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You’ve Never Heard of the Most Authentic Mexican in Tulsa
“Authentic? Mexican? Well I know the most authentic Mexican in Tulsa, and you’ve never heard of it!” She was young, her speech was slurred, she was definitely not Mexican and definitely very drunk. So how likely was that? But still I listened. I always listen when someone, no matter who, has a restaurant to recommend. “It’s run by these old ladies, they don’t speak a word of English, it’s like going to their house and they food they cook is like food they’d cook for their family.” Oh I’m glad I listened, every word was true.
I’ve never been on the Trans-Siberian Railway, but I’ve seen lots of films about it, and for all I know they were all filmed on dark winter’s nights on the bleak stretch of 11th Street just west of Mingo. That’s the part of town where Mingo dead-ends, and we didn’t know that, so when we drove there we tried to go by 21st and had to loop around Garnett. A desolate strip mall bravely standing in the Siberian wastes, one shop lit, it was El Gallo Loco. Crazy Rooster. We opened the door. The place was packed, there were the old ladies, and best of all there was a counter filled with just the sort of food that grandma in a village in Mexico would cook for her family.
I was so excited I more or less pressed my nose against the counter. So many treasures! There were carnitas in a spicy green sauce. There were nopales (cactus) with chili pepper. You can see them at the bottom center. Left of that is chicken in a red chipotle sauce. Above the cactus is shredded beef in red chile sauce. Bottom right is pigskin in hot green sauce. There are about 5 or 6 dishes you can’t see over to the left. One of those was chicken in a bright red mole, a Mole Rojo which probably took hours to prepare. Wow!
Meanwhile the server froze when she saw us and called a colleague from the back. She came from the back dining room, which is in the foreground of this photo, to the counter, which you can see through the archway on the left. She was the only one who spoke English. She told me what the dishes are. For most of those dishes, she looked at Betty and said “No for you. Too spicy.” Of course I wanted all those spicy dishes, but the deal is you choose two for your $8 dinner. If you prefer, you can choose any one (or more) of them to be put on tacos or stuffed into a big burrito. But I chose these.
Of course I chose the Mole Rojo. It wasn’t as complex as my favorite Mole Poblano, but it had a rich zesty zing to it. It was far from simple. Alongside is carnitas in salsa verde. The carnitas were juicy and flavorful (I’ve used all synonyms for these words in my Fleming’s review) and the sauce was, well, flavorful too but not overpowering. The rice and refried beans were nice accompaniments. So were the tortillas. They were very good and might even have been handmade. You can see one of those huge tortillas on Betty’s plate.
She didn’t choose as well. I think she was scared off by the “too spicy!” She got some sort of veggies, along with shredded meat in a brownish sauce. But it was still worth the trip. Oh and if you need any Mexican groceries, Gallo Loco has a grocery and butcher shop just next door.
El Gallo Loco
1060 S. Mingo Rd.
I believe they are open daily from 11 AM until around 9 PM.
Brian Schwartz: Author
Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com
I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.
“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.