Poblano Grill–Oklahoma City, OK

Poblano Grill
13593 N. May Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 755-8111
Poblano Grill

Poblano Grill


For me Poblano Grill is somewhat of an old school Mexican restaurant that caters to American tastes, but recently it has added dishes that make the menu much more interesting and that I think are more authentic. The “old school” dishes include ones covered with cheese where they would never be served this way in Mexico and other ways of preparing food that would probably be called Tex-Mex. The problem is that I thought the Tex-Mex food was much better in Texas, and while I do not demand that everything be authentic I do want it to be delicious.

So far what I have liked here have been street tacos and green enchiladas (chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce), along with a few of the side dishes and any salsas besides the one they automatically bring to the table. The green enchiladas and special salsas are not on the menu and have to be specially requested, but they are always available when you ask. This seems to be a common practice in Oklahoma City Mexican restaurants, and I think is mainly done because they want to make sure customers understand the degree of spiciness of these items before they order them.

Poblano Grill had other locations throughout the years before they settled on the single restaurant currently in operation. In this process has been a menu revamp and the inclusion of some very good non-menu items such as the green enchiladas. The other thing I like now is that you can downsize just about any meal by getting a smaller portion or by eliminating one or more of the side items.

Setups
The Queso was better than at most Mexican restaurants, but the chips were disappointing. I would definitely recommend ordering the spicy Salsa Caliente which is free. The Diablo Salsa is a little too spicy for me, but is also available on request.

Tacos

Street tacos

Street tacos with carnitas and chicken

Street Tacos are an example of the new menu items that add some authentic Mexican dishes to the selections. These are Mexican style tacos with soft tacos, onion and cilantro garnishes, and a choice of meats. The tacos are inexpensive and very good.

I have now had two different experiences with the Chicken Tacos. The chicken tacos are usually more flavorful than most, and I thought the shredded and seasoned meat was one of the best I had experienced in the city. I have also experienced it, though, when the chicken was dry.

The Carnitas Taco made with pork was the most impressive of the different varieties on several of my visits. For one thing, good carnitas are hard to find in restaurants (and this was one of the best). In addition, these were moist, while I find the ones at most restaurants to be dry.

The Shredded Beef Taco tasted like barbacoa, and I thought it was very good. I did not think it was exceptional as the tacos calvillo at Abel’s are, but I give the ones at Poblano Grill five stars because of the flavor and the quality.

Street tacos full order

Street tacos dinner with a choice of two sides

Street tacos come with two sauces meant to give more flavor and seasoning to the meal: a chipotle tomatillo and a roasted tomato sauce. However, after trying both, I ended up using neither on the tacos. Instead, I found the spicy salsa (salsa caliente) served on request with the chips at the beginning of the meal to be perfect with the tacos (there is also a diablo salsa available for those who like it even spicier).

Street tacos normally come with two sides, but they will serve just the tacos if you wish (at a reduced price).

Baja tacos

Baja fish tacos

The Baja Fish Tacos made with tilapia were very good, but were not comparable to the street tacos in providing a memorable experience. What I will say, though, is that I thought they were comparable to most other fish tacos I have had at good restaurants.

Enchiladas

Enchiladas with tomatillo sauce

Enchiladas with tomatillo sauce served with papas and refried beans

Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce are not on the menu, but I discovered them one time when I had a particularly helpful waiter, and I discovered on return visits that they are always available on request. I do not know if the flavor is really better than at the several other restaurants which also serve them (either from the menu or on request). What is obvious from the photo, though, is that they give you a lot of sauce, and this is a good thing. The sauce here and at other restaurants in OKC is not terribly spicy, and probably comes just short of the spiciness level of most green enchiladas served with Hatch or Anaheim green chiles. I find the tomatillo enchiladas to be quite flavorful, with a spice level that will not disappoint those who crave real chiles. (If you have ever had chipotle enchiladas, they are probably about twice the spice level of the tomatillo sauce).

Enchilada light order

Enchilada light order with calabazitas

Under the category “You Never Know Until You Ask” is the fact that you can also order a single enchilada with one side dish at a reduced price (and for me this many times fits my appetite).

Other Menu Items

Tortilla soup

Tortilla soup

The Tortilla Soup started out very good when I used to order it at the Poblano Grill at Rockwell and Hefner. The one pictured here, though, (served in 2016) seemed to be made from a different recipe. The tortilla strips were soggy and the broth had a different flavor, so possibly it was the same soup just not prepared very well. In any case, I have found better versions of tortilla soup both in OKC and elsewhere.

Side Dishes
Most of the side dishes have varied from visit to visit as to whether I would give them four or five stars. Probably the ones that come out the best over time are the corn and the steamed beans, but everything shown in the photos are side dishes I would order again.

Sopapilla

Sopapilla

Sopapilla

The Sopapilla comes with a sweet syrup that is somewhat disappointing compared to the New Mexico sopapillas served with honey. It is free, though, and makes a good ending to the meal.

Other Observations
They do not have traditional Mexican aguas frescas drinks, but beer is served.

The former Poblano Grill at Hefner and Rockwell gave me the opportunity to try many menu items, and most are things I tried once and then moved on. With the new menu which includes items such as street tacos, though, as well as the enchiladas with tomatillo sauce which are available upon request, I think there is now a much better selection of choices.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Full bar

Most Recent Visit: May 30, 2017

Number of Visits: 8

Best Items: Street Tacos, Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 3

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Street Tacos (Chicken)
star 5 Street Tacos (Carnitas)
star 5 Street Tacos (Beef)
star 4 Baja Tacos
star 5 Enchiladas (Tomatillo Sauce)
star 4 Refried Beans
star 4 Papas
star 4 Calabazitas
star 5 Steamed Beans
star 3 Tortilla Soup
star 4 Spicy Salsa
star 3 Chips
star 4 Queso
star 4 Sopapilla

Abuelo’s–Oklahoma City, OK

Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy
3001 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 755-2680
Abuelo's in north OKC

Abuelo’s on Memorial Rd.


