El Guapo’s: South of the Border Flavor in South Tulsa

By on February 19, 2015

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The newest Tulsa addition to the McNellie’s group comes via El Guapo’s Southside, a southtown iteration on Tulsa’s beloved downtown cantina. Located at 81st & Harvard in the Walnut Creek Shopping Center, El Guapo’s exterior is deceiving. From the outside, it looks somewhat nondescript, but step inside and you’ll find rich, vibrant colors, exceptional design, and of course, a killer menu.

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It’s hard to pin down the look and feel of the new El Guapo’s, but it treads somewhere between 1970s tequila bar, old Mexico and high Cathedral décor.

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Throughout the space, lush hues in shades of orange, pink, brown and blue pop and evoke a feeling of festivity and playfulness, and a tequila bar shrouded in grand archways, mosaic tiling, and glass candles creates a tone of religious importance.

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It’s an intentional ode to Tequila, and General Manager Jeff Dickason says the bar was designed to pay proper homage to their impressive Mezcal catalog.

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“We really pride ourselves on our tequila,” he explains. “We have over 100 different types…which might be the longest list in Oklahoma.” Mezcals are hard to track down in the state, but El Guapo’s has managed to wrangle up an impressive amount of sippable, smoky elixirs. Barrel-aged and complex, when dressed with salt and lime, they certainly go down smooth.

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The bar also features a strong selection of handcrafted cocktails, and while that’s all well and good, the Margarita de la Casa really is your best bet. Made with fresh limeade (much less grainy than sweet and sour, and far less sugary than a store-bought mix), triple sec and lime, their recipe lends itself well to flavor-twisting iterations, like the Tamarind Margarita (Corralejo Reposado, tamarind, lime), and the Hibiscus Margarita (homemade hibiscus syrup of boiled brandy, sugar, and hibiscus).

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For dinner, we started with the Ceviche de Camaron, featuring curled gulf shrimp in chilled tomato sauce. The dish has a sneaky hit of spice, and is served in a bath of zesty lime juice, diced tomatoes, onion, minced cilantro, and hunks of fresh avocado. But more on that later…

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For main courses, our table split the Chile Relleno and Enchilada Combo. The deep fried, stuffed pepper topped with salsa roja, cotija cheese, and Mexican crema was smooth and velvety with a creamy mouth feel, and the super cheesy enchilada came drizzled with white queso, avocado crema, and sprinkles of green onion. Be warned: this thing is deliciously cheesy, but also super rich. You’ll appreciate the milder flavors of the accompanying poblano rice and refried beans after a few bites.

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We then sampled the grilled Mahi Mahi fish tacos, featuring char-grilled fish spread across flour tortillas, drizzled with red Chile aioli, pico de gallo, jalapeno slaw, and fresh guacamole. The aioli is reminiscent of the spicy sauce commonly found at sushi restaurants, and ties the dish together with upfront heat and savory creaminess.

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Finally, we made some room for a few bites of the Wet Burrito. A little messy, this hearty rollup is best tackled with a fork. Tender, well-seasoned carne asada, refried beans, poblano rice, salsa roja, pico, sour cream and guac with a white queso finish make the Wet Burrito a (delicious) force to be reckoned with.

Of everything we sampled, the Ceviche shone the brightest. With its tender shrimp and its unexpected, fiery kick, it was by far the hardest dish to put down. Grab a few friends for Happy Hour and order a glass to share.

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Since their opening in December, El Guapo’s Southside has drawn impressive attendance, proving that a Mexican cantina and kitchen can stand alone as a neighborhood joint away from bustling downtown. As for the crowds, Jeff says that at the moment, they’re “kind of all-encompassing. We can accommodate fine dining…but can also cater to people looking for a louder, more casual environment.” And with the added bonus of a discounted menu at lunchtime, El Guapo’s Southside could easily become a go-to destination spot for South Tulsans, day or night.

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In the coming year, El Guapo’s plans to extend its cantina space to include an enclosed patio, perfect for day drinking and balmy summer evenings. Currently, their Cantina room features floor to ceiling garage doors, which can be pulled open to let in light on warm, breezy days. When they first set up the cantina room, they kept the light fixtures, a batch of refined copper overheads imported from Mexico. Touches like these, along with scenes of Mexican culture and dignitaries, give the space an authentic, lively personality all its own.

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Helmed by Executive Chef Juan Tores, El Guapo’s Southside looks forward to trying out some new recipes, and also plans to offer a handful of seasonal tequila diners later this year. But if you ask us, it’s in your best interest to pay them a visit sooner rather than later.

El Guapo’s Southside
http://www.elguaposcantina.com/southside/
8161 S Harvard Ave
(918) 728-RITA
Open until 10pm Sun.-Thurs.
Open until 11 pm Fri. and Sat.

Megan

About Megan

TulsaFood.com was founded 2008 out of a shared love of good food. What started as a blog where normal everyday people dined out and posted about their experiences has grown into a full scale food publication with professional chefs, writers, and photographers, each with a unique culinary and educational background to pull from. Today TulsaFood.com is Oklahoma's #1 online food publication.

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