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The whole enchilada

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Credit: Mark Hancock

Have you ever seen one of
those nature videos where a school of piranhas attacks a cow and just
strips all the flesh off in a matter of minutes? That is pretty much
what it looks like when my family attacks a basket filled with freshly
made tortillas.

Almost
every Tuesday night, my parents and my brother and sister-in-elaw descend
upon Alvarado’s Mexican Restaurant in Edmond. I’m not sure if the
waitress bothers asking what they want anymore. Enchiladas. Flour
tortillas. That hot green salsa.

It’s
a ritual. Since I don’t live in Edmond, and I have a toddler who views
restaurants the same way Mongols viewed much of the Chinese countryside,
we don’t get to join them all that often.

Oh, but when we do, the feasting.

The feasting!

Alvarado’s
is one of many “Okla- Mex” restaurants that combines a few authentic
Mexican dishes with plenty of the Americanized Mexican foods so many of
us love. Here you get the “cheese jelly” queso in yellow and white,
along with a zesty fresh salsa and chips. It’s the sort of thing you
take for granted until you have a child who is desperate to eat the
second you sit down.

Regardless
of your own encumbrance by children, I do suggest you sit down and
immediately order the tortilla soup ($5.99 for a bowl, $1.99 for a cup
on the side).

I do not think it is a pretty soup.

Alvarado’s
does not decorate it with sauces or tri-colored tortilla strips. It is a
bowl. Of soup. There might be some cilantro on top.

What
matters is what happens when your spoon enters the bowl. There’s a lot
of chicken down there, as well as a creamy, spicy chicken broth. It is a
magnificent concoction. Get the bowl if you’re hungry, although I tend
to get a cup on the side with an entree.

And now the real battle begins.

Shredded chicken in a fresh flour tortilla, covered in sour cream sauce? Spicy and alluring tacos poblanos? Guiso Mexicano?

Tuesday nights are half-priced enchilada nights, so that’s
usually what my family gets. (Similarly, we always seemed to eat Sonic
burgers on half-priced nights when I was a kid. Weird, huh?) And while I
certainly understand the draw of those enchiladas, I have other
favorites.

Tacos
poblanos ($9.99) are some of the best things you can put in your mouth.
The fresh tortilla barely restrains tender, seasoned chicken (you can
have beef, if you’d rather) and sautéed onions and poblano peppers.

Alvarado’s
does a good job of seeding the peppers, but that doesn’t mean you won’t
get a nice kick of heat. Paired with the spicy soup, you might find
yourself sweating.

Their
rice and beans are fine as they are, but I tend to switch it up and get
frijoles machos (manly beans) and jalapeño rice. Welcome to Flavor
Country.

The guiso
Mexicano ($9.49) is a dish of seasoned and simmered steak tips in a
sauce of tomatillo, jalapeño, onion and cilantro. Please be aware that
your brain might have trouble reconciling the desire to shovel this dish
into your mouth as quickly as possible with the need to stop and drink
water to put out the flames.

For those looking to
avoid all burning sensations, it’s hard to recommend the fajitas. I
mean, they taste great and they’re not all that spicy, but they do come
on a sizzling hot plate. If you have the willpower to leave a searingly
hot cast iron skillet alone, you might very much enjoy the shrimp
fajitas ($18.99). I’m equally taken with the camerón enchilado ($10.99),
which isn’t enchiladas, but seared and seasoned shrimp on a bed of
jalapeño rice.

Do you have room for dessert? No.

You
don’t. And yet you will still get the brandy butter sopaipilla ($1.29),
because you are a human with a functional mouth. Share if you must, but
beware: Stronger bonds than yours have been tried and tested by the
last bite of this sopaipilla.

Go
to Alvarado’s. Enjoy the Mexican fare. Watch the machine churn out
tortillas. And if you’re there on a Tuesday, enjoy watching my family
eat their ritually mandated meal. But careful with your hands — this lot
tends to bite.

Oklahoma
Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive
aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or
service when appropriate.

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