Filipino Food in Oklahoma City


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The Chowhound web site (chowhound.com) has been the source of much of my knowledge about food and restaurants, especially since it was one of the earliest restaurant related sites to come on line.  I think one of the classic discussions of all time was a topic on the Seattle Board in 2002 entitled “Is Filipino food embarassing?” (sic).  The original poster stated that the Filipino community was the number one ethnic minority in Seattle, yet there were very few Filipino restaurants (6 to be exact, three of which had the same owner).  The theory was not that people did not like Filipino food, but simply that it was not a priority for Filipino people to open this kind of restaurant (instead they were more likely to operate a Jewish deli or a burger stand).

A similar situation seems to exist in Oklahoma City and in other cities (I think the originator of the discussion on Chowhound believed that this was something that occurred nationwide).  There was an Italian restaurant in Oklahoma City (which is now closed) run by Filipino people that I thought did a good job with the Italian food, but of course it was one of many Italian restaurants in the city.  I support anyone operating any type of restaurant they wish, but I am a little perplexed as to why there are not more Filipino restaurants around the country.

Bhing’s Cafe on N. Meridian Ave. in Oklahoma City seemed to demonstrate that customers were willing to patronize a Filipino restaurant (although I honestly do not know how many customers they had and whether this had anything to do with the restaurant closing).  Evelyn’s Asian Table took over the spot of providing the only Filipino food in the city, but it is now closed as well.  All indications are that the lack of Filipino restaurants at present is not because of a lack of interest in this type of food, but I just do not have any information about whether these restaurants were profitable or not.

A number of Filipino cooking classes have been given over the past few years at the Rockwell Campus of the Francis Tuttle Technology Center, and this shows an interest in the cuisine as well.  I do not think that any type of cooking class would help me very much, but I am including this information for the benefit of readers who have better cooking skills.

There happens to be a Filipino dinner that will be served this weekend in Midwest City, called the “Spring Taste of Philippines,” sponsored by the Philippine-American Civic Organization.  Details are in the Oklahoma Gazette, Mar. 2, 2016 issue (and I think also on their web site).  The summary is:

Filipino dinner from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Sat. Mar. 12
Location: Nick Harroz Community Center, 200 N. Midwest Blvd., Midwest City, OK
Menu: Chicken afritada, pancit noodles, cassava cake

There will also be a bake sale and arts and crafts from 1-5 pm.

Except for these items I think a better title for the article would be “The Lack of Filipino Food in Oklahoma City.”  I hope this will not always be the case, though.

Update Apr. 23, 2016: There is good news to report.  Chibugan Filipino Restaurant at 4728 S.E. 29th St. in Del City is slated to open today, giving people a new place to try Filipino food.   This restaurant has been eagerly anticipated by many people who have missed this type of cuisine in Oklahoma City for several years since the closing of Bhing’s and Evelyn’s.

Also a note about the “Taste of the Philippines” dinners–for the past few years these have been scheduled twice a year (in the spring and fall), and have been at various locations throughout the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.

La Hacienda–El Paso, TX


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La Hacienda (Closed)
1720 W. Paisano Dr.
El Paso, TX
La Hacienda

La Hacienda


La Hacienda was one of the most well known and popular restaurants in El Paso until it closed in 1996, and was known for literally being on the border, with the banks of the Rio Grande located just past the edge of the parking lot.

An article from the UTEP Encyclopedia outlines the history of La Hacienda, and how it was located in one of the oldest homes in El Paso.  In 1940 it was turned into La Hacienda Restaurant, and was operated by the original owner until he passed away in 1981.  The restaurant continued with the same food and the same employees until 1993 (1993-1996 was the first of several subsequent periods in which the food was changed).

The restaurant reopened after 1996, and had several reincarnations with different owners.  I visited La Hacienda in 2004, but the food bore little resemblance to what I had remembered.  I heard that the restaurant closed for good in 2007.

