POSTED ON JULY 18, 2012:
Keeping the Spice in Summer
Cool flavors of Mexico shine on Sheridan
2165 S. Sheridan Rd., 918-835-7300
MON-THUR, 11AM-10PM; FRI-SAT, 11AM-10:30PM; SUN, 11AM-10PM
Food: 4 out of 5 stars
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 4 out of 5 stars
It seems counter-intuitive that spicy salsa and a drink served in a salt-rimmed glass could be a respite from the seasonal heat. But nothing pairs with a hot summer day like fresh and spicy Mexican food; or for many of us, absolutely any day is a perfect day for chips, salsa and a sip of cerveza. Luckily for Tulsa, there are as many great authentic Mexican restaurants as there are hot days in the summer. Recently I took a trip to Fiesta Cozumel and it was like finding a little taste of paradise.
Located in the 21st and Sheridan area, the brightly-painted exterior leads to a welcoming interior, with booths in the front area and a larger dining room in the rear. Oh, and they have a fantastic bar area, with televisions and, more importantly, a great selection of tequilas and beers. Ah, beer, chips and salsa -- I can almost feel the sand beneath my feet.
Salsa is always an excellent barometer for what to expect from the kitchen. Some are thin and vinegary, others sweet and smoky. It's almost a hallmark of their cuisine. Fiesta Cozumel's salsa was exactly what I look for in a salsa. Nice chunks of fresh tomatoes, onions and cilantro meshed together for a sumptuous, slightly sweet, sort of smoky flavor that makes that basket of tortilla chips disappear quickly.
Another great way to enjoy those fresh chips is with some of Fiesta Cozumel's famous queso. And this isn't just so-so queso; it is something especial. No glorified Velveeta here. And for 75 cents more, you can add beef to it. I dare you not to just ladle it into your mouth with a spoon.
The menu is expansive -- exhausting almost -- but it goes a long way to please anyone's palate. I was dining this evening with a self-appointed "chile relleno aficionado," whereas my personal niche is ceviche. Both of our favorites were on board and were flanked by other traditional treats like enchiladas, burritos, tacos, fajitas and chimichangas.
With so many choices, one can't go wrong with a combo platter. Combo #2 ($8.75) came with a chile relleno, one beef enchilada, one taco and the obligatory rice and beans. There are ten combos total, but you can always create your own. The chile relleno was under heavy scrutiny by my compadre. Not just any relleno will do, but Fiesta's offering passed judgment with flying colors. The pepper was coated in a heavenly, slightly chewy coating, fried perfectly and filled to the brim with cheese and topped with that addictive queso.
Not to be ignored was the beef enchilada, with a filling of tasty ground beef wrapped in a fresh tortilla and topped with a smoky and tangy ranchero sauce. The crispy beef taco was a fine specimen as well, with a beef filling that wasn't even a hint greasy and seasoned ever so slightly yet beautifully. Rice and beans, well, they are always an excellent supporting role, and Fiesta's were tasty, with creamy refried beans and a nicely-textured rice.
Now I feel I must reveal something odd about myself -- or at least something that adds to my, uh, "charm." I am fajita phobic. It's not just because of the potential second-degree burns. It's how it makes you smell after eating them. For example, you're sitting in a movie theater and despite popcorn fumes you can easily smell the three people that had the fajitas for dinner. And it's awful. So at Fiesta Cozumel, they were happy to oblige this crazy gringa's request to serve sans sizzle. They have several fajita combinations to choose from, like the Fajitas Cozumel ($12.95) with marinated strips of chicken, beef, shrimp, chorizo AND beef ribs "grilled to perfection" served with rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, cheese and fresh-made tortillas.
I decided to keep it classic with Fajitas Clasicas ($10.95), which you can get with chicken, beef or mix -- and you know I mixed it up. So, first, I must apologize to fajitas everywhere for shunning you for so long; but at least Fiesta Cozumel's fajitas were an excellent way to get back in the saddle! The chicken, the green peppers, onions and tomato all grilled into a happy family were only outdone by the beef. Usually the weakest link in many Mexican dishes, the beef used in the fajitas was so tender, so perfectly seasoned, I left no onion unturned to find every morsel of beefy goodness.
Everything from Fiesta Cozumel was spot-on for authentic Mexican flavors and the atmosphere is great for drinking a few cold ones and chomping some nachos. Fresh ingredients, a comfortable dine-in experience and great prices will turn me into a regular fixture at this great neighborhood spot. And I'll be the gal peacefully enjoying a heap of silent, sizzle-less fajitas.
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