El Cometa–El Paso, TX

Taqueria El Cometa
4131 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 275-4215
El Cometa

El Cometa


El Cometa is a popular lunch and late night hangout on the strip of Mesa Street near UTEP, and I think it will remain popular because of its good food and cheap prices. The food is nothing fancy–they only serve tacos and flautas. From my sampling of the flautas, though, they seem to do it better than just about anyone else.

One thing customers like is that they have a salsa bar where you can load up on all the salsas and toppings you want. There is not a large variety of these toppings–the only salsas available are red or green (the green is spicier). I think if salsas were my main concern I might prefer other restaurants (El Taco Tote, for instance, has a very good salsa bar). At El Cometa, though, the food seems to be the main draw and the toppings are mainly something people expect with this type of food.

Orders here come with chips, and you get the salsa from the salsa bar as well (red, green, or both). I should note that I thought the red salsa was quite good.

El Cometa has drinks such as horchata which do not come with refills, but they are inexpensive. As a matter of fact, the restaurant seems to exist on being able to charge the cheapest price possible for good food (they do not have some of the “extras” such as alcoholic beverages but customers are left with enough money in their pockets to enjoy the nearby bars).

Food is served from the counter and customers do whatever they wish with their food from the salsa bar. Although this is pretty much a fast food concept, I felt that it had an atmosphere that made people want to stick around, talk, and enjoy the meal more than at the typical fast food restaurant (in this regard it reminds me a lot of Chicos Tacos).

So far I have only made one visit to El Cometa, leaving me with my first impressions which are the ones I am sharing here.

Flautas

Flautas

Flautas

I believe Flautas are the only menu item which is not some type of taco. I also read from reviews that flautas are what many people consider to be the best item here.

In my opinion the flautas here are probably at least as good as the ones at Flautas Tepalca, and possibly better (Flautas Tepalca has been what I have considered to be the best flautas I have ever experienced). This is a very tricky subject because Flautas Tepalca now has more than one location, and I have had slightly different experiences at the different restaurants. With only one visit to El Cometa I can only say that this one might be better, but for sure it was quite good.

The flautas here only come with beef (as they are at Flautas Tepalca). Crema and cheese are added to the top, and there are other garnishes such as tomato and avocado. At Flautas Tepalca I liked the fact they they topped the flautas with red and green salsa, as well as the crema and avocado. I also thought the cheese at Flautas Tepalca was especially good.

At El Cometa you add the salsa to your own taste, and I think the salsa here is just as good. I came in with the knowledge, though, that it was supposed to have both red and green along with the crema (the colors of the Mexican flag). This is not a big deal, but with El Cometa being a fast food type of restaurant, you do not really get any instructions about the best way to enjoy the food (and of course I am sure most people do not need any).

Tacos
There are several types of tacos here. I did not try any so I do not know how they compare to other restaurants.

Drinks
The Horchata here was not the most notable I have ever tried but it was good. In other cities I would just be glad they had horchata at all, and even more so if it was as good as at El Cometa.

Closing Comments
I believe the El Cometa in Ciudad Juarez is the original, and the El Paso location gives a true feeling of a typical Mexican style restaurant. The majority of restaurants in Mexico seem to specialize in one item or else that is all they serve. Here that specialty is tacos, along with flautas which are a special type of rolled tacos that are made to look like a Mexican flag with red and green chile, avocado, and crema on top.

I think there are other “chow worthy” items here, but the flautas are the one I have discovered so far, and that I definitely recommend.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $
Hours: 10:00 am to 4:00 am Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 31, 2019
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Flautas

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Flautas

Sofi’s–El Paso, TX

Sofi’s Mexican Restaurant
4709 Crossroads Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 219-7706
Sofi's

Sofi’s near Mesa & Doniphan


For many years I have thought that while the Mexican food in El Paso is very good, it tends to be only certain dishes at certain restaurants that are the best. Many restaurants did not seem to live up to their potential, and it was very hard to find places where I could say that just about everything they serve is consistently good.

