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Restaurant Openings and Closings

Try the Whole Roast Pig at This Mexico City-Inspired New Taco Spot

Its founders may have a fine-dining pedigree working for Julian Barsotti, but Tacos El Metro is a casual spot with tacos, tortas, and killer beans.
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A taco sample tray at Tacos El Metro, with extra pineapples in front for the taco al pastor. Brian Reinhart

There’s a casual new taco restaurant north of Love Field and west of Preston Hollow—and it comes from restaurateurs with serious fine dining pedigree.

Tacos El Metro is the brainchild of Sergio Quijano, a Mexico City native, and Michael Garcia, a Peruvian-American chef. The duo met working at Julian Barsotti’s Italian restaurants in and around the Park Cities. Quijano served as wine director for the Barsotti group, while Garcia rose to the level of executive chef of Fachini, the midcentury throwback Italian-American joint in Highland Park Village.

“[Sergio] was my mentor a few years back when I was just starting out as a chef, just in the sense of, I needed guidance in how to go about a leadership role,” Garcia tells me. “He guided me through and we became really good friends. It went from mentorship to friendship.”

After years working for others, Quijano wanted a spot of his own—and he wanted it to embody his roots. He can cook well enough at home, but he’s not a restaurant chef, so he asked Garcia to join the venture.

Garcia says that since his parents came to Texas from Peru, this is nearly his first time cooking Mexican food.

“I fell in love with Mexican cuisine,” he says. “I never really ate it until the family meals at work, since most of my cooks are Mexican. All the recipes [at Tacos El Metro] are mainly Sergio’s. We tweaked a few things to work in restaurant format. If anything needed to be tweaked, I helped him with that, to apply it to a grander scale, from feeding 10 people to 200 people.”

Here’s the big one you need to know about: every other day or so, Tacos El Metro cooks a whole pig. The latest sacrifice’s oddly cheery face can be seen in the kitchen window. You can sample some of the pig roast in taco form, topped with cracklings, or order the meat by the pound, served with all the fixings—chicharrón, tortillas, salsas, cilantro, onions—as a party pack to take home. Next time I visit, I’m trying the torta, which features pierna (pork leg) slow-roasted in an adobo marinade and sliced like a thick ham. Garcia says that the cooks scatter a pile of cheese on the grill, wait for it to sizzle, and set down the bread to toast on top of the cheese, so that the two sandwich components meld together in a golden crust.

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Tacos El Metro occupies a former bar space at the corner of Walnut Hill and Marsh Lanes. Brian Reinhart

On my first visit, I missed that torta party. I chose a taco trio and a cup of borracho bean soup. Borracho beans are an old-school classic that, somehow, have become underrated today. These should correct the problem: they’re soulful, hearty, and popping with slices of both bacon and wieners. Tacos El Metro’s taco al pastor ranks among the city’s best, too, and the carne asada taco goes well with the $1 up-charged “Metro Salsa,” a super-fresh, bracingly acidic raw salsa of tomatillos, serrano peppers, and cubed-up avocado. The shop’s tortillas come from Tortillería El Maizal, a new North Dallas business that uses imported heirloom Mexican corn. (El Maizal was already on my must-visit-soon list. We’ll try to have an article about it in two or three weeks.)

This space used to be a neighborhood dive bar called the Velvet Elvis. “It was like a black hole in there,” Garcia recalls. “I was so young, I was kinda scared in there.” (One of my D colleagues remembers a night at the bar when she witnessed a man with no legs and only one arm urinating on the patio.)

Tacos El Metro couldn’t be more different. It’s a bright space with gleaming white walls and very high ceilings. The splashes of color all center on an enormous reproduction of Mexico City’s metro map. Above the long kitchen window, there’s station signage, too.

I visited Tacos El Metro on just its second official day in business. The restaurant has more plans to come, most notably margaritas when the liquor license comes in. This summer, look out for ceviche—a chance for Quijano and Garcia to bring Mexican and Peruvian culinary threads together. Garcia already has ideas for that: “Mexican ceviche is straight lime juice. Peruvian you add a fish sauce in there, blend fish scraps and peppers—it’s not just straight lime and acidity. Although I don’t want to mess with Mexican ceviche too much, I do want to upgrade it a little bit.”

His dream is to open a Peruvian restaurant of his own some day, but he’s happy to take his time and let that day come when it’s ready. For now, with the early promise of Tacos El Metro, he’s in a very good place.

Tacos El Metro, 3720 Walnut Hill Ln., Ste. 117

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.
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