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Mama Roja Mexican Kitchen

9219 E. Lake Hefner Parkway
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 302-6262

Mama Roja on the east shore of Lake Hefner

Mama Roja is one of the restaurants on the east shore of Lake Hefner famous for its sunset views, and which provides more than the normal ambiance to the food. The staff told us there are frequently waiting lists during peak periods (such as at sunset), and I think the restaurant will not go out of business for lack of customers.

I was expecting Mama Roja to be the embodiment of a tourist trap, as I usually expect "view" restaurants to have higher prices and lower quality than is the norm. I was surprised that although the prices were high, they did not seem to be higher than at most Oklahoma City Mexican restaurants. To be more specific, prices were not higher than other restaurants that serve chips, salsa, and queso (and supposedly include them with dinners for "free"). Mama Roja did list a $5.95 set up charge on the menu for people who ate the chips and salsa but did not order a dinner, and I thought this was very expensive even for restaurants that charge this fee. Sopapillas are also included.

Mama Roja's patio
Mama Roja's patio overlooks Lake Hefner

At first I almost did not get the salsa that was available either, and this would have been a disappointment. The standard salsa that they put on the table was better than most in flavor and was medium spicy (spicy enough to be enjoyable). I had read on the Internet that they had three varieties of salsa in addition to the regular one, but the waitress did not inform us about them, and it was only after I asked for them that she brought out the ones we requested.

So far I have only tried two of the special salsas, but they were both good enough that I was content with not trying the third (especially since the "regular" salsa was also pretty good). The Habanero Salsa was the spiciest and most flavorful of the salsas, although the flavor was so strong I enjoyed having the variety of the other salsas as well. The habanero looked as if it were ground up in a maceta the traditional way, and the only difference between Mama Roja and traditional restaurants in Mexico is that they did not come to the table to make the salsa individually.

The Tomatillo Salsa was also quite flavorful. Although we ordered it for the people at the table who did not like anything very spicy, the flavor was good enough that I enjoyed it despite it having very little kick. to eating in El Paso and other cities.

Guacamole served as an appetizer
"The Best Guacamole"

There is good news and bad news about the Guacamole appetizer. The good news is that "The Best Guacamole" (as it is listed on the menu) was very good, even for someone like me who is used to a very high standard for Mexican food from my experience in El Paso and other cities. I remember thinking that it could have been spicier, but the flavor was very authentic. The bad news is that if you order it the price of the meal will go into the "$$$" category (even if the guacamole is shared by more than one person). My evaluation of restaurants does not follow a checklist where points are added or subtracted, but it is somewhat of a subjective process based on the total experience. I usually think the meal should stand on its own without ordering an appetizer, but in this case the guacamole definitely added to the overall experience.

Tijuana Tacos
Tijuana Tacos

The Tijuana Tacos turned out to be a good choiced for the main course. These are one of the choices of "authentic" tacos with soft corn tortillas. The braised brisket was very good, and the seasoning of lime juice, tomatoes, onions, and Cotija cheese was even better. I thought these were some of the best and most authentic tacos I have had in Oklahoma. Other choices are also available such as "Street Tacos" (shredded beef) and "Carne Asada Tacos" (fajita steak). I think the Tijuana Tacos and Street Tacos, though, are probably the most authentic.

I was disappointed that I could not find any chicken tacos listed, so even though the tacos I tried were very good I still would not say that customers should expect to find a wide range of authentic Mexican food here.

The Rice that came with the dinner was so greasy that I ate very little of it.

A choice of beans is available, and I thought the Borracho Beans were very good.

Mango chicken salad
Mango chicken salad

The Sonora "Mango" Chicken Salad is an example of other items that are on the menu. I would say much of the food (such as this salad) is California style, while the chips, queso, and rice are clearly Tex-Mex.

Chicken flautas
Chicken flautas

The Chicken Flautas had a long list of things that left me disappointed. The crispy tortilla was so thick the dish had a fried taste that drowned out the chicken or any of the toppings that came with it. The guacamole sauce that went on top was very thin, but a small dab of "real" guacamole was also included. The sour cream that came with it was a poor substitute for Mexican style crema that should go with flautas (and I have seen restaurants in OKC that do it the right way). The pico de gallo was rather bland. Overall about the only thing I liked about it was the chicken.

The Black Beans were not as flavorful as the borracho beans I had tried earlier.

I know that many Mexican restaurants in Oklahoma City have "authentic" dishes as well as Americanized ones (usually what we normally consider as "Tex-Mex"). I thought the flautas, though, would be one of the more authentic dishes and it did not seem to be so when I tasted it. I really have a problem rating a restaurant like this because the food is all over the map as far as how much I like it. A restaurant's rating should mostly be based on the best dishes, but I am afraid I might give up trying to find the good items at Mama Roja before I end up labeling it as a tourist trap.



Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Beer
Special Features: Sun. Brunch

Chile Index:

Most Recent Visit
Jul. 17, 2011

Number of Visits: 2

Best Items
Tijuana Tacos, Guacamole

Special Ratings
Tijuana Tacos:
Chicken Flautas:
Borracho Beans:
Black Beans:
Salsa: tomatillo
Salsa: habanero

Restaurant Web Site
Mama Roja