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
5029 N. Rockwell, Bethany
What works: Burritos, tamales and goat birria. And so affordable!
What needs work: The beef and tongue are a bit dry.
Tips: Be sure to get the green salsa.
Looking for food on Western Avenue is easy. There are great restaurants everywhere. N.W. 23rd Street? Child’s play. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a good place to eat. And then you should probably go apologize for throwing rocks at the restaurant. (What are you doing? You can’t just look with your eyes?) But a little farther out from the corridors of foodly power, things get tricky. Chain restaurants multiply like rabbits. Still, there are little eateries hidden out in the hinterlands. There are even tacos.
Way out west, in a little strip mall near Wiley Post Airport, sits Chalo’s Tacos. It’s a taqueria serving a few of the favorites you might not expect to find so far north.
Just a quick note on taquerias vs. Taco Bells: A taqueria taco is usually a little thing with some meat and maybe some cilantro and onions on a stack of two tiny tortillas. A Taco Bell taco is a crunchy shell filled with carpet remnants that might be dusted with leftover Doritos flavors, like Mild Heartburn EXXXTREME or Spicy Ennui Blast.
So, the tacos ($1.35 a piece).
Generally, the weirder the ingredient, the better. Chalo’s Tacos doesn’t get super-weird — lengua (aka beef tongue) is about as wild as it gets.
The meat is not incredibly moist, but you can make up for that yourself by dressing the tacos with some golden sauteed onions or a squeeze of lime. Hell, toss some radish on there, chief. Go nuts.
Even though “Taco” is right there in the restaurant’s name, I was much more taken with the burritos ($3.75), which combine a bit of shredded lettuce and your meat of choice with refried beans, cheese, onions and cilantro then roll it all up in a flour tortilla. These are not giant burritos, but they are filling. Or maybe that’s because I ate four tacos before I started. Whatever. The human stomach is a mystery. Nobody knows how it works.
All I know about my stomach is that it wants tamales ($1.35) on the regular. And Chalo’s has them.
Tamales are a tricky beast, like velociraptors or women. Unlike pizza, in which even bad is pretty good, tamales can be problematic — too dry, too wet, too corny, too bland.
I’m not ready to put these tamales in the hall of fame just yet, but I was quite taken with the poblano and cheese tamale. The cheese adds a bit of creaminess and a little tart sting, but the poblano is the real deal — a little sweet and just enough heat to make it interesting.
Slather it in spicy green salsa and call it a day. No, wait! Eat it first — then call it a day. If you’re looking for something meatier, the pork tamale is also a good choice.
How authentic are quesadillas ($4.25)? How much do you bet I don’t actually care?
Because I got one, and it was pretty great. Unlike so many quesadillas, this one had a little more to it than just cheese and a tortilla. In fact, if you’re bringing someone for whom the idea of tiny tacos is not doing it, I’d get a quesadilla, because it’s remarkably similar to what he or she is wanting. A little lettuce, a little cheese and, oh my, a little avocado goes a long way.
What are dorados (4 for $3)? Are they named after Blair Waldorf’s maid/ confidante on Gossip Girl? No one would tell me, so I’m going to assume yes. Anyway, they’re like pockets of fried tortillas. Not the best thing ever, frankly. Not bad, but just not a thing that I’d choose over other dishes.
On the weekends, Chalo’s Tacos also serves menudo (cow stomach soup) and birria (a thin, spicy broth with tender stewed goat meat). I know that’s probably not what everybody is looking for, but it’s exactly what I’m looking for. I love birria ($4.50 small, $8 large).On cold days, I’m about 50-50 on drinking birria vs. having a cup of coffee. The meat is tender because all the toughness has melted into the broth, leaving it velvety and filling. And if you’re worried about eating goat, you need to get over it. Goat is delicious and tender and flavorful.
The metro is blessed with a number of great taquerias. Whether you want fancy and adventurous, like Big Truck Tacos, or small and straightforward, like Taqueria La Original, there’s something for every taste.
And if you want to try a tasty little taco or a flavorful, filling burrito, and you’re almost at the edge of Oklahoma County, then Chalo’s Tacos deserves your patronage.