Angel Fuentes was an unhappy computer programmer in 2007. He was 21 years old and decided the only way out of his rut was to quit his job and go into the service industry. Fuentes, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, started at the bottom: the dish pit. It’s a grueling kitchen position that requires speed and expertise. Washing dishes during a restaurant rush can leave an individual haggard, maybe shaken. But those who “put in their time” while harboring ambition often move up the ranks to line cook and even chef. For Fuentes, the journey led to his own taqueria. Actually, two of them.

First came Mariachi’s Dine-In, a vegan-friendly spot in a Fort Worth gas station that opened in July 2018. It was a bright space with hanging serapes, calaveras, and framed photos of Mexican pop icons. Aside from the taqueria standards, there was house-made chorizo—vermilion-hued, mildly spiced ground pork—and the fried banana blossom “fish” taco. When I initially ate the latter, it reminded me of the vegetable-focused tacos de guisados of Mexico. Not all tacos need meat or meat substitutes. Mariachi’s Dine-In, which Fuentes co-owned with fellow restaurant industry veteran Ashley Miller, became a pilgrimage-worthy joint for vegetarians, vegans, and taco lovers in general. In March 2021, Miller announced that Mariachi’s Dine-In was moving to a larger space seven miles away. It was well-deserved growth, but it came at a price.

With the relocation came the end of the business partnership behind the taqueria’s success. Miller would take over the existing brand and menu in the new storefront, while Fuentes remained in Mariachi’s original spot with a new name: Guapo Taco. As the name suggests, the place, which opened in May 2021, is handsome. And the food is as wonderful and distinct as its predecessor.

The restaurant’s new design has a graffiti-style mural on the facade with the taqueria’s name above budding cactus paddles. Inside, the logo features “Guapo Taco” in black cursive overlapping an illustrated taco in circles of white, green, and red to represent the Mexican flag. Blooming cacti are painted along the bottom. A low wall separates the dining room from the gas station’s convenience store.

The menu has been tweaked too. Miller took the Baja-style “fish” taco with her, but Fuentes continues to offer vegetarian and vegan fare. The aforementioned chorizo combines with carne asada in a campechano taco. The birria taco’s meat is pressed in a creamy cushion of melted mozzarella and Monterey jack cheese and wrapped in a single white corn tortilla, not the doubled-up tortillas that birria tacos are generally served in. “When you do it right, you don’t need two tortillas,” Fuentes says. In a surprising bit of honesty, the taquero also explains that the protein is actually beef cheek barbacoa finished as birria in consommé instead of the more traditional goat meat. The barbacoa needs nothing—it would be stellar without consommé or dairy. The meat slowly dissolves on the tongue with a gentle flavor. A rich, peppy cup of consommé is served on the side of the plate. The elote with Takis two ways—as whole rolls of the spicy-sour chips as well as pulverized—is an addictive textural juxtaposition. 

But my favorite dish during my visit to Guapo Taco was the green chicken pozole. Bobbing with plump spheres of hominy in a broth dominated by tender, fine swirls of shredded chicken, the soup is finished with chopped radicchio, sliced radishes, a lime wedge, a sprinkle of cilantro, and a jalapeño sliver. It was a homey dish that sent me slumping into my seat with a feeling of warm relaxation.

Like most of the dishes Fuentes serves, the pozole channels the cooking of his mother and grandmother. But he isn’t trying to replicate their food. He spent his childhood watching them make meal after meal with awe that grew into passion. “That’s where I learned to treat food with care and with love,” Fuentes says. “It’s not that I’m not making their recipes. For me, it’s the beginning of the journey.” He’s dedicated to continuing a culinary tradition without being beholden to it. One example is the occasional red pozole. Fuentes adds ramen noodles before serving bowls of the vivifying food. It’s far superior to much of the birria ramen sold across the region. At a recent pop-up, he infused matcha into corn tortillas. “People freaked out over it,” he says.

The taqueria’s name is as curious and attractive as the food. Guapo Taco, the company, was born over several beers. Fuentes had a list of potential names and ran them by a group of friends while they were knocking back drinks. He mentioned “guapo” because “‘hey, we’re a handful of [handsome men] messing around,’ joking and probably drunk by this point,” Fuentes recalls. The taquero decided to write down the ideas during the inebriated brainstorming session because he knew he “wouldn’t remember that conversation.” Fuentes ran the name “Guapo Taco” by his girlfriend, explaining that he was keen on its concision and catchiness. She liked it. The name stuck, and with it Fort Worth got a fetching addition to its taco scene.

Guapo Taco
301 S. Sylvania Avenue, Fort Worth
Phone: 682-966-9645
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 11–9