Frida Southwest has been a long time coming.
I remember talking to Humankind Hospitality owner Shaun Fiaccone and culinary director Ryan Parrott about their fact-finding (and food-finding) trips years ago, but it’s been especially grueling to wait as the building slowly took shape just down the street from HH’s other restaurants (Picasso Cafe, The Other Room, OSO on Paseo).
There’s a saying about good things and those who wait and as I bellied up to a table (I kind of belly up to everything, honestly) with my friends, what came to us from the kitchen and bar were Very. Very. Good. Things.
Frida is worth the wait. Not just from concept to reality, but, I assume, for the people who will brave Oklahoma’s muggy summer to claim a table. (The same is true of the other new addition to the Paseo district, Gun Izakaya, and I’m really looking forward to when the two lines meet in the middle of the street.)
First things first, the cocktails at Frida are bonkers and you should drink them. Not only do they have the best names (Do You Guys Have Malibu?, Dante’s Inferno, Banana Star Galactica, etc.) but they are deeply wonderful. Seriously, Do You Guys Have Malibu? is incredibly delicious and also admirably restrained. They could have pumped that thing so full of sugar, but instead this blend of house-made coconut rum, macadamia orgeat, papaya syrup, and fresh lime is surprisingly low-key. It’s tasty, it’s drinks so smooth that it is dangerous to Tipsy Tillies like me, and it’s perfect for summer. To the patio!
I could spend forever on the appetizers and, I promise you, I absolutely will when I get to go back. As it is, we split an order of queso fundido that was creamy and delightful (especially with their house tortilla chips, which are much sturdier than the kind at the store) and the tuna tostaditos, which are covered in gorgeously spiced tuna tartare.
But there’s also seafood tamales, a vegan ceviche, cornmeal-crusted oysters, short rib empanadas...do you see what I’m saying? And this is just the apps. Just starters. It’s unfair to anyone even considering a diet.
Brian got the roasted carrot salad and I don’t think anyone at that table didn’t think about stopping on the way home for a bunch of fresh carrots so we could try to make our own. It’s incredibly spiced—you’re going to be hearing that a lot, because the flavor on these dishes is on point—with peppery arugula, five-spice toasted pistachios, and a tamarind yogurt for dressing.
I tried the green chili-cauliflower bisque and you better hold onto your taste buds, because this soup will donkey kick them out your mouth. It also comes with a cheese taquito that will live on in my memory for a long time.
Hey...we’re only just now getting to entrees. And this is only the lunch menu! I don’t even know what’s on the menu at dinner, but holy socks, how much more can they do?
Nate ordered the pork tenderloin specifically because it comes with a peanut-coconut mole and a sweet potato tamale and it’s clear he made the right choice. Expertly grilled meat served atop a gorgeous sweet and spicy mole sauce...it’s hard to fathom how good this is, so you’ll just have to try it yourself.
Jess ordered the smokestack enchiladas, filled with shredded smoked chicken and aged cheddar, topped with green chili puree and crema, and they are both a delight and also a de-heavy, because wow there’s a lot of food here. It’s a big mess of a plate, served with a side of heirloom beans that will make sure you leave extremely full and extremely happy.
My short rib grilled cheese was extremely tasty, with that rich beefiness and silky texture you expect from well-prepared short rib. The rest of the sandwich is packed with mushrooms, caramelized onion mayo, a blend of cheeses, and more of that peppery arugula. The challah they use is lovely, but—and I can’t believe I’m saying this—I wanted less of it. Slice that bread a little thinner and you’ve got a really perfect ratio of bread to meat and cheese. But your mileage may vary on that one.
Also, I feel like I’m saying this a lot, but wow this building is beautiful. It’s open and light without feeling overwhelmingly bright. The decor is welcoming, but it feels very upscale.
I know a lot of restaurateurs put tons of time and thought (and money) into designing their restaurants, but Frida just feels special. Give it a look. Give it a taste. I bet you'll agree.