Amigos dinner salad

The dinner salad at Amigos is a larger version of the salad that came with La Hacienda’s lunch specials

I never wrote a formal review of the original La Hacienda restaurant, but it was known for its lunch specials.  I believe there were daily specials (as there are at Amigos today) as well as combination and specialty plates that were always served.  Freshly baked bread and a small but tasty soup and salad were served as appetizers.  The portions of food were not huge but they were just right for lunch.  The waiters had worked at the restaurant for their entire careers, and they knew the customers as well as knowing how to give the “old style” service that was the traditional Mexican style.  I usually tried to go about 11:00 am because the restaurant filled up fast.  The last tables at the end of the dining room had a view of Paisano Drive instead of the more tranquil view of the “Peace Grove” in front of the restaurant, but the service was good anywhere you sat.

La Hacienda from the Peace Grove

View of La Hacienda from the Peace Grove in 2006

I did not know until I talked to the people at Amigos that the recipes for the red enchiladas came from New Mexico, and this is why they were spicier than most others in El Paso.  Many dishes served on the daily specials seemed to come directly from Mexico, while other items such as the chile relleno, taco, rice, beans, and salsa were what I would call the iconic El Paso style.

Amigos Restaurant Combination Plate

The combination plate from Amigos continues the tradition of La Hacienda’s food

My review of La Hacienda from 2004 does not give a picture of the original restaurant, but it is part of La Hacienda’s history.


Review from my visit in 2004

I ate at the “old” Hacienda dozens of times before it changed management and the whole staff left to start Amigos Restaurant. The restaurant closed and then reopened in its current incarnation. I had heard many bad reviews that frankly scared me away, but I finally decided it give it a try.

My assessment is that it is neither as good as the people who like it a lot say, nor is it nearly as bad as the bad reviews would lead you to believe. In fact, the Chile Relleno is actually quite good. I say “chile” (singular) because one will just about fill you up. Although I don’t like the El Paso style of pouring ranchero sauce on top of it, this one actually has very good sauce (and cheese). Moreover, the egg batter was so good that it dominated the sauce, causing a really good balance of flavors. It was refreshing to have food that was hot enough to use the chips to cool it down a bit.

The Enchiladas were dark red, and although not the best in El Paso, were satisfying.

Probably the best part of going here is being in the historic building; it is almost like being in Santa Fe (actually you are a couple of hundred feet from Mexico).

The waitress I had was reviving something that is almost dead in El Paso–providing good service.

Normally I don’t care much for mariachi music but the band here is actually very good (and enjoyable).

Although I didn’t try the more expensive items on the menu, I suspect they are a lot better than the standard fare of tacos, enchiladas, etc.


Amigos Restaurant
2000 Montana Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 533-0155

Amigos started with almost the entire staff from the original La Hacienda, but on my last visit there were only two that were still there (and one of them only worked at lunch).  The food carries on the La Hacienda tradition, though, particularly on the lunch specials.  Amigos has added several authentic Mexican dishes, but some are served only occasionally as specials.

I think if you want to try the old food from La Hacienda it is best to ask the staff at Amigos what to order.  I don’t know if the rolls are still the same at lunch since the original source (La Ideal Bakery) is now closed, but I am sure they are staying as close to tradition as is practical and as customers still want to order.

Maggie’s Cafe–Bethany, OK


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Maggie’s Cafe (Closed)
6315 N.W. 39th Expressway
Bethany, OK
Maggie's Cafe

Maggie’s Cafe

Date of Review: May 2011


Note: Maggie’s Cafe was my introduction to Polish food, and the more I ate there the more I wanted to try other things (but it closed shortly after I started going).  There were many positive reviews of it on the Internet, not from people who had a Polish background, but from people who just liked good food.  This “old” review of a closed restaurant may at least provide an introduction to the cuisine of Poland.


From the outside Maggie’s Cafe looks much like many other diners and small restaurants in the heartland, but even the large sign in front does not divulge what seems to be its best kept secret–that this is probably the only place in the OKC metro that serves Polish food. At least this was a secret to me until I first heard rumors about it and then found information on the Internet leading me to Maggie’s Cafe.

Maggie’s has the standard American menu found in many other restaurants, but I would say this type of home cooked style food is more common in Oklahoma’s small towns than in Oklahoma City. On my first visit it seemed as if they were doing a booming business in pork chops, but the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus all had their own most popular dishes (breakfast is only served until 11:30 a.m.).

