Brunch comes in two styles. The first is the kind where you dress up to impress a new crush or potential in-laws at a restaurant that serves eggs Benedict and bottomless mimosas with tiny orchids decorating each glass. Then there’s the kind you need when Saturday night was way too much fun and you just want to wear sunglasses and start the next day with some hair of the dog that bit you. If it’s that kind of Sunday morning, the newly inaugurated Mexican brunch buffet at Dallas restaurant/bar Revolver Taco Lounge Gastro Cantina, the latest concept from the fervid imagination of owner and chef Regino Rojas, is just the thing. 

Tables decked out in colorful oilcloth are set up just outside the cantina’s storefront in a covered passageway that’s been given a festive look with big hanging baskets of ferns and multiple strings of flowerlike plastic garlands swaying from the ceiling. As soon as my friends and I checked in, we headed toward the first table, grabbed paper plates, and accepted the offer of a couple of fragrant corn tortillas, pressed and cooked just minutes before. We continued down the line to the fine chilaquiles, in which those same pliable tortillas had been quartered, twice fried, and moistened with a salsa of tomatillo and chile de arbol before being finished with queso fresco and Mexican crema. Next we sampled a couple of guisados, a mild potato-and-chicken in poblano cream sauce (which could have used a bit more salt) and a meaty bistec a la mexicana of braised Wagyu chuck with poblano peppers, tomato, and onion. The only dishes we didn’t try to finish were the red snapper ceviche (the texture was unfortunately mushy) and a seafood stew of tiny shrimp and lobster with crème fraîche and chipotle that could have been a bit fresher. 

The cabrito wontons.
Cabrito wontons. Photograph by Brittany Conerly
Pickled vegetables.
Pickled vegetables. Photograph by Brittany Conerly

Of course, no Mexican weekend breakfast is complete without menudo, the legendary hangover cure, and Rojas has a version that impressed the expert at our table, who declared it mild, well seasoned, and devoid of excess grease. (The chef—who was on-site the entire time, often in the serving line—will, with the slightest encouragement, tell you all about the lengthy process required to clean the beefy tripe before cooking it.) 

But as pleasant as brunch is, the main action at Gastro Cantina happens the other six days of the week, inside the long, narrow room that houses the cantina. The Deep Ellum space is a little like a head shop, a produce stand, and a Mexican curio store all rolled into one. Here and there along the bar are wooden crates and pottery bowls filled with melons, oranges, pineapples, and more; alongside them are hand-painted plates and small clay cups molded in the shape of faces. On the walls are engravings of Day of the Dead skeletons swigging tequila and generally carrying on. (Says Rojas, “I do my own interior design. I like to think where people will sit, what they will see. It helps me cook for them better.”) Once you’ve stared at the whimsical decor for a while—and believe me, there’s more—you might not need a drink. 

But that would be a shame, because I’d love to recommend a couple of variations on classic themes. When my friends and I returned to the cantina for a dinnertime visit, we loved the Martini Margarita, which did not involve gin or vermouth but was shaken and came in a martini glass. It substitutes the classy, cognac-based Mandarine Napoléon liqueur for the usual Cointreau, which makes for a subtle, more grown-up drink. The Oaxaqueño Old Fashioned was another favorite; the preparation omits the customary bourbon or rye in favor of mezcal and two tequilas: blanco and reposado. “It’s made with love,” I heard the barkeep say as he handed one to a customer, the cocktail adorned with a strip of orange peel tied in the shape of a heart. 

As cocktails demand a little ballast, we started our meal with the elote and the cabrito wontons. The former is a far cry from the usual plastic cup of corn covered in Kraft Parmesan. In a pretty glass bowl, the sweet roasted kernels arrive tossed with crumbly cotija and fresco cheeses, truffle butter, and crema, and garnished with edible purple garlic flowers. The cabrito dish played off my childhood memory of tomato soup with something crispy crumbled on top. In this case that would be the wontons (Rojas is a big believer in international culinary exchange), which are filled with tender shredded milk-fed goat and nestled into a russet-colored birria deeply flavored with guajillo chiles, tomatoes, and ginger. (Rojas says, “Birria is popular right now, but I’m doing it because it was invented in the region where I am from, between Jalisco and Michoacán.”)

Playing with fire in the kitchen.
Playing with fire in the kitchen.Photograph by Brittany Conerly

Moving on, we ordered the chile relleno, which was a delightful surprise: instead of the usual single green poblano, we were presented with four small, yellow Caribbean chiles, just a tad spicy and stuffed with slow-cooked pork that had been seasoned Yucatán-style with paprika-like achiote and Seville orange juice. We were also taken by Rojas’s signature octopus “carnitas,” the tender tentacles melding with sweet fried leeks and drizzled with emulsified
jalapeño-garlic salsa. If you’re a fan of chicken, particularly dark meat, be sure to order the enchiladas de cordoniz (quail). Garnished with baby romaine and purslane lettuces, the rolled tortillas are filled with juicy fowl and cubed potatoes and carrots and moistened with a tomato-guajillo sauce. 

Vegetarians will give thanks for the calabacitas taco, with a hillock of chopped squash that’s been stewed with tomato, onion, and sweet corn and dusted with queso fresco. They’ll also appreciate the guacamole: just simple avocado, freshly mashed, on a large platter with sides of chopped tomato and queso fresco. House-made totopos, the thicker Mexican-style tortilla chips, come alongside too. 

After our cocktails and menu sampling, my friends and I decided to stroll over to the nearby Revolver Taco Lounge on Main Street, an easy walk past several appealing shops. Rojas’s first Dallas venue, it’s been fueling late-night revels since 2017, the year he closed Revolver’s original location, in Fort Worth. 

If we hadn’t eaten already, we would have been interested in the sit-down multicourse Purépécha tasting menu, named for the Indigenous people of the Michoacán area. Instead, we ordered a mushroom quesadilla and a fish taco from the to-go window near the front door. Both were departures from the expected. The mushrooms were not the usual button variety but hen of the woods and turned out to be muy simpático with the mild Mexican Mennonite cheese kicked up with a bit of onion. Likewise, the fish was not the common tilapia but ruby red trout, two plump pieces grilled in olive oil and boosted by a bit of Rojas’s favorite garlic-jalapeño salsa. They put ordinary fish tacos to shame.

A few days later, I called Rojas to ask a few questions about the food, and while I had him on the line, I asked about what he’s going to do next. He doesn’t have a detailed master plan for the next few years, he allowed. So he will do as he has ever since he opened his first restaurant, in Fort Worth, in 2012. He will trust his intuition. “My interest has always been showcasing Mexican culture. People seem to like that.”

Revolver Taco Lounge Gastro Cantina
2646 Elm, Dallas
L & D 7 days. B Sun.
Opened June 11, 2022

This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Tacos, Take Two.” Subscribe today.