This is cheating. What you’re reading right now is totally a cheat and I should be ashamed of myself, but I’m not.
I sincerely hope this review of Alvarado’s Mexican Restaurant is fair and even-handed, but as someone who has been eating at this establishment about once a week for... wow. 20 years? Maybe more. I’m saying it’s hard to put aside the mountains of affection I have for this place.
Probably at least once a month, maybe more, I eat at Alvarado’s with my kids, my ex-wife, my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, my niece, and my nephew or some combination thereof.
The kids will probably just eat a giant plate of rice and beans, a basket of chips, and sheaf of flour tortillas thick enough to be a toddler’s board book.
I wish I could say the rest of our orders were more varied, but Alvarado’s has become a place of ultimate comfort for us. Try as I might, it’s impossible to escape the inertia of reliably delicious dishes I already know I love.
But it’s still a restaurant and it’s still a place you deserve to know about and enjoy for yourselves.
Alvarado’s mostly serves Tex-Mex (or Texas-Mexas, as my friend Nathan saw at a restaurant in Ireland) food and it’s time for you to get over it.
Do you know how big Mexico is? Nearly 2 million square miles. That’s as big as Alaska, Texas, California, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, and Michigan combined. There’s ocean and desert and mountains and plains. There are so many different regional cuisines that it’s frankly kind of stupid that we refer to any food as “Mexican food.”
Texas-Mexas cuisine comes from, you guessed it, the northern part of Mexico and the area of Texas that border it.
Maybe you hate cheese sauce or sour cream or beef or flour tortillas, but that’s on you. Don’t disparage Tex-Mex food just because you don’t understand what deliciousness is.
Deliciousness is a big bowl of Alvarado’s tortilla soup ($7.29). It’s creamy and rich because they cook the chicken bones down in the broth until they release the marrow necessary to give the soup that smooth, unctuous quality. There’s tons of spicy shredded chicken, tomatoes, onions, cheese and cilantro in there with big pieces of crunchy fried corn tortillas. Pile the slices of avocado in and you’ve got the kind of soup I (literally) dream of.
My brother and father are both quite fond of the Mexican Sampler ($11.99), which isn’t technically an entree, but I don’t think anybody there is going to say anything if you order it.
You get big fajita nachos, pieces of quesadilla, and deep-fried taquitos (filled with your choice of chicken or beef) with guacamole, sour cream, and a pile of pico de gallo. It’s a ton of food, but as the frequent recipient of leftovers, I don’t mind.
While I usually get one of the restaurant’s specialities, I won’t pretend the “Create Your Own Mexican Entree” section isn’t a favorite stop of mine. One item is $9.99. Two are $11.19. Easy choice.
Of particular note are the cheese enchiladas covered in chili con carne. I suggest asking for jalapeno rice instead of the usual Spanish rice, but that’s true across the board. The jalapeno rice is a must. This is a meal that’s great when it’s fresh and even better the next morning. I’m a fervent believer in mashing leftover enchiladas, jalapeno rice, and refried beans into a bowl, nuking the whole mess, and eating like a king (until naptime kicks in).
Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t delve deeper into the menu. The tacos carne asada ($12.49) are corn tortillas filled with pieces of tender, perfectly seasoned steak with onions and cilantro. These are going to be a good deal bigger than you find in most taquerias, but you also get ranch-style beans, avocado, corn on the cob and some dipping sauces.
I recently got the guiso Mexicano ($12.99) and it was the best it’s ever been. Beef tips and onions are cooked in a salsa verde to create a stew with a gorgeous interplay of tart and spicy with big pieces of tender sirloin that soak up the sauce and some nice crunch from the onions. This is another excellent day-after meal, by the way.
“Do you really eat your leftovers for breakfast?”
Uh, yes. If you could understand the sheer amount of food I have to order to keep this website going, you would be surprised to find me ever not eating leftovers.
Fajitas are good. Full stop. A single portion ($14.49) is usually enough for two people, but a double order ($25.49) will have you extremely satiated.
The dish that gets ordered more than almost any other are the tacos poblanos ($11.99). You get a choice of fajita beef or chicken with sauteed onions and poblano peppers, a side of guac, sour cream and a bowl of “frijoles macos”--aka “manly beans.”
It’s always a bit of a gamble getting tacos poblanos because the spice level varies so much from pepper to pepper. Regardless, my family is fond of spinning this wheel because the marinated meat and the sweet and crunchy onions and peppers are just a perfect combination.
On the rare occasion that I’m trying to be healthy, I get the camaron enchilado ($12.79). It’s a plate of jalapeno rice (yes!) with shrimp that are basted in a jalapeno glaze and grilled. Swap out the grilled veg for refried beans and mix in the homestyle guac they serve with it. You will not be disappointed.
But if there’s one absolute must-have item, at least according to my kids, it’s the sopapilla with brandy butter sauce ($2.28). Take that cinnamon-covered pile of pillowy fried dough and drench it in brandy butter sauce. It’s a masterpiece. If only I wasn’t so full from eating all the other Texas-Mexas fare, I could probably handle more than a bite or two.
I hope this review helps a bit. There are tons of great Tex-Mex restaurants in Oklahoma and I’m always visiting new ones, but Alvarado’s holds a special place in my heart. And in at least two semi-clogged arteries.