When I first visited Maggie’s in the summer of 2010 the restaurant was open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, with a special Polish menu served on both days (the largest selection of items was on Friday night). Maggie’s is no longer open for dinner, but all of the Polish specialities are available at lunch (and I believe some are on the breakfast menu).

Cabbage rolls

Golabki, or Polish style cabbage rolls with sauerkraut and Polska salata

One thing I discovered about Polish food is that most of the items served look similar to German food, but they are prepared differently. For instance, the Golabki seemed similar to other cabbage rolls I have tried, with mushrooms and beef encased in cabbage leaves. It was not as highly seasoned, though, as many other cabbage rolls, and the tomato sauce on top gave more of a slight flavor to the rolls than a strong, overpowering one. These rolls were quite flavorful, but all the flavors were more subtle than I had expected. After several visits to Maggie’s Cafe, the cabbage rolls continue to be one of my favorite items.

The Sauerkraut was excellent, and was possibly the best I have tried in the OKC area (although I will have to reevaluate that after trying the one at Ingrid’s Pantry, which is also located in Bethany).

Polska Salatka, a Polish style potato salad, was a little different from most, with peas and carrots mixed in. It had a mustard base, and the potatoes were cut into such small pieces that they were not as predominant as is the case with many potato salads.

Mashed Potatoes that came with the dinner were kind of plain as far as flavor, but they were much like ones that would be served at home where each person can add their own salt or seasonings. Most lunch plates come with a side dish (as opposed to two sides that were served with the dinners), and I would say the mashed potatoes would probably not be my choice when only a single side dish was served.

Placki cyganskie

Placki cyganskie, or potato pancake with goulash

The Placki Cyganskie, or potato pancake with goulash, was the dish Maggie’s advertised as their specialty. While I thought the cabbage roll had a subtle flavor, the potato pancake to me was almost to the point of being bland. This does not mean, though, that I did not enjoy it. On the contrary, I thought this provided a good contrast to the goulash that was stuffed inside like a sandwich, with the pancake serving as a bread (and yes, it was cooked like a pancake that looked as if it came from a grill).

I do not think the Goulash is served separately, but if it were it would be one of my favorite dishes at Maggie’s. The gravy had a very good flavor and the chunks of meat were moist and flavorful.

Pierogi

Pierogi

Pierogi is the dish I have seen mentioned most often by other customers, and I definitely thought it was one of the best dishes served at Maggie’s. This was a fried dumpling with potato and cheese inside, with bacon on top. This description probably does not do it justice, though, because the flavor was quite strong and quite good. I would say the flavor came more from good cheese, fresh potatoes, and flavorful dumplings than from seasonings or other added ingredients. Of course the bacon also played a big part.

Pierogi and side dishes

Pierogi, sauerkraut, green beans, and cucumber salad

Mizeria, a Polish style cucumber salad, sounded more interesting than it turned out to be when I ordered it. I should state, though, that I generally do not care much for creamy dressings or sauces that are similar to the one used in this salad.

American vegetables are also served, of which I have found the Green Beans to be the best I have tried so far. These are cooked with bacon, but they bring bacon flavored green beans to a whole new level than I usually find in American food restaurants.

The American menu at Maggie’s is probably as extensive as at any other American restaurant in town, but based on what I have tried I would probably say it is better than most. The restaurant is small, but well decorated and comfortable. Polish main dishes or side dishes can be ordered along with the American food if customers just want to sample them.

The slices of cake served look more like about a sixth of a cake than the standard sized slice, and they look very good (but I have not tried them). There is really a lot at Maggie’s that I would still like to try.

 


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Polish & American
Cost: $$
Hours: Breakfast & lunch daily
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No
Special Features: Serves breakfast

Most Recent Visit: May 10, 2011

Number of Visits: 6

Best Items: Golabki, Pierogi, Goulash, Sauerkraut, Green Beans

Special Ratings

star 5 Golabki
star 5 Pierogi
star 5 Placki Cyganskie
star 5 Sauerkraut
star 5 Green Beans
star 5 Polska Salatka
star 4 Mizeria

Restaurant Guide–Wyoming

Gallery


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