Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

Mama Roja Mexican Kitchen

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

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. My dinner did not have sopapillas, so I have to conclude that this is not included.

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 them out.

I actually only requested two of the salsas, but they were both good enough that I was satisfied 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.

The salsa was an indication of the second thing that surprised me about Mama Roja-- that it was not a tourist trap in terms of the food. Some things on the menu are quite Americanized, and I thought things like the chips and queso would not be acceptable to people in El Paso or other places that had "real" Mexican food. The salsa was good, though, and the meal proved to be as well.

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. If I had not ordered the guacamole my meal would not have been as enjoyable as it was, and likely my opinion of the restaurant would not be so high. All I can suggest to people is to spend the money on the guacamole-- it will be worth it.

Tijuana Tacos
Tijuana Tacos

Tijuana Tacos 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.

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. I have read from other reviews that the black beans are also 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.

My "chile index" is mainly a guess because I did not try anything that was spicy except the special salsa that was served on request. This seems to be a safe choice for those who do not like anything spicy at all, except that the habanero salsa I ordered had the full Mexican spice and was quite satisfying for my taste.

The main problem with Mama Roja is that I had to pay for a lot of items that were not up to par (such as the chips, queso, and rice). The tacos, though, were excellent, and the guacamole was worth the extra money. Like most north side Mexican restaurants, I would not say that this is totally authentic. They did convince me, though, that I would like to go back.

Go to Index


Main Index

Restaurant Web Site

Mama Roja



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

Chile Index:

Most Recent Visit
Feb. 20, 2011

Number of Visits: 1

Best Items
Tijuana Tacos, Guacamole

Special Ratings
Tijuana Tacos:
Borracho Beans:
Salsa: tomatillo
Salsa: habanero