In culinary competition, the James Beard Award is like the Oscars. It is about perfection in food and presentation. So Revolver Taco Lounge in Deep Ellum, the sole Dallas-Fort Worth area semi-finalist this year, seems an out-of-the box choice.
"It's fantastic for Mexican food in general in Dallas," said Regino Rojas, the owner and chef of Revolver Taco Lounge. "I have to represent."
Rojas's restaurant concept is authentic Mexican fare. The front of the house serves tacos and elevated street food. There's also a little-known back room called "Purepecha" that is essentially a chef's tasting room. It seats just 14 people for Rojas's eight-course meal.
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"Cooking and food, it's part of our culture," Rojas explained. "So it's always been with me."
Rojas cooks alongside his mother, Juana.
"She sends me to the store like every six hours," Rojas laughed. "It's just like home in Mexico."
Rojas's sister and aunt also help in the kitchen.
The food at Revolver Taco Lounge is not what most people think of when they think of the James Beard Award. It's not fancy or stuffy.
"If that dish looks fancy and everything, and it doesn't hit your heart, it's nothing but a nice looking dish," Rojas said. "So everything is the love you put into it."
Rojas is a semifinalist in a regional category. James Beard Award finalists will be announced on March 14.