I think this situation has now changed, largely because of some of the new upstart restaurants such as Sofi’s. Actually I think the Mexican restaurant scene is returning to the way it was in the 1970’s and 1980’s when I first explored the El Paso Mexican restaurants and found them to be so good I had a hard time imagining why people would want to eat anything else. It is possible that the very good restaurants have been here all along (and I know some of them have been), but now I think they are more numerous and easier to find.

If I were to put Sofi’s into the big picture I would say it is a fairly new restaurant (the oldest reviews I can find are from 2015), it is a homey inexpensive place like Good Luck Cafe, but it strikes the balance a little more toward upscale food with a little bit higher prices than Good Luck Cafe. Like Good Luck I enjoyed everything I had on the Mexican plate, but there were some subtle differences such as the cheese and the taco meat that made it better. The chile relleno was possibly better at Good Luck Cafe, though.

In El Paso you can make endless comparisons between different Mexican restaurants, but the main theme about the Mexican plate at Sofi’s was that everything was good. In my opinion it is a very good representation of El Paso style Mexican food.

Mexican Plate

Mexican plate

Mexican plate with taco, enchilada, chile relleno, rice, and beans

Something I found surprising was that they only had one Mexican Plate (combination dinner), just like at Good Luck Cafe. In fact, the list of items served at the two restaurants is the same, as it is at quite a few restaurants in the city. There is also enough variety on the Mexican plates that I seem to never get tired of them, even though all of these restaurants have a number of other items on the menu to order.

I did not have a favorite item from the plate because they were all good, but the Deshebrada Taco was one thing I thought was significantly better than at other restaurants. If the meat had been served on bread instead of a tortilla it would have made an excellent roast beef sandwich, with very flavorful roast beef like the kind I have found in upscale restaurants. This really seems to be one of Sofi’s specialties. Just as notable was the fact that the taco did not seem at all greasy (although it is served with a soft shell).

The Enchilada stood out from others because of the Mexican style cheese they used. Over several visits, though, I have found it to become more greasy so overall I cannot say this is one of the best versions of enchilada.

The Chile Relleno was a little more greasy than most, which was offset by a sauce that was more flavorful than most. Overall I would say it is one of the best in the city.

The Beans were very good but it seems that there are always some that are better (such as the ones at Chope’s in New Mexico).

Daily Specials

Caldo

Caldo

Sofi’s has daily specials for lunch on weekdays that are not only at a cheaper price than the regular version on the menu, but also come with a bowl of Caldo. In El Paso the caldo is traditionally made with beef and comes with a generous amount of vegetables. The one at Sofi’s is very good, especially with the “generous” part.

Mole

Chicken and mole

I was able to get the Mole special served on Wednesdays, which I thought was very flavorful. The chicken was shredded, which I think is the traditional way to serve it, and there was an ample amount of meat in the serving. The mole is Poblano style (dark colored with a chocolate flavor).

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The Salsa here was exceptional, with large chunks of green chile providing much of the flavor. The Chips were exceptional as well, with a good flavor but no oily aftertaste.

Other Notes
I came away with a couple of overall impressions at this restaurant. One was that it is very good overall, and some items that normally do not impress me much (such as the taco) were an integral part of the Mexican plate. Another impression was that the cheese was the main factor that set Sofi’s apart from other restaurants, but other items such as the sauce used on the chile relleno kept any part of the dinner from being a weak link and one that would detract from an overall good experience.

This is a family restaurant and has been very busy the times I have gone. I did not find the service lacking considering how many people they had to accommodate.

The menu had so many items that I am sure that some of them might not be as good as the ones I tried, but on the other hand some might be better. One thing I look for in a really good restaurant is that the beans, rice, chips, salsa, etc. have the same quality as the main dishes, and I found that here.

I do need to note that I have downgraded the rating from my earlier visits because of an increased greasiness in some of the items. It is still one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, though.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open daily except Sun. evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 19, 2019
Number of Visits: 4
Best Items: Deshebrada Taco, Chile Relleno, Mole, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Deshebrada Taco
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Mole
star 5 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Barbacoa El Azul–El Paso, TX

Barbacoa El Azul
3010 George Dieter Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 630-2061
Barbacoa El Azul

Barbacoa El Azul


One thing I have learned about border cuisine is not to ask too many questions about where certain foods originate, but to concentrate on going to places that are popular and eating what people recommend. In the case of Mexican style barbacoa a few experiences at random restaurants convinced me that I did not like this dish until I got some informed opinions about where to go, such as to Barbacoa El Azul in east El Paso.

