We know. It’s hot. It’s summer in Oklahoma. Cool down by sampling cocktails that local bars and restaurants have concocted just for you. Find a nice, air conditioned space or a shaded patio and while away the hours drinking the flavors of summer. You might decide it’s not that bad after all.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock, Shannon Cornman and Lauren Hamilton
There are a wealth of new local eateries cropping up in the metro and even more coming. If they’re not on your radar, they should be. From the comfy atmosphere at The Barrel on Western Avenue to the laid-back vibe at the Plaza District’s coffee shop, you might find a new regular hangout.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
Alvarado's Mexican Restaurant
1000 E. Second, Edmond
What works: Tortilla soup and tacos poblanos are must-haves.
What needs work: Thanks to a college crowd, it can get pretty busy.
The tip: If you want a hotter salsa, ask for it.
Have you ever seen one of those nature videos where a school of piranhas attacks a cow and just strips all the flesh off in a matter of minutes? That is pretty much what it looks like when my family attacks a basket filled with freshly made tortillas.
Almost every Tuesday night, my parents and my brother and sister-in-elaw descend upon Alvarado’s Mexican Restaurant in Edmond. I’m not sure if the waitress bothers asking what they want anymore. Enchiladas. Flour tortillas. That hot green salsa.
It’s a ritual. Since I don’t live in Edmond, and I have a toddler who views restaurants the same way Mongols viewed much of the Chinese countryside, we don’t get to join them all that often.
Oh, but when we do, the feasting.
Alvarado’s is one of many “Okla- Mex” restaurants that combines a few authentic Mexican dishes with plenty of the Americanized Mexican foods so many of us love. Here you get the “cheese jelly” queso in yellow and white, along with a zesty fresh salsa and chips. It’s the sort of thing you take for granted until you have a child who is desperate to eat the second you sit down.
Regardless of your own encumbrance by children, I do suggest you sit down and immediately order the tortilla soup ($5.99 for a bowl, $1.99 for a cup on the side).
I do not think it is a pretty soup.
Alvarado’s does not decorate it with sauces or tri-colored tortilla strips. It is a bowl. Of soup. There might be some cilantro on top.
What matters is what happens when your spoon enters the bowl. There’s a lot of chicken down there, as well as a creamy, spicy chicken broth. It is a magnificent concoction. Get the bowl if you’re hungry, although I tend to get a cup on the side with an entree.
And now the real battle begins.
Shredded chicken in a fresh flour tortilla, covered in sour cream sauce? Spicy and alluring tacos poblanos? Guiso Mexicano?
Tuesday nights are half-priced enchilada nights, so that’s usually what my family gets. (Similarly, we always seemed to eat Sonic burgers on half-priced nights when I was a kid. Weird, huh?) And while I certainly understand the draw of those enchiladas, I have other favorites.
Tacos poblanos ($9.99) are some of the best things you can put in your mouth. The fresh tortilla barely restrains tender, seasoned chicken (you can have beef, if you’d rather) and sautéed onions and poblano peppers.
Alvarado’s does a good job of seeding the peppers, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a nice kick of heat. Paired with the spicy soup, you might find yourself sweating.
Their rice and beans are fine as they are, but I tend to switch it up and get frijoles machos (manly beans) and jalapeño rice. Welcome to Flavor Country.
The guiso Mexicano ($9.49) is a dish of seasoned and simmered steak tips in a sauce of tomatillo, jalapeño, onion and cilantro. Please be aware that your brain might have trouble reconciling the desire to shovel this dish into your mouth as quickly as possible with the need to stop and drink water to put out the flames.
For those looking to avoid all burning sensations, it’s hard to recommend the fajitas. I mean, they taste great and they’re not all that spicy, but they do come on a sizzling hot plate. If you have the willpower to leave a searingly hot cast iron skillet alone, you might very much enjoy the shrimp fajitas ($18.99). I’m equally taken with the camerón enchilado ($10.99), which isn’t enchiladas, but seared and seasoned shrimp on a bed of jalapeño rice.
Do you have room for dessert? No.
You don’t. And yet you will still get the brandy butter sopaipilla ($1.29), because you are a human with a functional mouth. Share if you must, but beware: Stronger bonds than yours have been tried and tested by the last bite of this sopaipilla.
Go to Alvarado’s. Enjoy the Mexican fare. Watch the machine churn out tortillas. And if you’re there on a Tuesday, enjoy watching my family eat their ritually mandated meal. But careful with your hands — this lot tends to bite.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.