Rodolfo Jimenez's love for lucha libre began at 8 years old when his brother took him to one of the popular wrestling matches in his home city of Guadalajara, Mexico. He was drawn to the vibrant masks the wrestlers, known as luchadores, wore and the energy of the crowd at the Arena Coliseo. Afterward, Jimenez's brother paid one of luchadores for their mask to take home as a souvenir.
Jimenez has spent the more than three decades since that first fight collecting masks and memorabilia, and even making some of his own. That passion for lucha libre is what inspired his new taqueria in Dallas, Maskaras Mexican Grill, which doubles as a showroom for some of Jimenez's most unique pieces.
The restaurant, which opened Nov. 1, is covered in colorful lucha libre iconography. Signed masks in frames line one wall, dolls dressed as the most popular luchadores grace another. There are magazine covers and movie posters, even life-size mannequins dressed as idols like Mil Máscaras and El Santo.
Jimenez and his wife, Zulma Vanessa de Jimenez, act as curators of the space, happy to relay the history of lucha libre through the pieces in their restaurant.
"We wanted to bring something really Mexican and different from everybody else," Jimenez says.
Jimenez decided to include his personal collection in the concept to show the world a different aspect of Mexico -- you know, besides the stereotypical sombreros and margaritas.
Lucha libre, like mezcal and tamales, is inherent to Mexican culture, dating back to the early 20th century. It's a spirited battle between good guys, or técnicos, and bad guys, rudos, that's equal parts athleticism and entertainment. The sport became so popular it eventually bled over into film and comic books, where the luchadores fight mummies and monsters. It resonated with audiences beyond Mexico too, including in North Texas, which boasts a thriving underground lucha libre scene.
Jimenez is a former actor and model, who aspired to open a restaurant since crossing the border into America as a kid and working in several. (He previously owned a restaurant in Miami, but sold it to focus on his career.) Maskaras Mexican Grill serves an array of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tortas and sides; all of the recipes belong to either his mother or Zulma's grandmother. It also serves beer and has a couple TVs in the dining area.
The owners' plan is to open a new location each year in different parts of the region. But until then, the original in Oak Cliff is worth a visit, especially if you're a fan of lucha libre.
Here are five things in the restaurant you should seek out.
The mask of Septiembre Negro
Jimenez still has that souvenir mask he received at his first match when he was 8 years old. It belonged to luchador Septiembre Negro. The mask is hung alongside dozens of others on one of the walls in Maskaras. Most were worn during a lucha libre match and are signed.
Vintage leather masks
There are many odes to El Santo, one of if not the most iconic luchador in history, throughout Maskaras. Two you don't want to miss are the rare leather masks, pictured above on the left. These were among the first designs in lucha libre, Jimenez says.
The other rare masks pictured were worn by luchadores El Santo (gold, center), Rayo de Jalisco (black and silver) and El Solitario (silver, right).
Mil Máscaras' getup from the film Los Canallas
Mil Máscaras translates to "1,000 masks" and the luchador is so named because he allegedly designed just as many and wore a different one every fight. Designing masks with teeth was popular, Jimenez says, as the luchadores looked to emulate monsters.
Customized luchadores dolls
Jimenez, along with his wife and daughter, spent about month custom designing outfits for a series of dolls that reside on the far wall of the restaurant. They include some of the fictional mummies and vampires from lucha libre movies. The pieces aren't collectors items yet, but they may be one day -- Jimenez says he's already had someone offer to purchase them.
With all the fun stuff to explore at Maskaras, the owners thought patrons might want a piece of the action. Pick a mask from the wall of hanging designs, snap a selfie, and don't forget to tag Maskaras Mexican Grill on Instagram.