Finding out exactly what you are eating when you order barbacoa is not easy, because barbacoa can mean a certain cooking style regardless of the meat, or when it does refer to a meat it is usually lamb or goat. In El Paso, though, I am fairly certain it means beef cheeks (although admittedly I have not witnessed the process of meal preparation).

The one important fact I have heard from my friends is that Barbacoa El Azul serves old style barbacoa as it is prepared in Ciudad Juarez. The important factor to diners is that the meat be lean and not greasy, as is the case at El Azul. Barbacoa is made fresh every day, and they serve it until it runs out (this is probably the reason Google lists Sunday as having an earlier closing time than other days, but it is really based on when they run out of food).

Barbacoa is the only item served served here, and it is sold by the pound in the quantity you want (you can also order a half pound or get four tacos which I think is about equivalent to a quarter pound). They give you tortillas and condiments so you can make tacos out of them. Some of the chiles in the salsas have a flavor that somewhat overpowers the meat, but this is why it is critical that the meat not be fatty so that this would be the overwhelming flavor (and also give an aftertaste). All I can say is that after trying a lot of barbacoa dishes, I think it is important to go to a place that knows how to prepare it correctly, as I found at El Azul.

Visually this is not the most appealing meat to me, but inside a taco you are not looking at the meat, but just tasting its deliciousness. Yelp says there are several very good places to try it besides El Azul and this is fine, but I know from experience that El Azul is good enough to make a believer out of a barbacoa skeptic as I was before I came here.

Mexican Dishes

Barbacoa

Barbacoa

The Barbacoa can be ordered by the pound or you can get an individual order of four tacos (the price of four tacos was $6.25 when I went to the restaurant). It comes with tortillas to make tacos, and along with this are cilantro and onions along with red and green chile (the red sauce is made with chile de arbol and is the spicy one). This is all very flavorful and I would certainly suggest trying it for anyone who is interested in this type of food. Nothing else is served at this restaurant besides the barbacoa, but I think it makes a good lunch or at least a snack.

People describe the meat as being very lean, and I think this is what makes it good. I have had several experiences with barbacoa that was not as good as the one here, and I know this restaurant has a reputation for being one of the best.

The barbacoa is made fresh every day, and they serve it until it runs out. My friends who recommended the restaurant say you are fairly safe at least until 1:00 p.m., and after that it depends on how busy they have been.

Drinks
Drinks follow the pattern of the menu, and you only get one choice–Mexican sodas. Fortunately these are the good ones that I have always liked, including Mexican Coke and fruit flavored drinks including manzana (apple).

Things to Know
Restaurants in Mexico follow one of two patterns–either they just serve one item or one type of food, or they are restaurants as we know them with a varied menu. The first example gives a limited choice but it is likely where the best examples of their specialty can be found. Barbacoa El Azul just has one item but the dining room is like a regular restaurant where you eat at a table (they do not have wait staff but they will bring your order to the table). It is very casual and I think it fits a local trait where people want the best food they can get for very little money, but they do not want to pay for fancy things they do not need.

There is no issue with language here–they speak English and Spanish. It is, however, very typical of border style restaurants.

My chile index does not mean a lot for this restaurant–if you add a lot of red chile it might be 5 chiles and if you only use the green it will be about three.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $
Hours: 7:00 am to 3:30 pm (2:30 on Sun.) according to Google
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 12, 2019
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Barbacoa, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Barbacoa
star 5 Salsa

Taqueria Jalisco–Roswell, NM

Taqueria Jalisco
1622 S. Main St.
Roswell, NM
(575) 623-8226
Taqueria Jalisco

Taqueria Jalisco


There are two things about the name Taqueria Jalisco that I think are misleading, although neither makes any difference in the enjoyment of the food. In border areas such as El Paso the name “taqueria” has a certain connotation that tacos will be the main emphasis of the restaurant. Tacos are a main focus here, but there is certainly a broad menu that includes just about any of the familiar Mexican items that you would like.

