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And Other Updates
|EL PASO, TX--CoLi Wok & Grille|
Feb. 13, 2015:
In the time I have been away from El Paso I have tried to keep up with the restaurant scene, and
to make sure this web site is current (at least in terms of which restaurants are still open
and which have closed).
I had been disappointed to hear that Moon Day had closed. Even though I was not in El Paso at the time, I know that many others were missing one of their favorite restaurants in town (and I, along with some others, might say it was our favorite one). I am a few months late in posting this, but many readers already know that Moon day has been reincarnated as CoLi Wok & Grille at 7411 Remcon Circle (about two blocks east of I-10 at Mesa Street on the west side).
CoLi still has Moon Day's excellent cooking by Lili, but has made some minor changes. Orders are taken at the counter, and there is now a larger selection of teas. The review on Urbanspoon provides details, and there are certainly enough details that I can recommend that readers try it out.
I thought of Moon Day very much as a fine dining restaurant. The atmosphere fit this description, but also the menu took Chinese food out of the fried/greasy/sweet and sour stereotype that is found in many Chinese restaurants. Lili serves northern Chinese style food that is known for its imperial style food fit for the Chinese emperors, the wide variety of noodle and dumpling dishes, and its importation of food from other regions of China. In the case of Moon Day there were quite a few dishes from the Sichuan region (although spiciness could be varied according to the customer's taste).
Whether the more casual concept of CoLi can still be called "fine dining," I am not sure. I do know, though (and reviews on Urbanspoon confirm) that it can still be called very good Chinese food. In fact, I have found nothing quite like it in any other cities I have visited.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--El Alex|
Feb. 9, 2015:
There are four generally recognized Mexican food styles originating with the hispanic
population of the United States: Californian, Sonoran (found primarily in Arizona and
southern Nevada), New Mexican (in New Mexico and southern Colorado), and Tex-Mex. There
is actually a lesser known fifth style which is centered around El Paso, Texas, and which
is closely related to the food in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. El Paso style Mexican
food is closely related to New Mexican cuisine, but it is different enough that I think
it should be classified as its own food style.
Having lived in El Paso for a number of years I very much appreciate the food from many long time restaurants that serve the city's unique version of Mexican food. The popularity of El Paso style food may be a little less with young people now, and the city is getting a better mix of styles from different parts of Mexico. Nevertheless, I strongly encourage people to try restaurants which serve good versions of El Paso style food (my El Paso reviews concentrate heavily on these restaurants).
Surprisingly, there is a restaurant in Oklahoma City which takes the best elements of El Paso style food (such as enchiladas) and recipes from the state of Chihuahua (such as chicken mole), and gives customers flavors such as I have found in El Paso's best Mexican restaurants. El Alex on South Robinson has been serving this food for a number of years, first operating as Lazara's Cocina and then as El Alex for about the past ten years. It used to be open late at night, but now is making some changes both to the hours and to its operation.
El Alex has closed the restaurant part of the business, but still prepares take-out orders. Customers can pick up breakfast burritos at the 2505 S. Robinson location from 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM as to go orders. After 8 AM it changes to accepting phone-in orders only for food from the breakfast or the regular menu. All food that was served previously in the restaurant is still available, but you just have to call in first and get it as a to-go order. The phone-in number is (405) 255-7168, and can be called throughout the day until about 6:00 PM.
They also operate a food truck from 8:15 AM until 1:00 PM which goes to four locations Monday through Friday. Catering is also available.
It is understandable that El Alex has joined the food truck bandwagon, and has concentrated on this and its take-out business. In my opinion, though, this is not just another Mexican food truck or take-out restaurant. El Alex offers some very unique flavors for Oklahoma City, and the chicken mole I tried at the restaurant is still the best I have found in the city.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--The Great Memorial Rd. Pizza Wars|
Dec. 19, 2014:
With a visit to
on Memorial Road, my initial exploration of the pizza in this portion of far northwest
Oklahoma City is complete. There are some chains in this area, as there are everywhere,
but two more local restaurants are in proximity to Revolve near the same intersection
of Memorial and MacArthur:
Hideaway Pizza and
I believe that not all Hideaways are equal, and the one on Memorial is my favorite besides the long time restaurant on Western. Hideaway is known for its red sauce, and this is one of the main reasons I like to go there. Almost all aspects of the pizza are good at the Memorial Rd. location.