Abuelo’s is now a chain with restaurants in several states (and two in OKC), but I first knew it as a local restaurant in Lubbock, Texas. I was not very impressed with its style of Tex-Mex food, nor did my opinion change when I first ate at the Oklahoma City restaurant in 2003.

Things changed pretty radically, though, when I returned in 2015. I had seen some reviews of the Lubbock restaurant in Texas Monthly that gave me an idea that Abuelo’s had in fact changed for the better. I discovered later that it actually changed before 2003, but I was still focusing on their “old standbys” when I went there at that time.

The interior of the Memorial Road Abuelo’s had a major transformation between 2003 and 2015, and I now find it to be one of the most comfortable dining rooms in the city (they have an abundance of booths, which is normally where I like to sit). The restaurant is not too loud (probably because it has a high ceiling), and along with the service I have gotten I consider this an excellent place to come.

My experiences previously in Lubbock and in 2003 at this location made me reluctant to ever come back (plus, you are eating chain restaurant food). The bland Tex-Mex style of food I had at previous times may still exist, but it is not the way I would describe what I have tasted on recent visits (and this includes some of their Tex-Mex items).

Set-Ups

Chips and salsa

Chips with three types of salsa

The Salsa seems to be one area where the restaurant has improved in recent years. Three types of salsa are served, ranging from spicy to decidedly non-spicy (all were good, but the mild green salsa was not very exciting). The Chips were good, and they provided free refills of both chips and salsa.

Salads

Lighter Reynosa salad

Lighter Reynosa salad

Some of the salads on the menu are actually a meal, such as the Lighter Reynosa Salad from the appetizer menu or its larger counterpart. I had a taste of it, and it proved to be fresh and flavorful (not a description I ascribe to many Mexican salads in Oklahoma City). To me the melted yellow cheese confirms that it is actually a main dish and not a salad, but it could really go either way.

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas tacos

Carnitas tacos

Some Texas Monthly reviews persuaded me to try Abuelo’s after a long hiatus, and one dish they recommended was the Carnitas Tacos. This turned out to be quite a good pick, with a flavorful Mexican style citrus taste. These reminded me of the tacos al pastor at Abel’s (and other places), but I would say with not quite as good of a flavor for the meat. This is just because of my preference for the pastor meat, while carnitas remind me somewhat of a pork roast (when you really want a heavy meat dinner).

Chicken Medallions

Chicken medallions

Chicken medallions

The Chicken Medallions were an item I had seen recommended by some diners at the Lubbock restaurant, and this was another dish which demonstrated how Abuelo’s has improved on its original Tex-Mex menu. This photo demonstrates that it has a number of components, with the flaky crust around the chicken probably being the most noticeable. I thought the cheese sauce enhanced the dish, and the potatoes and black beans were both very good (although maybe not the top ones I have had in OKC). I think that authentic Mexican dishes are not characterized by this much cheese, but it was enjoyable (and may even be described as an upscale Tex-Mex dish).

New Mexico Style Green Chile

New Mexico style green sauce

New Mexico style green sauce

Another tip I had seen about Abuelo’s was that they are now serving some New Mexico style dishes, with red and green sauce. The stacked enchiladas I ordered in 2003 came with red sauce which may have been Tex-Mex or Arizona style, but definitely were not representative of New Mexico. Although I did not want to take a chance on ordering these enchiladas again, the waiter on one visit offered to bring a sample of the New Mexico Style Green Sauce, which I was immediately able to determine was representative of New Mexico chile. Thus I am now unsure whether the New Mexico style dishes are some of their new menu items or whether they have to be special ordered, but at least I know that they are available.

Tex-Mex Food
The only true Tex-Mex item I have tried recently was the Spinach Enchiladas (I just had a sample of them and I didn’t take a photograph). Surprisingly to me, though, they were quite good (I would say better than the chicken medallions but maybe not as good as some other dishes I have eaten). They came with a cream sauce which was not bad, although not at all spicy. I do think that spinach enchiladas are one of the better inventions in the Tex-Mex food category.

Sopapillas

Sopapilla

Sopapilla

Sopapillas cost extra, and were also much better than most of the ones I get for free at other restaurants. This was probably a one time experience, though, because I am usually plenty full from the meal and have little desire for a dessert.

Some Other Notes
Abuelo’s still seems to have its share of forgettable Tex-Mex dishes (this was the only type of food I experienced when I ate at the Lubbock restaurant during the 1990’s and earlier). One key to breaking out of this mold was in reading the Texas Monthly reviews, and I think they were quite on the mark in their recommendations.

The other very helpful factor, though, has been the wait staff at the Memorial Road location, who gave very good recommendations based on what I told them I wanted. Thus it is really not necessary to read the reviews of Abuelo’s (even mine!). Just go, and I think they will help you find the right items.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Full Bar
Additional Locations: 17 E. Sheridan Ave. (Bricktown); Lubbock, TX; other cities in the South and Southwest

Most Recent Visit: Oct. 27, 2016

Number of Visits: 3

Best Items: Carnitas Tacos, Reynosa Salad, Spinach Enchiladas

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 3

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Carnitas Tacos
star 5 Reynosa Salad
star 5 Spinach Enchiladas
star 4 Chicken Medallions
star 3 Stacked Enchiladas
star 5 Papas
star 5 Tortillas
star 4 Salsa
star 4 Chips

Menu (Oct. 2016):