The vegan offerings include appetizers, taco plates, burgers, nachos, burritos, and desserts. Those dishes are reflected in the “classic menu” but with meaty alternatives.
The first dish out was the queso fundido. The gooey blend of white cheeses was mild and livened by thick chunks or ripe, red tomato, thickly cut white onions, and a generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro. Flour tortillas accompanied the starter to my dinner, which didn’t reinvent what is expected from queso fundido.
The vegan elote didn’t disappoint. The corn wasn’t roasted, but it was perfectly cooked. The non-dairy crema had the texture of fluffy cream cheese and filled out the appetizer nicely but had little discernible flavor. Blitzed cashews made for a worthy topping that was similar in texture to Cotija but with a flavor closer to cornmeal. A squeezed lime wedge and drizzle of Valentina hot sauce further enhanced the tasty treat.
Tacos remain the big draw at Mariachi’s Dine-In. The original Riverside location was known for being an early adopter of birria tacos, the Jalisco, Mexico, craze that involves grilling the tacos in a consommé for a crisp, crimson finish. I sprung for the three-taco plate, which came with a side of perfectly cooked Mexican rice and pinto beans. There are several meat and vegan options. The barbacoa was juicy (not oily, which is often the case) and rich in flavor. Thickly cut onions and fresh cilantro leaves lightened the delicacy. The jackfruit birria taco looked more impressive than it tasted. The grilled fruit had the bright red appearance of pastor and a smoky flavor profile, but the texture was, for me, off-puttingly light. The chorizo reminded me of ground sausage but with a strong chipotle profile.
One fusion dish, the pastor taco burger, was a delight. The hefty beef patty was topped with a blend of mild cheese and chunks of al pastor. The rich blend of pineapple and spices defined the entree that left me feeling a few pounds heavier.
Another vegan option, the Cali Burrito, was hefty and flavorful. The belt buster was packed with steak fries, pinto beans, slices of avocado, cashew queso, shredded vegan cheese, and pico de gallo. The waiter recommended two non-meat alternatives to carne asada and al pastor. I couldn’t discern what those meat substitutes were in the dense burrito, but the overall experience was satisfying, even for a carnivore like myself.
The former Eastside taqueria is now a full-fledged restaurant in a bustling part of the city, and the staff appeared capable of handling all the moving parts of the larger operation. Even without Fuentes working the kitchen, the quality of Mexican fare is as good as anything I had tried at the previous location.
Vegan elote $3
Street taco plate $11
Cali Burrito $10
Queso fundido $10
Pastor taco burger $12