Opening a restaurant in the time of COVID-19 was not what Andrea Hermosillo had in mind when she secured a location in downtown Dallas.
Hermosillo acquired the space in January and quickly began to reconstruct it into what is now Chimalma Taco Bar. Construction was completed in March, but then the pandemic hit and everything was placed on hold.
She was unable to get any immediate inspections or licenses to open because of the closures, but eight long months after acquiring the space, Chimalma was able to open in late September.
Chimalma, in the Nahuatl language, means “shield hand,” and it’s the name of a goddess of fertility for the Aztecs.
When you walk into Dallas’ Chimalma, you see bright colors, gold tables and the tile that may remind you of your grandmother’s house. There are colorful, handmade glass bowls shaped like flowers hanging on the walls and another wall covered in plants, which makes a great background for pictures.
Once seated you can’t help but look at all the small details you don’t get elsewhere in Dallas. This environment adds a comforting feeling to the dining experience. One description on Instagram reads, “I [have] never been to Guadalajara [but] this place definitely brought a small piece here to Dallas.”
The menu is based on recipes and food from Guadalajara, Mexico. Hermosillo says the food here comes from dishes she grew up eating, and everything is “cooked with heart and soul.”
Guests are given a complimentary cup of sopa de fideo (a vermicelli soup) that takes me back to my childhood, as if I were in the kitchen with my great grandmother.
I also tried the multi-course meal Hermosillo calls “taste of Jalisco.”
A taco plate from Chimalma near the West End in downtown Dallas.
The first plate was the taquitos dorados — deep-fried bean and potato tacos with slaw and Jalisco sauce ($5.85). This red sauce adds flavor, but no spice, to all the dishes; it contributes more tomato flavor than heat.
Next up was las raspadas, which is a large, handmade corn tostada served with beans, pork, cabbage and tomato sauce ($10.85). The dish is based on the one by the same name in the Jalisco town where Hermosillo grew up. The tostada was oval shaped and the size of the plate, needing to be cut in half just to be picked up and eaten, but it was crispy, light, flakey and pairs well with the beans and pork.
Next was the torta ahogada, filled with crisp, roasted pork, “drowned” in tomato broth and spicy chile de arbol sauce ($12.85).
The main course consisted of tacos are served on house-made blue corn tortillas. Each tortilla is made to order for each guest.
The carnitas taco had a great taste: The meat was tender and not fatty, with just the right amount of char. The brisket taco, which is oven-roasted, was tender, had good flavor, and paired well with the tortilla. The chorizo taco had just the right amount of seasoning and spice, not overpowering or greasy.
The star of the plate was the soy pastor, with marinated soybeans and pineapple, topped with onions, cilantro and chipotle sauce. Biting into this taco, I couldn’t tell it was soy and might not have known if I hadn’t read the menu.
The menu has a variety of options including tacos (vegan options available), caldos (soups), tortas, salads and seafood.
Tacos come in an order of three ($9.85 to $10.85) with Mexican red rice and Chimalma coleslaw, and there are many proteins to choose from. They offer carnitas, brisket, chorizo, nopales, calabacitas (squash), hongos (mushrooms) and the soy pastor taco.
Everything at Chimalma is made from scratch using natural ingredients.
There’s a full bar, and the signature margarita is the Chimalma, with tequila, sage-infused agave, fresh lime, pineapple juice and orange liqueur ($12). They also offer a frozen house margarita, which is just as good ($7).
A grand opening celebration is set for early October, with mariachis and food and drink specials. No exact date is confirmed, but details and more information will be posted Chimalma’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
Chimalma Taco Bar, 701 Commerce St. (downtown). Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.