I have had a couple of visits to Tommy's. The results were somewhat mixed, but I enjoyed the pizza both times, and both times I thought the crust was the outstanding feature.
My personal "best of" awards for 2014, therefore, are as follows:
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Tsubaki Sushi & Hibachi|
Dec. 6, 2014:
Tsubaki Sushi & Hibachi
is a relatively new restaurant on the Memorial Road corridor in far north Oklahoma
City, and so far has been one of my favorites. Although there is a large sushi selection,
many of my favorite Japanese cooked dishes are on the menu as well, including hibachi
dishes, teriyaki, and udon soup.
Having had a good sampling of Japanese food on the west coast, I usually have a pretty strict standard when judging Japanese restaurants anywhere in the country. My favorite dish at Tsubaki so far, the tempura udon, may not quite live up to west coast standards, but I find it to be quite enjoyable and something that satisfies my Japanese food cravings.
The miso soup is good by any standard, and the salad (which also comes with most meals) is enjoyable. Some dishes at Tsubaki miss my Japanese restaurant benchmark standards by a wider margin, but I have still enjoyed everything I have tried.
The sushi here is the restaurant's main claim to fame, and gets good ratings. It is a complete Japanese restaurant, though, and sushi is just a small part of what they do.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--El Birrias Restaurant|
Nov. 12, 2014:
One of my favorite restaurants in the Oklahoma City area,
in Bethany, has opened a second location at N.W. 19th St. and MacArthur in Oklahoma City.
The new restaurant is called El Birrias Restaurant, and is about two miles southeast of
Birrieria Diaz. The new restaurant will be convenient to a large area of offices and
other employment centers along Interstate 40 west.
Birrieria Diaz has been open for about three years, and in that time has been a big hit in the reviews I have seen on the Internet. To me it is unique because it strikes the right balance between authentic Mexican food and the type of food that is comfortable for Americans. The food is very authentic Aguascalientes style, but most of the menu items (such as enchiladas, tacos, chile relleno, etc.) are ones that most people are used to ordering. Birrieria Diaz does have some dishes which are less familiar (such as the signature birria), but mostly they just serve ordinary Mexican dishes which are better than at most other restaurants.
El Birrias has the same owners as Birrieria Diaz, and looks just as promising. The MacArthur neighborhood certainly has a plethora of authentic Mexican restaurants, and now the new "Birrieria Diaz" will be added to the list.
Information for the new restaurant is:
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Istanbul Turkish Cuisine|
Sep. 11, 2014:
Istanbul Turkish Cuisine
represents the addition of yet another nation's cuisine to the Oklahoma City dining scene. In
this case, I think it is a cuisine that most people will really enjoy, especially if they are fond of
the Lebanese or other Middle Eastern restaurants that have been popular for years.
I picked up a menu for Istanbul at Cous Cous Cafe, another one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants. It seems that the owners of Cous Cous and Istanbul are friends, and even though the restaurants represent different cuisines, both owners provide authentic and high quality presentations of the respective country's dishes.
Oklahoma City is rather late in the Turkish food trend, as evidenced by the countless Turkish and doner kabob restaurants I have found on Internet searches of different cities. There is a Turkish restaurant in Norman which may have been around longer than Istanbul, but in any case we now have some more good options for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dining.
Istanbul provides a good opportunity to try Turkish cuisine, since its menu expands well beyond the standard doner kabobs, and provides both lunch and dinner portions of food on the menu (and both are avaiable any time of day).
|BETHANY, OK--Inca Latin Cuisine|
Aug. 15, 2014: Inca Trail Peruvian Restaurant on May Avenue has
moved to Bethany, and is now called
Inca Latin Cuisine.
The new restaurant is smaller and has dropped a few items from the menu, but after
trying the food I believe it is the same food that was served at Inca Trail.
