First Look

First Look: Revolver Taco Lounge Gastro Cantina Doesn't Need Luck

Carnitas tacos topped with a pico de gallo and salsa verde.
Carnitas tacos topped with a pico de gallo and salsa verde. Lauren Drewes Daniels
A “gastro cantina” may seem an ill-fitting description, like putting a gardening glove on the wrong hand. Typically, gastronomy and cantinas sit at different tables in the lunchroom. But here’s the thing you need to know about Revolver Taco Lounge Gastro Cantina owner Gino Rojas:  He sits wherever he wants.
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The new Revolver Taco Lounge Gastro Cantina is inside Radiator Alley in Deep Ellum.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Rojas' latest concept recently opened in Radiator Alley in Deep Ellum near his original taco spot on Main Street. With this space, he wants to redefine what Americans think of when they hear the word “cantina." He sees it as dual-purpose, “It’s a place where you can take your family during the day for tacos and go back and get fucked up on margaritas at night.”

But here, the menu goes far beyond tacos, and even margaritas for that matter. High-end dishes that are both inventive and authentic will, once again, change perceptions of Mexican food in Texas. Take, for example, the delicate cabrito wontons topped with small purple flowers and served on a salsa roja reduction.
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Cabrito wontons over a salsa roja reduction
Lauren Drewes Daniels
“It’s a pretty presentation style of Michoacan birria cabrito,” Rojas says about these botanas, or small plates. “Really, the wonton just serves as a vehicle. I love wontons.”

Rojas has blazed a trail in his 10 years in the restaurant business. He's originally from Michoacán, Mexico, and came to Dallas by way of Chicago. (You can read more about his fascinating journey in an article by José Ralat in Texas Monthly.) Rojas opened Revolver Taco Lounge in Fort Worth in 2011 with no formal culinary training, then moved it to Deep Ellum in 2017. In 2019 he also opened Purépecha Room by Revolver Taco Lounge (also known as La Resistencia), a reservations-only chef’s tasting room that costs $150 per person.

In that time, he's been nominated for four James Beard Foundation best chef awards.

When the pandemic hit, Rojas had to partially close Revolver Taco Lounge, using only a side window to fill to-go orders, which is still in operation. There’s also a Revolver Taco Lounge in The Exchange food hall at AT&T Discovery District in downtown.
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The gastro cantina has one large bar for diners to belly up.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
This newest concept opened in early June, adjacent to the original taco lounge, and offers an expanded menu, perhaps a meeting in the middle of the taco lounge and the chef's tasting menu. There are no tables here, rather one long black bar spray-painted with bright colors running the length of the restaurant. Mexican hip-hop plays overhead, while Rojas’ Aunt Teresa, wearing an old-fashioned brown apron trimmed with lace, presses out fresh tortillas at the grill.
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Queso fundido is served with shrimp and five freshly made tortillas.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
There are some traditional appetizers, like guacamole served with house-made totopos (chips) and queso fundido with fresh corn tortillas ($15). But the menu also has elements of Rojas’ love of Japanese food, like a grilled bone-in Japanese hamachi kama (yellow tail collar) with citrus pineapple pico de gallo, salsa and tortillas ($19).

Chilitos rellenos de cochinita come with three Caribbean chiles stuffed with Yucatan-style cochinita on a bed of black bean puree. Michoacan style enchiladas are stuffed with quail guisado. There’s also a full menu of tacos: carne asada, trompo al pastor, carnitas, pato (duck), lengua (A Bar N Ranch wagyu), red trout, squash and pulpo (octopus).

The gastro cantina has spins on classic cocktails too, like an Oaxaqueno Old Fashioned made with tequila joven and mezcal. The Mexican Manhattan has a reposado tequila, Ancho Reyes chile liquor and mole bitters (yes, mole bitters). Or have a shot of El Tequileno Reposado Rare ($34 per ounce).
If you've had your tacos are are ready to get serious about your evening, try a licuachelas, a margarita served in a blender with traditional street vendor-style fruit salad, chamoy, sea salt, chile de arbol and lime ($45).

Before hanging up with Rojas after chatting, we wished him good luck on his new place to which he spat back, “I don’t need luck. Pendejos need luck. I just need a place to work.”

Revolver Taco Lounge Gastro Catina, 2646 Elm St. (Deep Ellum) 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday - Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday - Saturday.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.