#PigOutOKC is brought to you by the Oklahoma Pork Council. Twice a month we’ll be delving into restaurants and recipes that bring home the bacon (among other delicious cuts of pork). Experiencing your own pork-fueled adventure? Use the hashtag #PigOutOKC to let the rest of us in on the fun.
I need to spend more time on the southside.
Look, there’s no doubt that north OKC has a lot of great restaurants. Plaza District, Uptown 23rd Street, Midtown, Paseo, Film Row—there are so many great options and more coming all the time. And while I’m happy to spread the word about all the new restaurants and shine a light on some wonderful mainstays, I think the southside gets the short shrift.
And I’m as much to blame as anybody. Maybe more! I mean, while I stand by the content of The New OKC Taco Tour entries, it sucks to minimize the restaurants covered by lumping them in, three or four at a time, to one story.
(The same goes for Yukon, Midwest City, Del City, and Norman—all places I need to spend more time to better cover restaurants for you all.)
For the sake of a story, I’d love to say this struck me like a lightning bolt when I stepped into Señor Barrigón, but the truth it, it’s been a long time coming. My reviews of Krave Teriyaki, Cafe Bella, and others are proof that there’s a lot of great food I’ve been ignoring. For you, and to shut up the relentless voice in my head that says I should be doing a better job when I’m trying to sleep, I’m going to try.
I hope, truly, that there are a lot more Señor Barrigóns out there—places where the food and the service are so good, you don’t want to waste a second telling everyone to try it.
So...my girlfriend’s cousin’s roommate swore that Señor Barrigón was an unpolished gem of a restaurant, just waiting to show its true beauty. I just went because Jess said, “Tacos” and I really, really like tacos.
When I arrived and saw the restaurant’s logo, a rotund man with a giant mustache and a cowboy hat, I knew this was going to be good. Fat people know where to find good food. Source: I am a very fat man.
I asked the server what barrigón means, thinking maybe it was the owner’s name or the city in Mexico from which the family emigrated. No. It means “pot-bellied.” The restaurant is basically called Mr. Fatso and, let me tell you, I feel like I’ve been seen for the first time in my life.
The carnitas taco ($1.75) was spot on. Carnitas isn’t foolproof, necessarily, but it’s been a hot minute since I visited a taqueria that couldn’t handle this delicious dish of crispy, shredded pork. It’s nice and fatty, which gives it a rich flavor and lends to a nice crunch when the meat is fried.
Puerco en adobo ($1.75), aka pork cooked in a richly spiced sauce, makes a really wonderful taco as well. While the lure of the carnitas is the crispiness of the meat, the puerco en adobo has a more tender texture married with a kaleidoscope of flavors. Cinnamon was the one that really popped, but there’s also a nice blend of spicy peppers and vinegar, all of which sent my tongue on a rollercoaster ride.
Jess order the al pastor taco ($1.75) and, guys? I think it might have been her first al pastor taco ever. She was like, “Is this pineapple?” and, yeah, of course it is. Al pastor, or shepherd’s-style, pork is cooked on a vertical spit, kind of like a gyro. At the top, there’s often a big chunk of pineapple and onion, which drip juices that flavor the meat while keeping it juicy. As an added treat, chefs often hack off a piece of each and add it to the pile of meat. The result is a gorgeously fatty taco with the sweetness of roasted onion and the citrusy pop of pineapple.
While I enjoyed the birria taco ($1.75), it was a little wet—to be expected since birria is slow-stewed beef in broth. Mostly, it made me think of how much I wanted a bowl of birria.
We also tried the pescado (fish) taco ($2), camaron (shrimp) taco ($2), and pollo (chicken) taco ($1.75). Of the three, the pescado and camaron tacos were favorites. No offense, chicken, but you’re playing with the big boys here. Squeeze the lime on the fish taco for the full experience—lime plays very well with the mildness of the fish—but just eat the shrimp taco straight. Taste that creaminess? It’s mayo. Yeah. And there’s about to be more mayo in your life.
Hot dog Norteño ($4) means “northern-style” hot dog, which might mean northern Mexico or it might mean us weird Americans. Either way, you get a hot dog in a bun, slathered in mayo, covered in diced tomato, and sprinkled with ham. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve put in my mouth in a minute (hey, I went to college) and I’m already obsessed. Try it yourself and you’ll see. The sweetness of the mayo and the added meatiness of the ham make it irresistible. If I keep eating these, I’m moving on to whatever comes after barrigón.
While I enjoyed the al pastor torta ($6.50), I think I’d rather have a few tacos. This sandwich is tasty, but it’s also a lot, and the texture of the bread against the pork and pineapple chunks made for an awkward and messy sandwich. Your mileage may vary, but I much preferred it as a taco.
For a meal that will keep you full for several meals, the ribeye burrito ($8) is extremely worth the price. A big pile of great beef, rice, and beans are all wrapped up in a massive flour tortilla and served cut in half. That’s lunch and dinner right there, because unless you’re the hungriest of hippos, you’re probably not going to eat all of this in one sitting.
I couldn’t finish the hot sauce shrimp ($10.99) in one sitting, but not just because it’s a massive plate of food. See, I’ve gotten too used to “spicy” food. You know, it’s like, “Watch out, because this chili is 18-alarms!” or “Burn You To Death From The Inside” fries, except, meh. They’re never as crazy as they claim, mostly because they want people to keep ordering them.
Hot sauce shrimp, like the Wu-Tang Clan, ain’t...to be underestimated. (Hey, my mom reads this site, okay?) It’s got a nice pop of heat up front, but it builds fast and it takes over your entire mouth. Whooooooo lawd, when I started fishing slivers of jalapeno out of the sauce, I noticed the webbing and seeds still intact. That is some real heat. But...it also tastes so good. The shrimp are cooked perfectly. The sauce is dynamite, in several senses of the word, and even the rice and beans on the side were all kinds of excellent. Definitely one I recommend, but get a horchata ($1.50 small, $2.50 medium, $3.50 large) to help put out those flames.
The elote con mantequilla ($3) is corn with butter...except it’s so much more. There’s this green chili sauce in there that lit me right up. But, again, it tastes so good you just can’t help but go back in for more. Pain be damned! This food needs to be eaten.
Finally, and very confusingly, we had posole ($8 medium, $10 large). Well, having posole isn’t confusing—it’s a pork and hominy stew, which I absolutely adore. But we got both the rojo (red) and verde (green) varieties. I figured the red would be crazy hot and it was crazy not. It was good, but it was very mild.
Meanwhile, the green had this abundance of heat, not from the green chilies, but from the black pepper that infused the broth. It was so hot, I could barely take a few bites without coughing. AND YET...I just wanted more and more and more. What witchcraft is this, Señor Barrigón? How do you make food that is so spicy that it causes actual pain, but so good that I want to keep eating it all the time?
It’s a mystery I’ll keep trying to solve by going back to Señor Barrigón. I assume I’ll be seeing you there?
The Oklahoma Pork Council represents the interests all of pork producers throughout the state, promoting pork and pork products, funding research and educating consumers and producers about the pork industry. Learn more about the OPC, find recipes and more at OKPork.org.