Inca Latin Cuisine is one of several Peruvian restaurants in Oklahoma City, and in many ways it is my favorite out of the several I have tried. The main dishes have been very good, and I think the side dishes are better than at several of its competitors. There is a good variety of choices, and anything from an upscale meal to something inexpensive and casual can be ordered.
There are really several items I would recommend from my experiences at Inca Trail, including the steak, pork (adobo de puerco), or pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken which has been marinated for two days). The pollo a la brasa I ordered at the new restaurant proved to be the same as the Inca Trail version, and I think fans of Inca Trail will be happy with the restaurant's new incarnation.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Sheesh Mahal|
Jul. 29, 2014: The new
on N. May Ave. just north of Interstate 44 is the second Pakistani restaurant I have found
in this neighborhood, and it joins the list of several very good South Asian and Middle
Eastern restaurants in close proximity.
For those who are familiar with Indian food, Pakistani cuisine has similar flavors and many dishes have the same name. At Sheesh Mahal you order from a menu (as opposed to the buffets that most Indian restaurants serve), so my many trips to Indian buffets came in useful in helping me decide what to order here.
Pakistani food seems to be mostly meat dishes, though (while Indian cuisine is one of my favorites for vegetarian items). Over time I will probably explore the differences between Indian and Pakistani cuisine, but for most people it is probably enough to know that if you like one you will probably like the other as well.
The food at Sheesh Mahal can be spicy or non-spicy, and they will answer any questions you have about the menu (including making recommendations if you wish).
The karahi chicken I ordered on my initial visit was quite good, and I think is worth a try if you want something fairly spicy.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Alfredo's Mexican Cafe|
Jun. 12, 2014: The new
in Warr Acres makes a total of four in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, but this was
the first one I was able to visit. The Internet reviews for Alfredo's have been better than
most, and this was what persuaded me to try it. Although I found some areas of
disappointment at the restaurant, I have to say that it is does seem to be better than most.
There was not as large a choice of authentic dishes as there would be in restaurants such as Abel's, but if the street tacos are any indication the available dishes are quite satisfying. Out of several very good street tacos in the city, I would say Alfredo's tacos are set apart by their flavorful tomatillo sauce.
The best feature about Alfredo's, though, was the consistent quality of all the items including the chips, salsa, tortillas, and side dishes (not even Abel's comes as close to meeting my expectations in this regard). Alfredo's even gives you real butter (and not a margarine spread) to put on the tortillas.
The setup at Alfredo's is American style, with large portions, rather high prices, and the obligatory cheese sauce as an appetizer. For flavor, though, I think Alfredo's really has an authentic Mexican taste.
As part of the authentic Mexican experience, I really want to point out the large selection of side dishes that are not available at most other restaurants. The Mexican mashed potatoes were most impressive, and the list of other possible choices was quite long.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Tommy's Italian-American Grill|
May 26, 2014: The new
opened in May 2014, and many people still have fond memories of the original Tommy's in
Northpark Mall (where Rococo is now located). This was my favorite place in town for pizza
at a time when I had begun to experience what was available in Chicago and other large
cities. On my first visit to the new Tommy's there was no question about what I would
order-- I had to try the pizza, and it did not disappoint.
I do not know the full history of why the old Tommy's closed and the owner concentrated his efforts on his other restaurant, Bellini's (only to end up selling Bellini's a couple of years ago). The new Tommy's has elements of both of the old restaurants, but maybe most importantly it has brought back Tommy's pizza. I was told that the restaurant's wood fired oven was an upgrade from the oven at the old Tommy's, and if anything this has to give a better crust than ever (although I do not remember the old crust clearly enough to make the comparison).
To me the crust was quite notable, with the wood fired cooking method being evident in its texture and flavor. Equally impressive, though, was the fact that the pizza was not greasy and had a light, clean taste.
Even though I have not yet tried the other menu items, everything about the restaurant impressed me as being worth going back for more visits. Probably most importantly the prices did not seem outrageously high (and you certainly do not spend much for a pizza considering the quality and quantity that are delivered).
