Federales in not a taqueria. It’s more like a swag-dripping day club that just so happens to serve tacos. It's the dream child of Chicago-based hospitality group Four Corners, which has created a barrage of bars and eateries from Chi-Town to Big D. The group opened this Dallas outpost earlier this summer, after mostly bulldozing then rebuilding a corner spot at Malcolm X Boulevard and Commerce Street. If you approach it from Malcolm X, the harsh exterior metal cage is jarring. In front, once you get past security (yes, there are actually bouncers at the door even for an early dinner), the vibes are inescapable.
Federales stays true to its new home in Deep Ellum with industrial décor and cranked-up music bumping from open to close. It's open seating, so you just grab a table, which, if the place is busy, can feel intimidating, like arriving late to a party. If you are not one to heavily imbibe at happy hour or get blitzed during a weekend brunch, they do serve a variety of Tex-Mex-inspired bar food that still may get you to your happy place.
On Wednesdays and Sundays, they boost the lamb birria tacos with homemade consommé ($7) and brisket tacos laced with habanero barbecue sauce, which is a cause for not just a yellow flag, but rather a red challenge flag. That reeks of an out-of-towner misstep. There's no place in Dallas, that we're aware of, that would put barbecue sauce on a brisket taco.
One of the tastiest treats on the menu are the pork and pineapple tacos. Even though people often scoff at pineapple on food, in Mexico City rings of the fruit are traditionally cooked on top of the spinning trompo al pastor, as it helps marinate and keep the meat moist while slow cooking on its spindle.
Federales also offers vegan options like vegan chorizo ($5) and the crispy potato with chipotle aioli, cheddar cheese and grilled corn salsa ($4.50).
One of the standouts — for better or worse — is the Gringo Taco Supreme, a slightly elevated Taco Casa-like creation with a crunchy shell.
Wherever you find tequila, margaritas will be nearby: frozen and on the rocks, with a rainbow of flavors like mango, watermelon and raspberry. Also, they have trending spicy cocktails like a jalapeño gimlet ($12) and a spicy cucumber ‘rita ($14) if you want your tongue to tingle while you are being refreshed.
One center-stage activity here is an Ice Shot Smash. You can purchase a shot that is presented in a glass made of ice and once you're done slinging it back, you’re encouraged to launch it (in a designated area) against a wall towards a large bell. If you're lucky, you ring the bell.
This is probably more therapeutic than cursing out your boss or scratching up an ex’s car. It's understandable if you don’t want to embarrass yourself and miss the giant bell in front of a group of strangers, but then again, that’s what the shots are for.
Federales, 2820 Commerce St. (Deep Ellum), 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday - Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday - Sunday.