Family-owned El Fogon Creates Legacy of Fresh Mexican Cuisine

By on May 10, 2016

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Owasso has been keeping a delicious secret for ten years. El Fogon Mexican Restaurant may be hidden from view in its humble yet inviting location outside of Owasso’s major thoroughfare, but during its decade-long tenure, the Palacios family has been producing incredibly fresh, authentic Mexican fare. Owners Vidal and Gabriela Palacios, along with daughter Ellie, relocated to Owasso from temperate California to open El Fogon. For Palacios, freshness is the secret ingredient. “We don’t open cans. We pickle our own jalapenos. We cook our own beans,” he says. “That means we come in early so every dish is fresh for our guests.” His daughter Ellie adds, “Since we make every order fresh, we can always modify to their liking.”

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El Fogon’s chips and salsa (just ask around in Owasso…) illustrate their zeal for freshness and make a strong first impression. The warm tortilla chips were light and crispy, and were accompanied by a hot and a mild salsa. Their hot salsa features tomatoes roasted to a deep carmine red, with smoky undertones and heat that lingers on the tongue. The mild salsa is bursting with sweet, off-the-vine tomatoes, but is balanced with a nice hit of acidity and the perfect soupçon of cilantro.

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After eating copious amounts of chips and salsa, I decided to try the pork tamale. The shredded pork filling was exquisitely spiced without overpowering the masa exterior. Typically, the filling is the star of the tamale, but El Fogon’s masa exterior was a revelation. Often, masa – the corn-based dough that envelopes the filling – can be too thick or too dry if not handled correctly. But El Fogon’s masa was like a sumptuous pillow, with a delicate and subtly sweet flavor.

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Ellie Palacios then pointed me toward the spinach enchiladas. Typically, spinach enchiladas are stuffed with cheese and covered in sour cream sauce. El Fogon’s version is a refreshing departure from this norm. A house-made tortilla is folded in half then stuffed with fresh sautéed spinach, onions and red peppers that spill from the seams. A verdant, unmistakably homemade tomatillo sauce is ladled over the top and really ties the dish together.

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One of my favorite items to try at a new Mexican food restaurant is the chile relleno, and not just because it is delicious. It’s a tricky concoction that requires stuffing a whole poblano pepper with the right amount of cheese. Then, the batter has to be thick enough to stick to the pepper, but light enough to not soak up moisture and become soggy. A lot can go wrong, but El Fogon’s relleno was spot on. The light coating reminded me vaguely of funnel cake batter, with just enough chew and crispness to contain the moisture of the pepper and the red sauce on top. If you’re a relleno aficionado like me, then El Fogon’s should be on your list.

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El Fogon’s menu is filled with classics like chile verde, tacos, burritos and enchiladas. What you won’t see on the menu, however, is exactly what you should order. It’s called Piña al Fogon and it is a feast for the senses. Mrs. Palacios said the dish was inspired by a dish she saw at a fancy restaurant as a child. At first sight, I understood what made it so memorable. A pineapple is cut in half, then hollowed out. Next, the pineapple ‘bowl’ is filled to the brim with grilled chicken, steak, chorizo and bacon. This tropical cornucopia of meat is sprinkled lightly with cheddar cheese and crowned with a grilled jalapeno and lime. Each meat lends its own flavor profile to the mix – the chorizo spices up the tender chicken; the bacon gives the grilled steak depth. The pineapple essence infuses the entire dish with a subtle sweetness and a rousing acidity that balances the smoke and the spice. (The kitchen doesn’t keep many whole pineapples in the kitchen, so availability of this secret menu item is limited.)

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If you have a hankerin’ for something sweet, El Fogon’s homemade horchata hits the spot, and the flan is a light but satisfying end to a great meal. El Fogon also serves breakfast throughout the week, and features menudo and posole on the weekends.
In an area saturated with Mexican restaurants, the thought and love the Palacios family puts into everything they prepare is what makes El Fogon stand out.

El Fogon Mexican Restaurant
11515 N. Garnett Road
Owasso, OK 74055
(918) 371-6230
Sunday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Monday – Thursday 10:30 am – 9:00 pm
Friday 10:30 am – 10:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am – 9:00 pm

Angela Evans

About Angela Evans

Angela Evans has been digging deep into the booming restaurant scene of Tulsa since 2010. Her foray into food journalism began with The Urban Tulsa Weekly, but soon expanded to write for TulsaPeople and The Tulsa Voice. Her quirky but informative take on cuisine earned her a Tulsa Press Club Newsie for “Best Critic” in 2014. Finding those hidden gems around town is her passion, as she searches high and low for the best fried chicken or the newest spot to woo your beloved. She also loves shining the spotlight on the chefs, farmers and restauranteurs who keep Tulsa’s cuisine scene vibrant and diverse. After a brief stint out West, she has returned to Oklahoma and has brought her appetite with her. So join Tulsa's own bon vivant on her epicurean adventures.

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