Tommy's seems to be doing things in stages, having somewhat of a "soft" opening before word got out to the general public about the new restaurant. The outdoor patio was still not open when I went, and other features may still be on the way. At this stage I would say that the old Tommy's is back and is better than ever.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Sweet Spirit Foods Hot Salsa|
Apr. 30, 2014:
It appears to be pure coincidence that this week's Oklahoma Gazette has an article on salsas, and it
is probably a coincidence that the one I am featuring is not included in the Gazette article.
I do not specifically remember trying any of the ones in the Gazette article (Dorian's Foods,
Towhead Salsa, Mittie's Kitchen, Ace In the Bowl Salsa, Livesay Orchards, Dreamcatcher Farm,
and El Rancho Salsa), but just about all of them look better than the ones I am usually able
to find in the grocery stores.
One very good salsa I have been able to find, though, is the Hot Salsa from Sweet Spirit Foods. Sweet Spirit Foods is an enterprise by the ladies in a local church who use their family recipes for several types of salsa and barbecue sauce. I would encourage readers to check them out at Sweet Spirit Foods.
I was surprised to find out that every ingredient listed on the jar was something I could pronounce, and most are foods people keep in their kitchens all the time. Even though it is apparently a simple recipe using natural ingredients, I thought they were put together in a very good blend. So far this is just about the best version of a jarred salsa I have found in Oklahoma City.
I used to go to just about every grocery store in El Paso and Las Cruces to find new and different salsas that would disprove my theory that you can't get good salsa from a jar. I found three or four that I thought came very close (I think all of them were made in New Mexico). The one from Sweet Spirit Foods in OKC comes very close to the best ones from New Mexico (with the assumption, of course, that the New Mexico salsas offer a good yardstick for this type of comparison). The Sweet Spirit salsa has a natural flavor like the best ones from New Mexico, and it kept tasting good after I refrigerated it.
The Sweet Spirit Foods Hot Salsa would not be considered very hot by New Mexico standards, but this is not a criticism-- only a guide to let others know what they are buying. The flavor is very good, and I thought it was hot enough for my taste.
Besides ordering from the web site, Sweet Spirit Foods products are available at the OSU Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings at their location on Portland Avenue near N.W. 10th St. in Oklahoma City.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Mexican Restaurant Lent Specials|
Apr. 18, 2014:
At this late date an article about "Lent Specials" is mostly information to save for next year,
since six Lenten Fridays have already passed, and only today remains for this year's season.
Still, I wanted to give a report that may be of use later.
My interest in Lent restaurant specials started in El Paso when I saw the elaborate preparations made by some of the restaurants of traditional meals for the season. They are served on Fridays during Lent (and I am not sure about other days such as Ash Wednesday). Mexican Lent meals always have a vegetarian, fish, or seafood main dish (no meat is served). El Paso restaurants usually have a vegetarian lentil soup (lentejas) and capirotada for dessert (this is a bread pudding that tastes very good, but the ingedients also have a religious significance for the season). The quality of the food varies greatly among restaurants, and I believe the main reason is that some cooks do not get enough practice with dishes which are only prepared a few times during the year. In El Paso it seems that horchata is the most popular drink with these meals, but I am not sure if this is the case throughout Mexico.
Most Oklahoma City restaurants have the type of seafood or vegetarian dishes on their menu that would be appropriate for a Lent meal, but they are lacking in the "special" dishes that I usually associate with the season. One time I was able to get capirotada at Birrieria Diaz in Bethany (and it was quite good), but I have gone several times when it was not available. Nevertheless, here is a photo:
Birrieria Diaz does have Lent specials, though, including fish and seafood dishes which are not included on the regular menu.
For regular menu choices, at least on the north side of Oklahoma City, I think Abel's, San Marcos, and Casa Perico are all good choices (and there are probably other good restaurants as well). I mention these three because I think Abel's has the best enchiladas (get the Mexican style ones for Lent, not the Tex-Mex style which would have chile con carne on top), San Marcos has the best fish dishes, and Casa Perico has good fish tacos. In fact, all of these restaurants have several good choices, and I also like a number of items at Birrieria Diaz.
