Tuesday, November 17, 2009

El Rio Verde: The Wet Burrito

El Rio Verde

Having lived in Tulsa for more than a quarter century, I've had my share of meals that by most accounts would fall into the Mexican food genre.

Set down in front of me on technicolor Fiestaware has been everything from the cheese-doused, deep-fried chimichanga filled with Rotel and composite chicken to handmade tamales I had to order either in Spanish or by number from one of those back-lit menu boards we know from snack bars at high school basketball games.

I know I just painted the two ends of the spectrum of what could be called Mexican food in the lower Midwest in very different lights. But, here's the deal. I'm not one of those food writers who leads a concurrent life as a food snob. Sure, I like fine food and dishes that resonate with authenticity. But, I also like bagged tortilla chips and several brands of canned enchilada sauce. I'd eat the dishes I described in the preceding paragraph with equal satisfaction. And vigor. And by dirtying the same number of napkins.

A secret: All the great food writers are messy eaters. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. This is one of the easier ways to aspire to greatness in our lives.

Since my opinion on the importance of authenticity of cuisine is neither here nor there, I'm also not one of those food writers who is hellbent on globetrotting to discover how different foods are "supposed to be prepared." I've never been to Mexico, but I have shopped in grocery stores that, for a certain red-headed, self-tanner addict, required an English-Spanish dictionary.

All of that said (yes, I'm about to get to the actual food part of this post), I love to get my nosh on at El Rio Verde.

El Rio Verde

At 38 N. Trenton, just off of Admiral and Utica, its safe to say the location is right for authentic Mexican food. The decor is spot on, too.

El Rio Verde

El Rio Verde

While what comes out the mouth of the conservative talk radio personality Neal Boortz usually makes me want to jump out of my skin, I love what I heard him once say about Mexican food restaurants. He likes 'em bright, he likes 'em gaudy and he likes 'em pretty darn near offensive to the eye. The more cacophonous and contrived the decor, the better the food, he says.

I couldn't agree more.

El Rio Verde

This, ladies and gents, is the fabled El Rio Verde wet burrito.

What it is: A steering-wheel-sized flour tortilla is packed with pulled beef (or pork or chicken), refried beans, fresh pico de gallo, rainbows, ponies and baby giggles. It's smothered in a rich, zingy enchilada sauce and topped with a few hands full of queso blanco. Sour cream and fresh guac are stacked on top almost humorously, like eyes.

El Rio Verde

Anyone still feeling snooty about authentic Mexican food? I know a lot of folks say that once cheese and refried beans come into the mix, a dish ceases to be authentic Mexican food. To those people I say, fine - all the more for me.

Girls, don't let anyone tell you it's not ladylike to eat the entire thing. I did it, and no one looked at me sideways. My debit card was charged a mere $6, a bargain for a platter-sized lunch, and I was allowed to continue to sit at my table to chatter with my friend and dining buddy, our basket of housemade tortilla chips and salsa being refilled regularly. We didn't even hear a tisk-tisk.

My buddy and I, we were in real-girl heaven.

Guys, if you can't eat a whole wet burrito, you'd better have the cash for a tip to make up for it. You can't slack on the machismo in a place like El Rio Verde and expect to get away with it.

El Rio Verde

Have you made your way to El Rio Verde? What do you order there? I hear the breakfast is good enough to send a person back to bed.

El Rio Verde on Urbanspoon


Ed Sharrer said...

Love El Rio Verde! I love their Camarones Rancheros, fish tacos (as close to authentic Baja as we can get here), cevice (with octopus!), tortas, and absolutely love their breakfast. Great huevos con chorizo.

beautynbeast16 said...

I like that place, but you should go to Casa San Marcos at 21st and Garnett and then EL Burrito. Thos are some authenic mexican places.

GreenEyes said...

Good thing you snapped a photo of those burritos quickly - you were only minutes away from having nothing but empty plates to look at. (Not that I would know what it’s like to eat an entire wet burrito myself). And P.S. my favorite thing at El Rio Verde IS the wet burrito (pictured above – the one with the fork about to go in it, because no, I couldn’t wait until AFTER you took the photo to dig in).

Tasha said...

Ed - Mmm. Camarones Rancheros. And huevos con chorizo - oh, boy. Sam's Mexican God mother can whip up a super-mean batch of those, but I'd be happy to give El Rio Verde's a try.

GreenEyes, there are a few reasons why no one likes to eat at restaurants with me. First, I over-analyze, resulting in a lot of plates sent back to the kitchen. Second, no one can eat until I've snapped 576 photos of the food. I am so, so bad and rude and generally unpleasant when dining with others. I had a buddy with me for ERV because she'd only dined out with me once before and hasn't really been exposed to the horror that is sitting at the same table with me when I send back a plate of salmon because it's not quite rare enough. Yikes!

GreenEyes said...

Hey TDT: Just in case you didn't catch on, I AM the person you were with at ERV. That mysterious hand with the green bling and the fork - that's me. That's actually MY burrito in the photo. And it's making me hungry as I type.

Tasha said...

Holy crap, I'm an idiot!

Brett McKay said...

Oh man. That place is fantastic. My wife took me there a few months ago after I finished law school so I could get a wet torta. The last time I had a wet torta was when I lived in Mexico. The one at El Rio Verde tasted just like the ones I'd buy in the streets of Tijuana. Of course you have to wash it down with Coca-Cola Meixicana.

Joe said...

Tasha, you have to go back for their breakfast. Love their Huevos Rancheros and a big Coke in the bottle - yum yum!

Nancy said...

Great post- but now I'm so hungry!! Also love their sopes and will definately try the wet torta!

Brooklyn said...

I HAVE been there! I didn't figure it out until I saw the outside of the building. I don't really remember what I had because I don't like Mexican food, but I do remember my friend breaking a tooth on the chips and not being able to eat his meal when it came. Sad.

Steven H. Roemerman Sr said...

I found a bullet shell in the parking lot there once! Anyway, I concur, El Rio Verde is straight up awesome....but get there early or you will have to wait for a table

Brian said...

I can't wait to try! Love your writeup. I call those "Donkey Burritos"

Brigid said...

I'm never brave enough to try the authentic places because I'm meat-free (and mostly dairy-free now), and very few places do refried beans without lard. That does look delicious, though!

NatBean said...

rainbows, ponies, and baby giggles!!!!
I almost choked on my drink with that one.

Jill of All Trades said...

This is our fav place to eat and we darken their doors at least once a week at the minimum. The steak wet burrito is my choice most of the time. YUMMY...I'm hungry

Brian Schwartz said...

*Gus van Sant, one of our most talented film directors, put a lot of time and effort into filming a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho"

*The Wet Burrito is just one of those gustatory treats that, like a fine food muse, inspires all great food writers to excel themselves.

*I knew you'd written a review of Rio Verde but had forgotten how well-written it was.

All of these are valid excuses for my presumption in writing my own review of Rio Verde's Wet Burrito after you wrote yours.


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