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Abel's Mexican Restaurant

5822 N. W. 50th St.
Oklahoma City, OK (Warr Acres)
(405) 491-0911

The 'new' Abel's with additional space

Abel's is something I have wanted to see for a long time-- an authentic Mexican restaurant on the north side of Oklahoma City. Of course, being "authentic" can cover a lot of ground, from upscale to hole-in-the-wall, and the food is not always better than in restaurants where they have modified the traditional way of cooking.

What caught my attention at Abel's, though, was the number of Spanish speaking people who go there (actually the restaurant was there for a number of years before I knew about it, and other people were kind enough to tell me about it). Naturally I think having this type of clientele is a good thing, as was confirmed when I tried the food.

The caveat with Abel's is that although I think the traditional Mexican menu is very good, this does not always apply to the regular menu. The traditional menu is posted on the wall and is available as a small menu that goes along with the larger menu given to customers upon being seated. There are a few traditional Mexican items on the regular menu, but a large part of it is Tex-Mex (and many times I think not very good Tex-Mex). Anyone who arrives before 9:00 p.m. (after which only the Mexican menu is available) is charged for the "set-ups" including chips, cheese sauce, salsa, and sopapilla. After several visits I have never enjoyed these items as much as at Mexican restaurants in El Paso (except that the spicy salsa is very good). I will say, though, that the chips improved quite a bit around 2012, the sopapillas are among the best in Oklahoma City, and I always end up taking the leftover spicy salsa home (and so far this is the best take-home salsa I have found in the city). Thus I have learned to appreciate and enjoy the setups even though these are not the same ones I would get in El Paso.

The "Mexican" menu offers tacos, burritos, gorditas, and quesadillas which come with special salsas, guacamole, and garnishes of vegetables. The items I consider to be authentic from the regular menu are usually served with rice and beans or some type of side dish, and as far as I can tell there is no way to distinguish these items from the Tex-Mex ones without asking the server or having past experience with them. I have been pleased with both types of "authentic" food, and it is only the Tex-Mex menu that I have found to be disappointing.

My rating for Abel's is a little lower than it otherwise might be because of the large number of dishes I have tried that I consider to be disappointing, but this does not diminish the several items that I consider to be exemplary and most likely the best in Oklahoma.

Gorditas
Gordita guiso de puerco rojo and gordita rajas con queso

The Mexican style Gorditas were a good example of items that could be ordered from the Mexican menu (written on the wall and on the small menu). This menu provides just about any type of meat or filling desired. I tried the guiso (pork with red chile) and rajas (whole green chiles with Mexican cheese) that were both excellent. Guacamole was served on the side along with some spicier salsa than is initially set on the table and garnishes of cucumber, radishes, and onions. It is up to the server to provide you with the garnishes you want, though, and all are included in the price.

Cooking tacos al pastor on a rotisserie
Meat for tacos al pastor being sliced off from the rotisserie

Tacos are served on soft corn tortillas, but the fillings are much the same as the gorditas. Tacos al Pastor, made of slow roasted pork, is one of the best tacos served. Abel's believes in the liberal use of pineapple as a flavoring, but also in slow cooking the meat so that it would taste similar to the tacos served in Mexico City. Some of the spices used may give it the sensation of being spicy, but the salsa that can make it really hot is served on the side. There have been some inconsistencies in the tacos al pastor, with them being somewhat dry at times. Most of the time, though, Abel's is on top of its game, serving the best example of these tacos that I think can be found in a considerable radius.

Three kinds of tacos
Chicken taco, taco de barbacoa, and taco al pastor

The Chicken Tacos were grilled and were very good. I think the chicken tacos at some other restaurants are probably of equal quality but I have not found any that are noticeably better.

I did not care much for the Tacos de Barbacoa served here, but this is an item I have not tried much except in El Paso (so maybe it will take some time for me to get used to a different style).

Tacos calvillo
Pictured counter-clockwise: Two tacos calvillo, taco de birria, and taco al pastor

Tacos Calvillo is clearly one of the specialties of the restaurant, if not the best dish served. This is a tender steak with cilantro, onions, and a special sauce. The quality of the meat is certainly among the best served, and the flavor is excellent. For tacos this is one that I would highly recommend.

Tacos de Birria are available only on weekends, and I would say they were moist and tender but did not have a flavor I enjoyed as much as the tacos calvillo. The meat is traditionally made from goat, but I did not ask about the tacos at Abel's. Even though the meat was a little different, the seasoning was quite good. The waiter said the meat was steamed and cooked overnight.

Torta de pollo
Torta de pollo

The Torta de Pollo, also from the Mexican menu, was a very good traditional Mexican style sandwich. The meat was good quality, but the seasoning is probably what makes this better than the average Mexican style chicken.

Chicken quesadilla
Chicken quesadilla

The Chicken Quesadilla is the most expensive item from the Mexican menu, and one order is pretty much a meal in itself. The servers did say, though, that we could get a "half and half" order with two different kinds of meat.

Efrain Especial
Half order of "Efrain Especial" with spicy salsa and canteloupe drink at upper left

From this point on I am switching to the regular menu, although it still includes some authentic Mexican items. These are all complete meals, and most come with side dishes such as rice and beans.

One good choice was the Efrain Especial, which I ordered on the waiter's recommendation. This came with the "Efrain Especial Sauce," a tomato based sauce that gave it a traditional Mexican flavor. This dish was more than filling, with nine large shrimp plus catfish. I was served a "half order," which I thought had just the right quantity and came at a good price. In 2012, though, the servers told me they no longer served the half order, so I now have to qualify this by saying that for my appetite it would be too much food (and also I do not look forward to the higher price).

The Efrain Especial did have some flaws, with the catfish seeming to have a better flavor than the shrimp. The salsa served on the side was a good touch, though, and the avocado was flavorful.

The seafood dishes at Abel's are popular as a Lent meal before Easter, but as I found out they are good any time.

The fresh Melón Agua Fresca (Canteloupe drink) was very good, and has become my drink of choice just about every time I go to Abel's.

Enchiladas rojas
Enchiladas rojas

The Enchiladas Rojas had a flavorful sauce that was about as spicy as the usual ones to which I was accustomed in El Paso (with a spiciness level of 4... just about right for me). This particular one came with fish, which I ordered as a comparison to ones I might get in El Paso as a Lent special. Abel's does not serve Lent specials, but you can make your own such as I did with this. Some of the good points of the enchiladas included the fact that it was fairly spicy, the sauce had a good flavor, and it was not overloaded with cheese (with cheese on top but not in the middle). This was a different style of red chile than the Chihuahua style chile served in El Paso, but it was good.

Enchiladas verdes
Enchiladas verdes

I thought the Enchiladas Verdes were even better than the red ones, although I modified the order slightly by adding sour cream to make enchiladas suizas. The marinated chicken inside was better than the fish I had tried on the red enchiladas, and the sauce itself was about a "4 chile" spice level (the same as the red). I am not sure that the green chile was actually better flavored than the red, but this combination with the chicken and sour cream was definitely better than the red version.

Chile relleno
Chile relleno

The Chile Relleno was not what I would call really authentic at all, since my experience in Mexico was that they usually put a red or green sauce on it rather than covering it with cheese. The best I can say for it is that the chile was very good (better than most), and the cheese was good (better than most).

Strawberry drink
Strawberry fresa drink

The strawberry Fresa Drink made a good alternative to the canteloupe, and other flavors are also available. All the fruit drinks here are good quality.

Sopapilla for dessert
Sopapilla for dessert

Sopapillas have been very good, and are always free with the regular menu.

To me the outstanding features of Abel's include the tacos al pastor, tacos calvillo, and other authentic "street food" items, along with the fact that I can get very good aguas frescas drinks. Also notable are the traditional choices from the regular menu such as the red and green enchiladas. Not to be left off the list is Abel's spicy salsa, which I consider to be one of the best I have tasted anywhere.

RESTAURANT DETAILS

RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican Aguascalientes
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes (but with limited parking)
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Beer
Special Features: Reduced price after 9:00 p.m. (only tacos, tortas, gorditas, and quesadillas are served)

Chile Index:

Most Recent Visit
Jun. 9, 2013

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Tacos Calvillo, Tacos al Pastor, Gorditas, Enchiladas Verdes, Aguas Frescas (cantaloupe, strawberry)

Special Ratings
Tacos Calvillo:
Tacos al Pastor:
Chicken Tacos:
Barbacoa Tacos:
Carnitas Tacos:
Gordita de Guiso:
Gordita de Rajas:
Chicken Quesadilla:
Torta de Pollo:
Efrain Especial:
Enchiladas: Tex-Mex
Enchiladas Rojas:
Enchiladas Verdes:
Chile Relleno:
Borracho Beans:
Salsa:
Salsa: spicy
Cheese Sauce:
Chips:
Sopapilla:
Melón Drink:
Fresa Drink:



RELATED ARTICLES
Jul. 13, 2013 : Tacos al Pastor (Oklahoma City)
Dec. 14, 2012 : Abel's Update
Mar. 24, 2012 : Mexican Lent Specials (Birrieria Diaz, Abel's, San Marcos)



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