Saturday 19 Apr

Permanent parking, mobile food

A plan to create a permanent food truck park in Midtown passed the Downtown Design Review Committee (DDRC) on April 17. The creator, Hunter Wheat, based it on other permanent food parks around the country, including places like New York, the Dallas/Ft. Worth-area and Austin, Texas.
04/18/2014 | Comments 0

Smooth pop

Ah, springtime in Oklahoma and the joy of eating food from a street vendor. Just in time for the warm weather, two new mobile concepts want you to chill out.
04/16/2014 | Comments 0


No single holiday has done more to ruin the reputation of eggs than Easter.
04/16/2014 | Comments 0

OKG7 eat: Fresh off the farm

There was a time not too terribly long ago in Oklahoma City when there was a chain on every corner and the closest you could get to local was to make a trip to your farmers market and make the food yourself. We always celebrate all things local, and luckily, it’s getting easier for OKC restaurants to incorporate locally grown, all- natural ingredients into what they offer.

— By Devon Green

photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman

04/16/2014 | Comments 0

OKG7 eat: Soccer pub crawl

Football season is finally here! We call it soccer, but that doesn’t have to stop you from indulging in two favorite European traditions: walking and pub crawling. Since the Energy FC games will be alcohol-free, we’ve created a list of pubs and taverns within walking distance from Clement E. Pribil Stadium at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School.

— by Devon Green 

photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman

04/09/2014 | Comments 0

OGK7 eat: Dollars to doughnuts

While the idea of fried dough may or may not be American in origin, the traditional ring-shaped confection that we know and love does originate here. According to The Smithsonian, doughnuts were created by an enterprising New England sailor’s mother who wanted a way to store and transport pastry. Regardless of its origin, the doughnut is a modern favorite.

— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman 

04/02/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Food · Restaurant Reviews · Light my fire
Restaurant Reviews

Light my fire

Juan del Fuego’s open kitchen serves Mexican-style diner fare for breakfast and lunch.

Doug Hill April 18th, 2012

Name: Juan del Fuego Mexi Diner
Address: 223 34th Ave. S.W., Norman
Telephone: 310-2030

What works: Genuine homemade goodness in every dish.
What needs work: Open daily 7 a.m.-2 p.m. is good, but serving 24/7 would be amazing.
The tip: The diner with authentic Latino flair. 

With no less than three self-portraits of Frida Kahlo on its dining room walls, the controversial painter could be Juan del Fuego Mexi Diner’s patron saint.

Kahlo’s impassive gaze times three, colorful Mexican folk art and wrought-iron candelabras decorate the diminutive space that seats around 55. On weekends those seats usually are filled from 7 a.m. until close at 2 p.m. Service is fast and efficient, but every dish is cooked to order. With only word-of-mouth advertising and in an off-the-beaten-path strip mall, owner Juan Herrera’s diner has become Norman’s hot new destination for brunch.

In a sense, Juan’s is not new at all. Herrera honed his skills at the nationally recognized The Diner on Main Street for 17 years before opening his own place. The two joints share similarities, with Juan del Fuego being more Latino-centric. The youngest of 10 children, Herrera learned to cook in Celaya, Mexico.

“I was right there by my mom at all times,” Herrera said. “Learning by watching her is how I did it.” He learned well. Juan’s pork burrito ($7.99) with grilled onions, potatoes and green chiles wrapped in a soft flour tortilla feels, looks and tastes like it came from a Mexicana cocina.

The menu is divided into breakfast and lunch sections, but everything is available from open to close. A server promptly delivered a relleno omelet ($7.99). It is a culinary celebration of roasted poblano pepper flavoring the eggs, along with red onion, garlic and cream cheese. An avocado garnish makes it a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.

Most breakfasts are served with crispy browned potatoes and toast. Customer favorites include huevos rancheros ($5.99), accompanied by blue corn tortillas and black beans. Another favorite is the pork tamales and eggs ($7.99). As a nod to Herrera’s roots at The Diner, the menu has an Anglo-friendly option of handbreaded chicken-fried steak and two eggs ($7.50) next to the Fiesta Plato ($5.99). Okie à la carte doesn’t neglect biscuits and gravy ($2.50). For the unadventurous, there’s a cheeseburger ($5.99) or grilled chicken sandwich ($7.50).

Herrera has a talent for putting his own stamp on dishes, such as Chilaquileggs ($5.99) that resemble crunchy corn chip migas with red sauce. Daily chalkboard specials include chile verde, à la carte posole and fish tacos ($7.99), served only on Fridays. The busy kitchen area is open and easily observable from most of the dining room and just feet away from the countertop seats.

“I’m cooking everything right there,” Herrera said. “Part of my Mexican culture is that food should be fresh and homemade.” Poblano sauce, salsa fresco, red, green and ranchero sauces are blended daily by staff. The spicy chorizo is front-and-center in a few dishes and is made in-house.

You can order an Iguana Melt sandwich ($6.99), which is poblano strips, chorizo and cheese on grilled bread, not roasted lizard on a stick. Roasted green chile melt ($6.99) is a south-of-the-border take on the diner standard — the patty melt. The chile in this burger was spicier than anything else we tasted, including tamales ($8.50) and green chile chicken enchiladas ($8.50). The Mexican meals are served with rice and a choice of black or pinto beans.

“On weekends, we mostly sell breakfasts,” Herrera said. Besides a dozen meat, egg and potato platters, there are also specialty pancakes. Blueberry ($5.99), banana and chocolate-chip flapjacks are popular, along with banana French toast. Kiddy meals are all under $5 and include milk, juice or a soft drink.

“What I enjoy most is seeing people come in and being able to put a smile on their face because they like what they’re eating,” he said. “That makes me happy.”

Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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