Going Baja Cali

Photo by Kathy Tran

Jesús Carmona’s octopus order increased from three to seven cases a week earlier this year after his episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” aired on Food Network.

Host Guy Fieri loved the pulpo taco, which has grilled marinated octopus, asadero cheese and avocado filling a corn tortilla. 

After opening two years ago Tacos Mariachi received favorable reviews. Carmona even named one of his tacos, the Wednesday special, “la prensa” in honor of his friends at the Dallas Morning News. When Fieri came to town for the State Fair of Texas last year, Tacos Mariachi was one of three restaurants in Dallas chosen for Fieri’s show.

Carmona gained repute working in resort kitchens before opening Café San Miguel on North Henderson Avenue in 2005. That restaurant closed in 2011, and Carmona went back to work for the Rosewood Hotel Group as well as for John Tesar’s restaurants Spoon and Knife.

It’s not hard to see what the media find so appealing about Tacos Mariachi.

Carmona did most of the restaurant’s interior construction himself. He built tables out of wood from pallets. He wrangled up a bunch of graffiti writers from around the corner at the fabrication yard and hired them to paint a Tijuana-inspired mural on the outdoor patio. If you see him there, which is likely, he’ll be talking to customers, vendors and friends who stop in.

He loves this place, and he’s using his talents to show off the delights of Mexican street food. Besides traditional tacos such as carne asada, carnitas and lengua, the menu also offers a gourmet side: smoked salmon with avocado and crema fresca, portabella with huitlacoche, epazote and cheese.

The cocktail menu includes a blood orange margarita and Tijuana cucumber vodka, plus aguas frescas such as jamaica and cucumber.

Tacos Mariachi is not a drive-in. And it’s not a diner, which means that it falls into the “dives” category of “Triple D.” That’s not among the descriptors we’d offer. But given the Dallas glitz of nearby Trinity Groves and the luxury apartments cropping up all along Singleton and Commerce, it is nice to see there’s still a bit of border-town feel in the mix.

Ambience: Tijuana cool

Price range: $5-$8

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday

602 Singleton Blvd.