POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2012:
Tastes of Central Mexico
South Tulsa eatery offers regional specialties
Arizona Mexican Restaurant
5800 S. Lewis Ave., 918-488-6163
MON-THU, 11AM-9:30PM; FRI-SAT, 11AM-10PM; SUNDAY, 11AM-9PM
Food: 4 out of 5 stars
Atmosphere: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Service: 4 out of 5 stars
Tucked away just off Lewis Avenue, Arizona Mexican Restaurant is a little gem among the many Mexican restaurants in town. Without knowing it is there, it can be easily missed while traveling down Lewis. General Manager Morris Prado said this is the third location for Arizona -- formerly at 51st and Lewis, then at 66th and Lewis. Now at 58th, they have found their home.
The moves do not seem to have hurt their business, as the evening I was there the dining room was all abuzz with diners. A friend and I arrived early evening and were quickly seated at a table. The atmosphere is typical of Mexican restaurants: Traditional Mexican music was playing with reckless abandon, a sombrero was on one wall with a serape blanket behind it, and velvet paintings with Mexican themes were dotted around the walls. The space, overall, looked a little worn and tired. We were soon greeted by our server, who took our drink order while another placed chips and salsa before us. We nibbled on the chips and salsa while waiting for our drinks, frozen margaritas.
We enjoyed the chips -- nicely heated, thin and light; the salsa was very mild with little spiciness and thick in texture. Prado did mention that "we always have a hotter sauce we can bring out for customers," it is just not advertised on the menu. The margaritas were delightful -- very thickly frozen.
We began with an order of Chorizo Con Queso Fundido ($5.99). This was delivered to our table in a flat cast iron oval-shaped pan, hot out of the oven. It was a beautiful sight of bubbling melted Monterrey Jack cheese with pieces of ground chorizo. This was served with a choice of flour or corn tortillas. We took little time serving out the cheese onto our flour tortillas. Wrapped tightly around, the tortilla held the cheese and chorizo together nicely. Dipped now and then in the house salsa, what a wonderful taste. The chorizo was not too spicy hot, just a good combination with the creamy Jack cheese. Other appetizers here include Guacamole Dip, Aroizona's Famous Cheese Dip, Guacamole Salad, Bean & Cheese Dip and Beef and Cheese Dip.
For our dinners, I ordered a dish listed under the Arizona Specials section, the Chilaquiles ($7.49), while my friend ordered Poblano Relleno ($3.99) from the a la carte menu and added rice and beans ($1.79) with it. The menu has a good mixture of very common Mexican dishes and dishes that are more traditional in nature.
Prado said the menu reflects "the cuisine of Central Mexico, Jalisco state," which tends to be "really spicy," but he is quick to point out that while he can make the food very spicy for customers upon request, still the spiciness has been toned down a bit for the Oklahoma palate. A few traditional dishes include the Jalisco Especial Pollo (breaded chicken breast topped with cheese dip and pico de gallo) and a similar dish, only with beef, the Jalisco Especial (breaded carne asada topped with cheese dip and pico de gallo.) Prado himself is from Guanajuato, located in Central Mexico. He said the food on the menu comes from family recipes and those they developed from within.
Prado said some of the best dishes at Arizona are the seafood dishes, such as the Camarones a la Diabla ($10.99) for which he says "I am surprised how many people like it because of its hotness." It is described as a generous portion of shrimp simmered in special chipotle sauce and served with rice, guacamole salad and four tortillas. He also spoke highly of the Angel's Special, described as a thick quesadilla stuffed with grilled shrimp, onions and cheese then topped with Arizona's own special cheese dip.
Prado said another of their specialties he recommends is the Chile Verde; tender chunks of pork are simmered in a tomatillo sauce with a lot of cilantro. "We make the chile verde ourselves each day using fresh tomatillos. We don't just open up a can to make this dish," he said.
Two Good. Arizona Mexican offers their take on south of the border specialties.
Our meals soon arrived. My dish, the Chilaquiles, according to Prado is a variation of a very common breakfast dish where "in Mexico, we make this using scrambled eggs rather than the chicken." This meal is made with corn tortilla chips which are simmered in a red sauce (Prado said the house salsa) together with chicken, and then topped with melted cheese. The menu says this is a "little known specialty." The texture of this dish was almost as fun as the taste: some bites were with crispy, crunchy tortilla chips, while others were with soft tortilla chips which, with the chicken and salsa, resembled the taste of a chicken tamale. The chicken was tender and shredded in perfectly bite-sized pieces. The brown beans were very creamy and smooth, with a rich depth of flavor; the rice was white, light and airy.
My friend enjoyed his Relleno as much as I enjoyed my dish. A large poblano pepper was stuffed with lots of cheese, coated with a light breading mixture then fried. The result was a deliciously cheesy pepper.
For dessert, we ordered the Flan ($2.49), which Prado said is made from scratch in house. The texture of this custard dessert was very thick, very creamy and had a soft layer of caramel sauce on top.
A lunch menu is available Monday through Friday 11am-3pm, and all meals are under $6. Low carb and vegetarian dishes are available. Beyond the specialty sections on the menu such as the Fajitas, Quesadillas Rellenas, Seafood and Nachos, there are very common items under the Combinations section of the menu, such as tacos, beef, chicken or cheese enchiladas, chalupas, tamales, burritos and tostadas.
The service was very good -- attentive but not overbearing. Our server was friendly and helpful throughout our meal.
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