4532A E. 51st St., 918779735
Food: 3 out of 5 stars
Atmosphere: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Service: 4 out of 5 stars
Las Americas is a name that is recognizable to many Tulsans. Alma Martinez, manager of the Las Americas Latin Grill & Tequila Bar, said that the Las Americas company opened its first location in 2003 on 3rd Street. This original location continues to thrive as not only a restaurant, but as a super mercado as well, where fresh and traditional ingredients can be purchased, such as fresh cut meats of all types, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, Mexican spices, Mexican packaged foods and canned goods and specialty candies.
Martinez said that while both locations are owned by the same company and person, Antonio Perez, still the menus are a bit different because of the locations in the city. "The 51st Street location prepares a more standard Mexican cuisine while the 3rd Street location is more authentic Mexican because 85 percent of the guests are Hispanic," she said. By way of examples, she said that the midtown location serves tongue while the south location does not have a tongue dish on the menu. (Las Americas has three additional locations at 21st and Garnett, 11th and Garnett, and Pine and Peoria.)
Martinez said she personally worked on building the menu for this location, cutting it down from many pages to a more streamlined menu with a more reasonable number of selections. "There were just too many items on the other menu," she said. One of the items she has on the menu for appetizers is the ceviche, which is the dish my friend and I began with when we dined here recently. Martinez was pleased to know we ordered this dish, for she said she particularly put it on this menu, but most importantly it is her recipe.
The ceviche is served like no other I have seen. It was a very large serving size of marinated fish (Martinez uses tilapia) with chopped cilantro, tomato and white onion, and served as a half-circle mound. Also on the plate were freshly sliced limes, avocados and tomatoes. We used the tortilla chips to accompany the ceviche. It was a wonderfully fresh taste of all these ingredients: not too tart or spicy. All the flavors blended in unison.
While our entrees were being prepared, we continued to snack on the complimentary chips and salsa. For my entree, I ordered the Chimichanga Dinner ($9.75) and my friend selected a chorizo soft taco with rice and beans.
The atmosphere here is pleasant. It seems renovations to this space mainly included Mexican artifacts to decorate the walls; the physical layout is the same as before when other restaurants occupied the building. Television sets are scattered about the area, and Martinez said that on Fridays and/or Saturdays, there is live music.
Martinez' menu has a variety of dishes that many will recognize: burritos, flautas, chile rellenos, tacos, quesadillas, tamales, huevos rancheros, enchiladas, and a number of dishes less known, such as selections from the Grill Specialties section. These include Milanesa Argentina (breaded tenderloin), Choripan Specialty (Argentine style sausages) and Parrillada Argentina (mixed type of grill-cooked meats such as beef, chicken breast or thigh, beef ribs and Argentinean style chorizo. Other menu sections include Seafood Platters, Vegetarian Delight, Salads, Dinner Selections and Enchiladas and Tacos.
Our dinner arrived, and not a minute too soon. We were ready to eat. It has been years since I had a Chimichanga, and this one was excellent. A large flour tortilla was stuffed with chopped chicken (shredded beef is also available) then fried very, very crispy. It comes topped with melted cheese, but I opted to have it without. Small sides of sour cream and guacamole, lettuce and tomato were served with it. Also, rice and beans came with the meal. The changa was quite flavorful: The chicken was marinated well and immensely tender. The refried brown beans were what one would expect: very smooth, topped with cheese and of delicate flavor. The rice was light and airy, with a hint of tomato flavor.
My friend's taco came wrapped in aluminum foil. The very soft warmed corn tortilla was filled with spicy chorizo, and chopped white onion and cilantro were served on the side. The tacos are traditionally sized: small, but rich with flavor and soft texture. He also ordered a side of rice ($2.95) and beans ($2.95).
To finish off this meal, we shared an order of Flan ($3.75). This creamy caramel custard was very firm and very smooth in the mouth. A light syrupy caramel sauce topped this dessert. It was cool and light for this hot summer evening.
Martinez said the recipes for the menu are a combination of her own recipes and that of the cooks. "I come from northern Mexico and the cooks are from the middle of Mexico, and so we put the two together to make the menu." She said that one of house specialties, Carne Asada, is a specialty of her region of Mexico. Another popular item, according to Martinez, is the Big Burrito. What makes it so popular? "It is so big!" said Martinez. She said it can be filled with whatever the customer likes or ordered straight from the menu filled with beans, beef, chicken and chile verde and topped with cheese.
Martinez said what sets Las Americas apart from other Mexican restaurants in the city is that "we make everything fresh each day. I do not freeze foods and then serve them the next day. All is fresh." She said she gets most of the ingredients for the kitchen at the Las Americas mercado on 3rd Street.
A full bar is available with many types of low and high end tequilas, some of which include Don Julio Reposado, Sauza Hornitos Reposado, Cazadores Reposado; wine, cerveza and specialty cocktails are also featured.
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-- Katharine Kelly
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