Can a bowl of queso redeem one’s reputation? In the case of veteran restaurateur Mico Rodriguez, it had better be one hell of a bowl. Back in 2008, when the founder of Mi Cocina, Taco Diner, and The Mercury lost control of his M Crowd Restaurant Group, it was juicy fodder for blogs and news reports. One wondered if Rodriguez would ever recover from such a public downfall.
Flash forward four years. The dapper Rodriguez—dressed in relaxed white linen with every ebony hair in perfect place—glides through the crowd at his new restaurant, Mr. Mesero, glad-handing loyal patrons and attending to their needs. Most of these guests are familiar with Rodriguez’s chic spin on Mexican classics he perfected at Mi Cocina. They’re eager to see what he’s up to with his latest creation. They won’t be disappointed.
If there’s anything Rodriguez knows, it’s how to set a scene. Mr. Mesero is no different. Housed in the former La Cubanita space in the Knox-Henderson neighborhood, the restaurant is effortlessly stylish in a minimalist way: black leather banquettes, white billowy curtains, and simple wood and copper accents. Its lovely wraparound porch is the star of the show. As if inspired by some café in San Miguel de Allende, it’s cosmopolitan with the clientele to match.
Likewise, Mr. Mesero’s food is a stylish and fresh respite from the cheesy Tex-Mex that clogs so many restaurants (and arteries) across Dallas. Start with the complimentary chips and salsa. Rather than an oversized basket of greasy chips, Mr. Mesero’s thick-cut, crispy tortillas rest on a small wooden trough. The salsa has the right balance of heat and zip. Appetizers were large enough to make for a light lunch. Nachos conocidos were perfectly balanced with black beans, cheese, brisket, avocado, and jalapeño. Quekas “La Guera” was a trio of moist, crisp corn patties, each topped with its own set of ingredients: brisket, cheese, and roasted chicken.
The menu is compact and neatly split into soups, salads, enchiladas, tacos, and steaks. Though the salads were perfunctory at best—the Texas coast shrimp salad being the most egregious, with overcooked shrimp and underdressed iceberg lettuce—everything else satisfied, if not dazzled. Favorites included roasted chicken enchiladas smothered in a rich molé; shrimp tacos served with serrano aioli; and a nicely cooked and well-seasoned 7-ounce beef tenderloin. Want to sample the menu? Try one of Mr. Mesero’s six combination plates.
And as for that bowl of redemption? Blended with spinach, melted Chihuahua cheese, artichoke, and roasted poblano, Rodriguez’s queso may just be the best in Dallas. Judging by the throngs that are already making Mr. Mesero a hit, they not only agree, but also forgive. Welcome back, Mico.