At the vivacious Bolero Tapas Bar & Spanish Grill, the clatter of passing plates competes with the chatter of diners as they enjoy their multicourse meals. Executive Chef Curtis Bramlett and second-in-command Justin Ward constantly enhance the menu with weekly specials, adding to the diversity of flavors already found among the tapas. The small servings are meant to be divided and discussed, much like the drawings that Rembrandt produced on flimsy paper. The golden-fried goat cheese drizzled with tupelo honey earned laurels from the Oklahoma Gazette, which also called the caramel flan “heavenly.”
Dark plank flooring supports the warm browns of the restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural light and fresh air to imbue the indoor space. At rows of outdoor tables, patrons can sit beneath the starlight to arrange their tapas plates in shapes that mimic constellations.
Back Alley Blues & BBQ couples its crowded menu of Memphis-style slow-smoked barbecue with thrice-weekly sets from top bluesmen. Commence feasts with crispy deep-fried pickles smothered in ranch dressing ($5.95), or demolish the candied bacon ($5.95), whose brown-sugar dusting satiates carnivorous sweet teeth while perplexing vacationing Oompa Loompas. A meaty triad of pulled pork, chopped beef, and a hot link assemble beneath a toasted bun in the eponymous Back Alley Beatdown sandwich ($8.95), and Memphis-style smoked pork ($11.95) arrives drenched in vinegar-based Memphis-style barbecue sauce. Award-winning peach cobbler ($4.95), which an Urban Tulsa Weekly writer raves "has just rocketed to the top of my favorite dessert in Tulsa," stands little chance of surviving tableside once it arrives. Patrons can tap toes to live music every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and enjoy recorded renditions of Delta blues standards during the rest of the week. The Tulsa World describes Back Alley Blues & BBQ's lively interior by pointing out, "The brick walls of the old building sport huge, colorful, blues-themed murals, and one wall has a row of guitars painted by artists," not unlike the self-painted sauce-mustache masterpieces many guests leave with.
Cooks bustle about the kitchens of Tulio's Mexican Restaurant, stuffing flautas with juicy morsels of skinless white-meat chicken and marinating strips of sirloin steak. The beef soaks in its bath of spices for a full 24 hours before it’s deemed ready for fajitas al carbon and mexican steak-tip dinners, a slow but necessary process that typifies the restaurant’s concern for getting traditional Mexican recipes right.
Though they share certain ingredients in common, there’s no mistaking the difference between a giant burrito—stuffed with up to five pounds of meat or piñata candy—and light entrees such as veggie fajitas with steamed rice and ranchera beans. Whether sautéing peppers or deep-frying chimichangas, the cooks keep an eye on heart health and use only 100% vegetable oil. Fresh produce goes into dishes such as the Cancun chicken, whose sweet bell peppers and guacamole-celery hot sauce make for more green than a bank vault filled with lime jello.
The owners and chefs at Santa Fe Cattle rely on old family recipes that demand steaks are aged and cut in-house, rolls are baked fresh each day, and signature sauces are mixed onsite. These touches transform the menu’s casual, regional eats into dishes worthy of John Wayne’s personal dressing-room buffet. Steaks, fajitas, and sliders are plated next to housemade sides of cole slaw, Santa Fe taters, and of course, a bucket of peanuts—which guests shuck directly onto the floor. The peanut shells add character to each one of the restaurant’s 20 locations, which evoke old-west saloons with touches such as brick walls draped in horse saddles and weathered wooden floors.
In 1926, a Mexican immigrant named Adelaida Cuellar—now affectionately referred to as "Mama"—set up a tiny stand at a county fair outside Dallas, selling homemade tamales and chili con queso. The spicy specialties soon drew throngs of hungry patrons, and by 1940, she and her 12 children had transformed the stand into a café. Today, her legacy lives on at El Chico's many locations, where the staff rolls fresh tortillas into steaming enchiladas and salts the rims of towering margaritas. Waiters hoist platters of Tex-Mex favorites such as spicy beef burritos, crispy tacos, and guacamole prepared right at the table from fresh, self-puréeing avocados—a technology Mama never could have imagined during the early days of black-and-white tomatoes.
Strips of beef sizzle on the grill until nearly caramelized on the outer layer; then they reabsorb their juices while resting on a plate with sautéed onions, bell peppers, and a generous sprinkling of monterey jack cheese. The result is alambre, and it’s one of many original recipes invented by the chefs at Habaneros Mexican Restaurant, according to the Edmond Outlook. Another novel dish is the pork chili verde, where pieces of marinated pork simmer in green and red salsa. Diners can also sample more traditional Mexican entrees such as chiles rellenos—poblano peppers stuffed with cheese and chicken—or fajitas with chicken or beef.