Elote in downtown Tulsa is definitely a “must- visit” destination for every food lover. The whole experience is an adventure in culinary interpretation and more. We traveled to downtown Tulsa on a Saturday evening, arriving at the restaurant at about 5:30. The beautiful old downtown buildings were lit up, showing off their architectural nuances. Almost everything on the 500 block of Boston was closed, but Elote shone like a little gold lamp beckoning us inside. The front of the building was very appealing in an old world way, dressed up with an awning and sparkling plate glass windows. There were even sidewalk tables and chairs outside, better suited, of course, to the warmer months. We walked through the entryway into an elongated dining room full of color with photographs from South America, intriguing art pieces and paintings on all of the walls. The kitchen was located at the end of the room and as I approached it I noticed that it extended off to the right. The restaurant was full of patrons chatting and dining, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere. I was so taken by the art that I lost track of my husband and the hostess who had met us at the front door to take us to our table. When I looked to find them they were nowhere to be seen, having gone around the corner into yet another dining area.
The tables were all gaily clad in bright, floral tablecloths, giving the room the air of a fiesta. The golden walls and adobe colored floor created a certain warmth and great background for the beautiful photographs of South America, which were displayed everywhere (taken by Libby Auld’s brother- she’s the owner). Kerosene- looking lamps hung from the ceiling and similar sconces dotted the walls. The waitress brought us the wine list, which grabbed my attention immediately. I had heard and read that Libby is all about sustainability, serving fresh and organic healthy foods while creating as little of a carbon footprint as possible, but she even chose wine from vineyards selected for their greenness! EOS from California is the first entirely solar powered winery, Inca wine is grown in Argentina, using sustainable farming techniques and Jeriko Estates offers hand-crafted artisan wines from100% organically grown grapes. There are more, but you get the idea. We ordered a glass of the Inca Cabernet, which was served in a stemless red wine glass. It was lovely, very smooth and full-bodied.
We sat back to peruse the menu which was equally intriguing. It features healthy food, low in fat, without additives, hormones or pesticides, in wonderful combinations.
The owner and chef, Libby, has chosen organic grain-fed meats from Bixby, her greens are from local, natural, sustainable farms in the area, her “to- go” boxes are biodegradable, her fryer oil is recycled to be used as clean burning bio-diesel fuel, and the paper menus are printed on 100% recycled paper. You name it, she thought about it and addressed it responsibly. A local girl, she attended culinary school at Oklahoma State in Okmulgee and then interned in Chicago at Frontera Grill and Topolobampa where she perfected her trade.
Our waitress was casually dressed in jeans and and a tee and was as friendly and helpful as could be. When I asked about the wine list, “How did she come up with these wineries?” our waitress said, “I don’t know, but Libby is right over there and I’ll send her over to answer your questions.” Libby did come right over and we had a great time talking about everything. She explained that she had found a distributor who understood her values and desires and who brought her the right wines for her restaurant, right down to their affordability. We talked about her passion for healthy food, supporting local farms, and turning people on to a new way of eating. She has done it with flair: the menu is wonderfully diverse and inventive.
For starters, our waitress highly recommended the pico bites. She described them as bite sized crispy flour tortillas, topped with jalapeno mousse and fresh seasonal fruit pico de gallo. The combination of creamy, crispy, spicy and fruity was magical. We were amazed at how the combination worked together to make something really special. Unable to settle on two entrees, we ordered three! We were especially interested in the salmon tostada, which we understood would be different from a typical tostada. It was four black bean corn tortilla crisps, topped with organic greens, queso fresco, avocado, tomato and cilantro/ lime-glazed grilled salmon tossed with citrus tequila vinaigrette and it was excellent. The fresh greens mixed with the piquant and succulent salmon were accented and complimented with the vibrant dressing and mellow avocado. We also chose a vegetarian burrito, packed with black beans, sweet potatoes, spinach, caramelized onions, cheese and white queso. It was huge and the combination was quite pleasing, if not surprising. I liked the way the spinach and sweet potatoes tasted together. The burrito came with a choice of sides and Tom chose the elote (roasted corn) and black beans. Tastes of each proved that they were both good. It’s always fun to have a variation on refritos and the black beans were especially good with a splash of salsa, which reminds me, I forgot to mention that the chips and salsa, which were served upon our arrival, were amazing. The chips were the lightest, most greaseless chips I have ever eaten and the salsa was superior as well; very fresh and homemade, with just the right amount of peppers, onions and spices. The entrée I chose was the portabella mushroom tart. This dish was served on a bed of baby chipotle greens, then topped with palm-sized pieces of warm flat bread, covered with a mélange of portabella mushrooms, poblano peppers, caramelized onions, shredded queso fresco and crumbled goat cheese. The combination was wonderful. The peppers, onions and mushrooms tasted meaty and spicy, a little hot and a little sweet all at the same time, a perfect entrée for a cold winter night. I delighted in eating such wonderful food. Both of our entrees were served with generous amounts of baby field greens, which I adore. They range in flavor from sweet to spicy.
Everything was filling and so good for you, rich in vitamins and minerals, unlike most of the other foods we eat that fill us up. Everything tasted sinfully delicious without being devastatingly bad for you: what a thought! I noticed the black bean hummus (made with tahini) served with carrots. I asked for a sample since I couldn’t imagine hummus made from black beans. It works! It tasted like the Middle Eastern favorite, though not as pasty or perhaps dry? There are many choices on the dinner menu, enough so that we’ll be visiting often without eating the same thing twice. There are quesadillas, a daily soup, salads, tamales, enchiladas, burritos and tacos. Of course none of them are typical in any way. Every entrée has a twist like; cayenne-honey sauce, cilantro-tomatillo sauce, citrus-lime aioli and tomato onion relish.
The lunch menu is a little different, offering a salmon sandwich, blackened chicken wrap; roast beef wrap, a “you-pick two”, with a choice of soup or salad and a choice of taco or tamale. Puffy tacos and fish tacos are also available as is a big, sweet corn tamale! If the “puffy” tacos have you stumped, let me explain. They’re made with flour tortillas that puff up when you deep fry them, another fun twist on the traditional.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Elote. It’s friendly, has a warm and charming atmosphere and best of all the food is outstanding. We had enough leftovers to bring home and I think my son said it all, when he opened the box. “Where did you go?” “I mean, where is this place? I want to eat there!” You will too, once you try it. Located at 514 South Boston Ave., they’re open from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m on Monday, from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday and from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, including an education on where to buy green stuff go to www.elotetulsa.com . Catering is also available and it’s not limited to Mexican fare.