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Abel's Mexican Restaurant

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

Abel's Mexican Restaurant in Warr Acres

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.

There are actually a number of true Mexican restaurants in the vicinity of N.W. 23rd Street, and some as far north as N.W. 39th Expressway. Abel's, though, at N.W. 50th and MacArthur in Warr Acres, is clearly in the suburban area that has traditionally been the stronghold of Tex-Mex and American style Mexican food. The one feature I do not like about Abel's is that they have made an accommodation to the Tex-Mex tradition by providing "complimentary" chips, salsa, queso, and sopapillas. Of course these items are not really free, since the restaurant has to raise prices of the food in order to be able to serve them.

What sets Abel's apart from most north side Mexican restaurants is the "authentic" Mexican menu. Most of the "real" Mexican food appears on various signs on the wall indicating several types of tacos, burritos, gorditas, and other items available a la carte. The restaurant serves garnishes of vegetables, guacamole, and salsa that make a more complete meal, but side dishes can also be ordered. After 9:00 the "authentic" items are available at a reduced price, served without chips, queso, and sopapillas (although salsa is available). Even at the higher price during the day, though, I think Abel's is more reasonable than most of the city's Tex-Mex restaurants.

Gordita guiso de puerco rojo and gordita rajas con queso

The north Mexican style Gorditas were a good example of items that could be ordered "off the wall" (and not from the menu). Although I think the menu included some gorditas on combination plates with rice and beans, several varieties were listed on the special menu that provided 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 has the same qualities of tenderness and flavor that is found in Asian restaurants that specialize in slow cooked meat. 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. I will have to give the warning that the tacos al pastor have been inconsistent, and sometimes are too dry. They are always flavorful, though.

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

The Chicken Tacos were grilled and were very good, but ones of equal quality can be found at other Mexican restaurants.

I have never cared much for northern Mexico style barbacoa, and I was not very excited about the Tacos de Barbacoa served here. I do not think it was the fault of the restaurant, this is just something I would not eat on a regular basis.

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 are 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 special menu on the wall, 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.

Efrain Especial
"Efrain Especial" half order with catfish and shrimp

Seafood is not normally my first thought at Mexican restaurants, but Abel's has a large selection of seafood choices. When I asked the waiter for a recommendation he suggested the Efrain Especial because of the "Efrain Especial Sauce" that was a tomato based and very flavorful sauce. This dish was more than filling, with nine large shrimp plus catfish. I was served a "half order," though, which had a reduced amount of food although it was still almost more than I could eat.

The "Efrain Especial Sauce" was excellent, as was the salsa served on the side. The avocado was flavorful, and the entire dish was very good. The shrimp were very large but to me seemed to lack flavor. The catfish, though, was quite fresh and very good.

In El Paso many restaurants have "Lent Specials" in the weeks leading up to Easter that feature seafood or vegetarian dishes (many of which are not offered on the regular menu). At Abel's, though, the seafood menu is about as close as they come to what I would call a traditional Lent meal.

The fresh Melón Agua Fresca was very good, although the northern Mexico style drinks I have found in Oklahoma tend to taste more like a smoothie than the ones served in El Paso and Chihuahua.

Abel's is not my first choice in Oklahoma City for anything that is served Tex-Mex style (most of the items from the regular menu are Tex-Mex, although a few are authentic dishes served with rice and beans). In fact, I can probably think of over a dozen OKC Tex-Mex restaurants that serve better enchiladas and chiles rellenos than Abel's. Just about everything worthwhile I have tried at Abel's has come from the menus on the wall, and not from the regular menu. (Seafood, though, is only found on the regular menu).

I really wish they would serve meals without chips, queso, and sopapillas (or make them optional). In my opinion these "extras" really detract from getting an authentic meal here, make the meal cost more, and are not as good as at the restaurants which specialize in Tex-Mex food. The exception is the sopapillas, which are quite good at Abel's and are some of the best in the Oklahoma City metro.

Abel's is an authentic "street food" restaurant with some Americanized features thrown in, but excellent meals are served if you know what to order. The way Abel's slow cooks the meats makes the tacos and other meat dishes definitely the thing to get here.

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Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Beer

Chile Index:

Most Recent Visit
Mar. 18, 2011

Number of Visits: 5

Best Items
Tacos Calvillo, Tacos al Pastor, Chicken Tacos, Gorditas

Special Ratings
Tacos Calvillo:
Tacos al Pastor:
Chicken Tacos:
Barbacoa Tacos:
Gordita de Guiso:
Gordita de Rajas:
Torta de Pollo:
Efrain Especial:
Chile Relleno:
Melón Drink: