All it took was one word.
Seeing a new Mexican restaurant pop up in Oklahoma City isn’t particularly notable. We have plenty and most have some variation of the same menu: Chicken enchiladas covered in sour cream sauce. Beef fajitas. Quesadillas.
And that’s good. I like those things. Don’t let anybody tell you that chicken enchiladas in sour cream sauce aren't tasty. That person is lying or he’s had the worst of the worst chicken enchiladas and has been scarred for life.
But guiso is just Spanish for stew. It’s generally a rustic preparation of meat and vegetables and sauce and, more often than not, guiso is my favorite thing on the menu.
So when I saw it listed prominently on the menu at La Casa De La Abuela, which occupies a cursed location on Britton Road near May Ave., I knew I was destined to eat there.
If you haven’t visited the site before, you might not have noticed that I’m constantly asking for money through my Patreon, which is a system that makes it easy to donate to writers, artists and other creatives.
One way I say thank you to my patrons is with a Monthly Massive Review Meal. Anyone who gives $10 a month or more is invited to eat with me and other patrons as we review a restaurant. Past destinations include The Manhattan and Picasso Cafe.
This month, we went to La Casa De La Abuela. Folks, we had a pretty good time.
Can I just, real quick, ask you a favor? Can you be cool for a minute? Because there’s some stuff here to which I’m worried you’re going to react poorly.
Okay. Here we go. You know when you lose your mind when restaurants charge for queso?
Yeah. So...La Casa De La Abuela charges for, uh, chips and salsa.
That's what I was afraid of. Look, it's nice when restaurants bring out free chips and salsa and queso, but it's not required. If you want chips and salsa, you can order it. For $5 the salsa molcajete is a bunch of tortilla chips and a mortar full of really spicy, really tasty salsa. Frankly, for salsa this good, I don't mind paying. If you simply cannot abide it, fine. That's the line you won't cross. But for the rest of us, the complimentary soup was pretty nice. A light beef and vegetable soup was a welcome start to the meal.
If you must have chips, there’s the delicious salsa option, but you might also go for the guacamole ($7), which was kind of my platonic guac ideal. Perfectly ripe avocados with minimal interference. A bit of salt, a bit of lime, but none of it so assertive that it took away from the simple joy of a great avocado on top of a tortilla chip.
Kandyce Mitchell called it the best guacamole in the metro, "unfettered and totally focused on the avocado flavor."
The taco menu has plenty of old favorites and a few you might not see all the time. I tried the barbacoa ($2.5), but found it lacking in the requisite amount of juicy fattiness I like. Much better was the alambre ($3), which is kind of a cheesy fajita taco. If that doesn’t appeal to you, I don’t think there’s anything here for you.
One young lady ordered both pescado ($4) and shrimp ($4) tacos. While she snarfled down the pescado (grilled tilapia) taco with reckless abandon, she let me try the shrimp taco. Absolutely delightful. Juicy pieces of shrimp, cooked just right, in with a bit of slaw to give the taco some crunch.
I also got a suega with al pastor ($3.5). I’ve never heard of suegra before, so of course I had to try it. Turns out suegra means “mother in law,” which is a weird name for a quasi-quesadilla. Basically it’s a pair of corn tortillas with your choice of meat and a little cheese that’s griddled. Perhaps with a different meat I’d like it more, but it just didn’t hold my interest. Oddly, the al pastor taco I tried was much better. I wish I knew why.
A couple of guests got the enmoladas ($12), which are chicken enchiladas covered in mole. If you just sat up straight in your chair, welcome to the party. I had a bit of these and I wish I’d gotten more. The chicken was shredded, but a little dry. Not that it mattered with the sweet, spicy mole there to keep everything palatable.
"Enmoladas were perfect," said Kandyce Mitchell. "Very balanced mole, possibly my all-time favorite."
Scotty “If you call me Scotty online I will wring your damn neck” Mitchell ordered enchiladas rojas ($9), which are stuffed with cheese, covered in red sauce and topped with carrots, potatoes and sour cream. If you’re avoiding meat, this is a good choice. That said, these were not the cheese enchiladas Scotty was hoping for. The carrots and potatoes overwhelmed the rest of the flavors. Just not very cheesy.
Jenny Grigsby was a little dismayed by the lack of margaritas, but she rallied with beer and an order of chicharron verde guido ($10.50). Chicharron are pieces of fried pork skin, which are usually pretty crispy and airy. In the guiso, the sauce soaks into the skins, softening them. It was not my favorite dish of the night. The flavor was good, but the texture was not, at least in my opinion.
I got a different guiso — guisado rojo ($10.50), which is made of chunks of pork stewed in chile Colorado. This was probably my favorite dish of the night. The meat soaked up the spicy red sauce, keeping each bite moist but with a firm texture. The heat was perfect. A little sizzle up front that quickly faded, leaving me ready for another bite.
One quibble, however, were the rice and beans, which were still a touch...al dente. Not the worst thing in the world, but definitely not ideal.
Julie and Kevin chose the pambazo ($8) and ahogada torta ($11), which were both sandwiches that required a knife and fork.
The pambazo is a bolillo stuffed with potatoes, chorizo, cheese, lettuce and sour cream and the sandwich seemed to be fried in the rendered chorizo fat, giving it a deep red color and a lovely, spicy texture.
The ahogada torta, on the other hand, is a pork carnitas sandwich “drowned” in chile sauce, which soaks the bread. Pickled onions are served on top, which gives it a tart pop of flavor and an added textural dimension. Even better, it comes with a pair of tacos dorados on the side. Those are tacos stuffed with mashed potatoes and deep fried. Yes. They are wonderful. And you can just get a plate of them if you want.
There’s a lot to love about La Casa De La Abuela and a few spots that are ripe for improvement. I’ll be back for those guisos and tacos and spicy salsa and, wow, I’m suddenly feeling peckish for Mexican food again.