I am not an expert on south Oklahoma City, but I believe this is where a number of restaurants with Lent specials will be found. A possible alternative would be an ad I saw for La Aguascalientes Market at 3005 S. Western, which offers "Platillos de Cuaresma" and sells capirotada by the pound. In any case, I am gradually finding more choices for this type of food.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Billy Sims Barbecue|
Apr. 5, 2014: With 30 locations in three states,
is doing something right when it comes to barbecue. It might be easy to think that this
a tourist trap or typical "chain" food, but I have found it to have very decent barbecue (against
some stiff competition).
The ribs and pulled pork are especially good at Billy Sims, and I think these are among the best I have tried anywhere in Oklahoma (I can also add the chicken as being one of the best in the state). I am not fanatical enough about ribs to go on Tuesday night for the all-you-can-eat rib special they have, but I have seen enough customers partake of this to know it is a really good deal.
Some other very important features of barbecue restaurants, at which Billy Sims excels, are the iced tea (both sweet and unsweet) and the sauce (of which the regular sauce seems to be especially good). The free pickle which comes with each dinner is better than I have had at other "Q" restaurants, and the "Okie" toast is just about the best in town (at least it is the best I have tried so far).
Although I like several of the side dishes, the selection is really pretty small, and this is especially true when it comes to desserts. To me this is really not important, especially when Billy Sims' potato salad is just about the best I can find anywhere. Unlike many (or actually most) barbecue restaurants, Billy Sims is open on Sunday.
All restaurants have strengths and weaknesses, but Billy Sims has more than the usual amount of items that are important for great barbecue.
|EDMOND, OK--House of Hunan|
Mar. 26, 2014:
House of Hunan
in Edmond is another of the city's long-time Chinese restaurants that seems to have
changed hands. The tip to me was the fact that it no longer had the "Chinese menu"
that I liked so much on my previous visit. The previous Chinese menu had Cantonese
style dishes similar to the ones served at Chow's or the Asian District, and I thought
this was what set House of Hunan apart from a large number of other suburban restaurants.
The menu now mostly seems to be comprised of spicy dishes that are not at all what I associate with Cantonese food. In fact, while I cannot say that the food is not authentic, it did seem to be mostly the American favorites that are on the menus of most Chinese restaurants.
The dish I ordered from the "regular menu" (which is the only menu they have) tasted very sweet and "American style" to me. My point of comparison is the old Lotus Mandarin in Warr Acres where the previous owners used to prepare some of the dishes "Chinese style" for me, and I found them to be less sweet and with a more balanced flavor than I typically find in Chinese restaurants.
Setting the overly-sweet flavor aside, though, everything else was good at House of Hunan. The ingredients were satisfying, and they had a really good chile oil sauce which I used to add spice and flavor.
They seem to have cheaper prices if you go at lunch on a weekday (I did not make it at that time, though). I would say that this would be an especially good time to try out House of Hunan if you have not yet done so.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Travel By Taste|
Mar. 13, 2014:
Travel By Taste
in Warr Acres specializes in Persian style Middle Eastern food, and is the only restaurant of
its kind I have found in the area. It is easy to miss, with the building being set
back from MacArthur behind another restaurant. Even the sign "Travel By Taste"
does not give an indication that this is Middle Eastern food. In my opinion, though,
this is some of the best in the city.
The market has a large assortment of Middle Eastern style packaged items, fresh fruits, nuts, and groceries. The nuts and trail mix are some of the freshest and best I have found. I have to admit, though, that most of my spending has gone toward their large selection of cookies.
For dinners I especially recommend the "Specialties" section of the menu which includes many of the Persian dishes they prepare so expertly. After several visits my favorite dish is the Grilled Chicken with Turkish Salsa, but I can state that several other dishes are just as good (I would say the Ghormeh Sabzi in particular).
If you want hummus, falafel, or other light lunchtime dishes, Travel By Taste is about as good here as anywhere in the city. At times I have thought Travel By Taste has the best falafel in Oklahoma City, but occasionally I have a better one at Nunu's or other restaurants. I just have to say, then, that Travel By Taste takes it place among the best for Middle Eastern food in general.
