One Whale of a Taco: Molly’s Taqueria blows other Route 66 tacos out of the water

By on November 7, 2016

 

whale2

Want to know where some of the best tacos in Oklahoma are made? Just look for The Blue Whale. Or, more specifically, look for Molly’s Taqueria – the bright, lime-green building right next to the beloved blue Route 66 attraction.

Russ White, owner of the legendary Molly’s Landing, opened a colorful taqueria a few miles down the road a couple of years ago, but only after pursuing his passion for the perfect tamale.

“I was raised in Arizona and tamales were a big part of the culture, especially around the holidays,” says White. The Arizona-style tamale, or “Sonoran style,” he explains, is a denser, drier tamale with more filling. For years, he was able to get his fix from one place in Tulsa, but his go-to spot closed, and he began searching for alternatives.

“We didn’t know where we were going to get our tamales for the holidays,” says White, “then one day at Reasor’s I heard a couple of cashiers talking about making tamales. I sort of butted in and told them I wanted to learn.”

So, White met up with the two strangers and tried his hand at tamale making. “My first tamales didn’t taste so great,” he laughs. “But I kept doing research, looking at Sonoran, Arizona and southwest-style recipes.”

The next holiday, after a lot of practice, he unveiled the final product to his family – and they convinced him to share them with the world.

tamle

White started Molly’s Tamale Wagon, selling tamales out of a flower-petal pink shack next to the Blue Whale. It was wildly successful, churning out 700 tamales a day in the beginning. As he watched his kitchen at Molly’s Landing building these tamales, he realized he could easily expand. Thus, Molly’s Taqueria was born.

mollys

All the top-shelf steaks – the ribeye and tenderloin – that aren’t used the night before at Molly’s Landing get a new life as tacos, quesadillas and burritos prepared with Molly’s signature flair. The street tacos make good use of this bounty, and is built on a handmade tortilla that is lightly dipped in a simmering, flavorful broth before being thrown on the griddle. Your choice of beef, pork, chicken or red beans is topped with onions, cilantro and a killer cilantro sauce. (I could drink it by the gallon!) The same meats can be chosen for the quesadillas and burritos, too. But if they are offering Machaca as special that day, you are in for a treat.

Machaca is another southwest-influenced recipe, where White lets ribeye slow cook in chiles, onions, garlic and spices all night. The next morning, the meat is lifted out and the liquid is simmered longer, reducing it and intensifying the flavors. The ribeye is then shredded and added back into the au jus. The flavors are definitely not subtle in all the best ways.

muchaca
I sampled the machaca in one of Molly’s Red Bean Burritos. The meat was beyond tender, but still maintained its chew. The kick of the chiles wasn’t intense, but it didn’t go unnoticed, lending a smoky-sweet bitter heat. Usually the beans in a burrito are an afterthought. But a few bites in, I knew these velvety beans weren’t like any red bean I’ve had.

“We only use red silk beans,” says White. “I have tried to do a different bean, but it changes the flavor profile of the whole thing. So it’s red silk beans or nothin’!”

tacos2

I am a quesadilla fanatic and Molly’s Chicken Quesadilla did not disappoint. Skinless thighs are simmered in mild green chiles, then shredded to a delicate texture. The cheese oozed from the sides as I took each bite, chock-full of luscious chicken. The only thing that improved upon the quesadilla was being topped by the house-made hot sauces, all of which are totally addictive.

White has created quite a following, with many in-the-know taco fans visiting every week.

“It’s holding its own. It’s not falling back on Molly’s Landing,” he says, “Using quality ingredients and paying attention to the details, like the red silk beans, it makes a difference. If you want my stuff, you will have to settle for red silk beans, tenderloin and ribeye.”

group

So if you want to treat yourself to some of the best tacos in town, make the quick drive (20 minutes, tops!) to Molly’s Taqueria, open Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. There is outdoor seating with umbrellas and, of course, The Blue Whale is only a few steps away. White says he plans to be open through the winter, only closing for extreme wintry conditions.

Molly’s Taqueria and Molly’s Tamale Wagon
2680 Old Highway 66 Catoosa, Oklahoma
(918) 576-9596

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.

Comments

comments