Mexican cuisine doesn't rank at the top of the list when thinking about healthy dining, but Libby Auld, owner of Eloté Café & Dining, double dares you to come in and try some of her food.
Libby and her husband Jeramy dedicated themselves to opening a Mexican restaurant that offered a healthy experience. "Beans, rice and corn are healthy and nutritious," Libby said. Her mission was to prepare it in a way that would be healthy to her customers.
"I want people to feel good about eating a burrito," she explained.
And it seems she has done just that.
Most Tulsans recognize the location of Eloté Café & Catering, 514 S. Boston, as the historic location of the much loved Nelson's Buffeteria, and Libby is happy to be in this convenient downtown location.
An interesting concept at Eloté is the "green" look that customers find. "I was born 'green,'" said Libby. "I'm into this eco stuff. Growing up my dad hated to see us waste anything. He would compost, and I continue to do it."
My visit to Eloté was a call-in order, and I was pleased to notice all the "to go" containers and bags were made from renewable resources and could be thrown in the compost. Libby proudly explained that these containers were made mostly of corn and sugar beets. "It does cost a little bit more," she said, "but it goes along with our desire to serve good, healthy, organic food."
Another graduate of OSU-Okmulgee's Culinary School, Libby opened her restaurant May 14, and she's proud of the menu she created, saying "it was a lot of stinkin' work." Starters, salads, burritos, tacos and tamales, cold sandwiches and wraps, nachos, quesadillas and desserts are featured.
For my sampling, I ordered the guacamole and chips, puffy tacos, fish tacos, tamales, roast beef wrap and ended with tres leches cake and a churro.
The guacamole was richly thick with the taste of exceptionally fresh avocadoes and served on a bed of shredded lettuce.
The puffy tacos ($6.99) feature two puffy flour tortilla shells stuffed with roast beef or blackened chicken, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, cheese and crema fresca. Libby said this is a very popular menu item, and I can see why; these two gems are a fun eating experience. The puffy tortilla is warm and delicate (possibly a little greasier than expected), and barely able to hold all of its tasty ingredients. The caramelized onions were an outstanding feature to these tacos and the roast beef was tender and lean.
The fish tacos ($6.99) are served on corn tortillas and filled with cilantro, lime glazed salmon, romaine lettuce, tomato onion relish, citrus lime aioli and queso fresco. The salmon was plentiful in these tacos and grilled to perfection.
The citrus lime aioli added a heightened zing.
I sampled both the veggie and beef tamales. Libby said the tamales are prepared fresh each day. The veggie tamale holds corn, carrots, poblano peppers and onions. It was served with a sweet potato sauce, which blended well with the tamale. The taste was light and slightly sweet. The beef tamale, topped with a guajillo salsa made from the beef rendering, was more flavorful. In both cases, a little more sauce would have helped. Tamales tend to dry out quickly, and these were on the dry side. Both were lean and clean tasting--different from others I have had about town.
Two sides come with the tacos and tamales entrees. Choices include rice, black bean, eloté or sweet potatoes. I sampled each. The rice was light on taste and texture; the loose grains provided a clean, light taste. The cubed sweet potatoes were soft, sweet and delightfully light to the palate. The eloté (grilled corn) was covered with the citrus aioli (cilantro, guajillo chili, salt and pepper). This corn was a treat! I enjoyed the taste of the grilled kernels and the quaint sauce enfolding it.
The roast beef wrap ($6.49) comes served in a flour tortilla. Tightly wrapped inside are tender roast beef, Gorgonzola, spinach, caramelized onions and chipotle crema fresca. This was a large wrap with a good beef flavor. The cheese was the dominate flavor, accenting the beef.
If you haven't already noticed, creativity abounds on this menu. One of the starters is black bean hummus ($2.49). Libby said she was searching for something healthier than potato chips to serve with her sandwiches and wraps, so she created a hummus dip with black beans rather than chick peas, and lime juice rather than lemon juice. The dip comes served with carrot sticks and baked (not fried) tortilla chips.
This hummus is a side option with the sandwiches and wraps.
The desserts were a treat. The churro (99 cents), Libby said, is the only item not prepared in house. It was warm with a Bavarian cream inside. The tres leches cake ($2.99) was served with fresh mango and whipped cream. It was soaked with evaporated milk, heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk.
Libby said she takes the healthiest route possible when preparing and disposing of foods. She said they use free range chicken and beef and purchase locally from Natural Farms. Produce remnants are composted and used to nourish the soil that grows at Three Springs Farm. Fryer oil is recycled to make clean-burning bio-diesel fuel. "No lard is used with anything, and we use herbs and veggie stock to get our rich flavors. We have a huge vegetarian and vegan following," she said.
In the future, Libby tentatively plans on adding a bar and extending restaurant hours.
Eloté Café & Catering
514 S. Boston Ave.
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