Before working at four Ritz-Carlton locations, chef Andres Meraz spent a year as a line cook at Akelarre, a Michelin three star-rated restaurant in Spain.
In contrast to his career in fine dining, Meraz has opened his first restaurant, Boca 31, in Denton to serve Latin street food.
Tacos, empanadas and loaded sandwiches are now his focus.
“I wanted to do something fun, and switch it up whenever I wanted to,” Meraz said while tossing plantains and yucca with cilantro for a hash. “Based on the location here, I decided what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to go fine dining. I wanted something simple, fun and to be able to engage with people.”
The open kitchen at the spot, which has formerly housed Hoochie’s and Sub Shack, allows Meraz to work at the prep station while facing customers sitting at the bar, giving customers a bird’s eye view of how their food is made.
Meraz and his wife moved to Fort Worth last year after living in Miami. Meraz, a native of the Bay area in California, wanted to be closer to his home without being in California.
His wife’s parents live in Irving, so they picked the Dallas-Fort worth area to live.
Before opening the restaurant, he wanted to get settled and worked at Neighborhood Services in Dallas as a chef while keeping an eye out for a restaurant location.
Once the restaurant location was picked and the lease was signed June 1, Meraz started building the menu.
“I wanted to bring some Latin flair anywhere I settled down, and I wanted to bring something different to Texas,” he said. “I wanted to embrace some of my background and the places that I’ve lived.”
Then, he opened as soon as he could: July 18.
He plans to add daily specials in a couple of weeks, and is looking to add more staff as well.
The restaurant at 207 S. Bell Ave. is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday noon to 10 p.m.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.