Gas station and convenience store taquerias are a beloved tradition in Texas. After all, it doesn’t take much to open a taco operation anywhere: a flattop griddle, utensils, a cutting board, a gas hookup, and electricity (maybe). The tacos offered by the cooks at such setups can be anything from street-style noshes to gussied-up gourmet fare. At Mariachi’s Dine-In, across the street from Martin House Brewing Company in Fort Worth, you’ll find classic tacos as well as a whole menu of vegan offerings.
Business partners Ashley Miller and Angel Fuentes, who is also the executive chef, opened Mariachi’s in July 2018. They had both come up in the hospitality industry and were ready to strike out on their own when Fuentes’s brother caught wind of an available gas station kitchen near Martin House. “It’s a pretty good area as far as an untapped market because people need to eat while they’re drinking,” Miller says. The dining space, brightly painted in green, purple, blue, and orange hues, has a counter-order setup with a large menu that includes pork al pastor and carne asada alongside vegan counterparts, some using soy protein.
I’ve already professed my enjoyment of the nopales-heavy mixed veggie taco, but the Baja “fish” taco is a next-level vegan taco that’s also a reminder of the plentiful non-meat options in Mexican food. In place of the traditional fish, a hearty banana blossom is fried in a vegan batter. It is then served crispy on a flour tortilla and topped with a corn, tomato, and cilantro salsa, flurries of red cabbage, and finished swooshes of chipotle mayo—undetectable as vegan—in the familiar style that originated in Baja California, Mexico. It’s especially striking when served on a traditional decorative earthenware platter. Although banana flower—a magenta-petaled teardrop-shaped blossom that’s common in Southeast Asian cuisines and often eaten raw in salads—doesn’t flake like white fish, it is convincingly meaty and has a welcoming crunch.
Put in your order, which should include one of the rotating house-made aguas frescas, and take a seat in the small rectangular dining niche with a smattering of tables. A low wall bears images from Mexican cinema and pop culture. The clientele is as diverse as the menu: construction workers, families, restaurant industry folks—and culinary explorers on the hunt for the next hidden gem.