Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
Winning big can be hungry, thirsty work. We scoured Oklahoma’s casinos for your best bets on sustenance whether you are on a winning streak, holding, folding, walking away, running, or just down to your last five bucks.
Casa De Los Milagros Mexican Restaurant and Cantina
5111 N. Classen Blvd.
What worked: pretty much everything
What needs work: Borracho beans had an unpleasant flavor.
The Tip: The salsa is real. It’s spiked liberally with jalapeño and fresh cilantro.
In Spanish, the word milagros means “miracles.” Nestled near the trendy Classen Curve district, Casa De Los Milagros Mexican Restaurant and Cantina is indeed a miraculous structure.
A cerulean blue dome rises above tile roofs and stucco walls painted in shades of terra-cotta and desert dun. A collection of multicolored gourds and pumpkins lined the sidewalk, leading to a natural stone entryway. Prominently displayed on an inside wall is an immense, ornately framed photograph of a patriarchal Latino in black tie attire.
Beneath it, engraved in majestic bronze, are the words (in both English and Spanish), “This photo and the others on these walls are dedicated to the memory and endless contributions made by Don Luis Alvarado to the Mexican food industry in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma.”
It’s a tribute Milagros’ owner Pepe Gonzalez and his general-manager son, Julian, have made to their family’s business alliances dating back to 1930s Oklahoma City. Names of other restaurants they’ve operated include Laredo’s, El Chico, El Charrito and El Charro Café.
One entire wall of art is inspired by and dedicated to revered Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Scores of brightly painted ceramics, paper flowers, fancifully decorated skulls, photographs, candles and crucifixes adorn this spectacular assemblage.
Server Juan Villatoro was swift with menus and beverages. When asked, he readily provided advice on house specialties. Rather than saying everything is good, he made specific recommendations. Tortilla chips, red salsa and queso dip appeared in a flash.
Little touches such as cloth napkins, lemon wedges with the iced tap water and delightful Mexican folk music on the sound system complemented Milagros’ grander attributes. The feast for the eyes would make for a big letdown if the food were disappointing. Luckily, that is not the case.
Fish tacos ($10.99) arrived as a soft tortilla trio standing vertically. The white fillets’ crisply grilled flavor stood out among shredded cabbage, avocado slices and creamy jalapeño dressing. Borracho beans on the side were the plate’s only sour note; they had an unpleasant acerbic twang.
However, it wasn’t a total strikeout in the bean department. Frijoles refritos with the tamales especiales dinner ($11.99) was richly textured and flavorful. Three husk-wrapped tamales were a model of spicy pork and maize masa perfection. A crisp, blue-corn triangle filled with chili con carne was set in the middle of the platter, surrounded by pico de gallo and Spanish rice. The mole enchilada dinner ($9.99) was tortilla-wrapped chicken smothered in a rich sauce fragrant with chocolate, pumpkin seed and chile. The flavors were more intense than the blander spinach enchilada dinner ($9.99). The menu has dozens of other entrees featuring shrimp, beef and cheese.
You may wash it down with horchata ($2.50), a rice drink flavored with cinnamon and almonds, or something from the full bar. Even if your only concept of a miracle is the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook hitting a game-winning shot with a tenth second on the clock, Milagros is a place in which you can believe.