The hot tea Travel By Taste serves in a big plus for me (cardamom flavored tea with as many refills as you want). Travel By Taste is a family run operation with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails (it closes at 8:00 P.M.). Most of all, though, it really tastes as if you are getting home cooked food.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill|
Feb. 28, 2014:
Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill
on Northwest Expressway east of Meridian is one of the newest restaurants in this small chain
(I think the one in Edmond is even newer). The "fresh and healthy" concept of this restaurant
is somewhat like Panera, although to me the Middle Eastern cuisine served at Garbanzo makes
it even better.
The food at Garbanzo seems to be traditional Middle Eastern cuisine (not that I would really know what is authentic, but it comes close to the food served at Camilya's, Nunu's, and other restaurants in town). Garbanzo does not have as large of a variety as these other places, but the quality is pretty good (particularly on the soups and vegetables, where many Middle Eastern restaurants really fall flat). The hummus at Garbanzo is a spread, and I would say it is not as traditional as the ones at Camilya's and Nunu's, but I thought it was good.
I am not raving about Garbanzo, because I think there are a lot of better choices in the city. At the same time, though, I think Garbanzo is excellent for a fast food restaurant (and a chain, no less).
|DENTON, TX--Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q|
Jan. 31, 2014: Over the holidays I had a chance to try the brisket from
in Denton, Texas, and this gave me a good chance to compare it with
Rudy's in Oklahoma City and in El Paso. Although Rudy's is a chain (with the headquarters
in the San Antonio area), I believe some of the restaurants have differences in terms
of the food.
The brisket from the Denton Rudy's had a very flavorful smoky taste that I thought was quite a bit better than in Oklahoma City. The meat was more moist, and I just thought it tasted more like the barbecue I remember from Texas. It is not a matter of one being good and the other bad, but it was a matter of the Denton barbecue being one I would make a point to seek out, while the one in Oklahoma City faces several competitors which I think are better (and for all I know, there may be better barbecue in the Dallas area also).
I do think, though, that anyone traveling on Interstate 35 would probably have a good experience at Rudy's in Denton. Of course, I think the same would be true farther south in the San Antonio area, but I have not yet tried any of the locations there.
To me, if I enjoy barbecue as much as I did this time from Rudy's, it does not matter a whole lot if I could have found something better somewhere else. The one from Rudy's in Denton seemed very close to the best I have had.
|OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Nunu's Mediterranean Cafe|
Jan. 16, 2014:
There is a rather significant concentration of Lebanese restaurants in the area around
Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Wichita, and Springfield, Missouri, and this is something I miss when
I am in certain parts of the country. I think a very good place to get a taste of
Lebanese cuisine is at
in north Oklahoma City near Quail Springs Mall (at 3131 W. Memorial). This is a small family run
restaurant, market, and catering business which specializes in Lebanese food (but also has a
few added items such as the PoBoy sandwich copied from Cedar's Deli in Tulsa).
Nunu's is not only one of OKC's best restaurants, but I think it has recently gotten better. One very good change has been a switch from paper plates to traditional plates and silverware. This happened about a year ago, and I have been enjoying the restaurant a lot more since this change took place.
I think the falafel has gotten better recently (the quality is more consistent), and my perception is that other items have improved including the pita. Nunu's is my favorite place for lentil soup, cabbage rolls, baklava, tabouli, fatoosh, and houmos (the latter three are all new additions to my list). Nunu's and Camilya's are really my top places in town for Lebanese style Middle Eastern food. While Camilya's has a long list of items that are my favorites in OKC, there are a number of reasons I also like to go to Nunu's including the eggplant casserole special served every other Thursday.
I have seen prices go up in the past year or so, but not to the point that it changes anything that I order. Nunu's is still a fairly inexpensive place to get a very good Middle Eastern style meal in a casual setting.
To start my "New Year's" articles I could not think of a better restaurant than Nunu's to highlight.
Note: This web site is the new version of Steve's Gastronomic Home Page, located at www.eskimo.com/~sockeye/. The old web site is no longer being updated, but the original material remains archived there.