Also the focus of the restaurant does not seem to be on Jalisco style food, although I was informed that this was the original residence of the owners. There are items on the menu that appear to be authentic (especially in the “Especialidades de la Casa” section), but this does not seem to be the case with everything. Still, when the food is as good as I found it to be, I have little concern about whether it originated in Jalisco.

I did find the food comparable in quality and flavor to the Mexican food served in El Paso, and this is something that I think will please most people when they try it. This is not New Mexican cuisine, but I think they combine Mexican recipes with New Mexico chile and other local flavors on some of the dishes. The one thing I can say for sure is that it is not Americanized in the manner that I see in many restaurants around the country.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The Salsa has a very good flavor, is smooth (without noticeable chunks of onions or other vegetables), and has what is to me the right spice level (not fiery but not “gringo” salsa either).

I liked the chips as well, and I think they are made in house.

Enchiladas Suizas

Enchiladas suizas

Enchiladas suizas

The Enchiladas Suizas were a somewhat unusual choice to be on the “Especialidades de la Casa” menu because this is apparently supposed to be a menu of authentic items, and these enchiladas are not like the ones I have had in Mexico. For instance they have changed the traditional green sauce to red, the red chile sauce seems to be from a local New Mexico source rather than from Mexico, and the sour cream is American style rather than the traditional Mexican crema.

At first I was disappointed that I did not get traditional enchiladas suizas until I decided to skip putting the sour cream on top of the enchiladas, resulting in regular red enchiladas which were not only some of the best I have had anywhere, but were very reminiscent of the ones served in El Paso. This is a good thing because to me the local chiles in New Mexico and the El Paso area, along with the local way of making them into a sauce, are really some of the best anywhere.

The inclusion of an excellent Guacamole makes this probably a better choice than ordering the regular enchiladas, and what I have determined is that it is better to just leave the sour cream on the side (note, though, that the sour cream will be served on top of the enchiladas unless you request that it be on the side). Others may like the sour cream more than I did, so it is worthwhile to at least ask them to bring it on the side.

Chile Relleno

Chile relleno

Chile relleno

I think the Chile Relleno that I sampled also seemed to deviate from the traditional Mexican style as evidenced by the large amount of cheese on top. I also found it to be full of seeds (normally a negative), but whatever they did worked pretty well and made it come out with a good flavor.

Carne Adobada

Carne adobada

Carne adobada

Carne Adobada is a traditional New Mexico style dish, so I decided to try this on a return visit to the restaurant (also its price was a dollar less than normal as a Friday special). With not much experience ordering this dish, though, I could not tell whether it was New Mexico style or it was more representative of traditional Mexican food. My feeling was that it was probably the latter, since the spice level was about three out of five on my New Mexico red chile scale. Also it was from the “Especialidades de la Casa” section of the menu which supposedly lists the Jalisco style dishes (and I think for the most part it does). In any case I really enjoyed the dish although I wish they had the option of a smaller portion size (even though I was happy with the price they charged for it).

Gordita

Gordita

Gordita

The Gordita is an item I did not try and am not including in my ratings, although I am able to include a photo of it. I was told it was good, and one thing I noticed is that it has a Chihuahua/ El Paso/ New Mexico style corn meal crust rather than one made with a flour tortilla which is common with the “gorditas” from the interior of Mexico (which I assume would include Jalisco). It is certainly not unusual for a gordita like this to be served in a New Mexico restaurant, although one thing I did find strange is that it is listed in the “Combination Plates” section of the menu although this is just one item with rice and beans (not what I normally consider as a combination plate).

Other Notes
The “Especialidades de la Casa” section of the menu includes several Jalisco style dishes, especially the meat plates. I thought the enchiladas suizas were very good, but the red chile was El Paso style. If you really want something authentic from Jalisco it is probably best to ask the kitchen because I do not think the menu is totally consistent, and the wait staff may not know. On the other hand, if you just want something really delicious that will not be a problem here, and I think any of the staff can help you make a selection you will enjoy.

The Melon (cantaloupe) drink was thin but had a good flavor, especially with the mix of spices that are included. This is on my recommended list as well.

My first visit here was on a Sunday evening, normally a slow time for restaurants, but this one was almost completely full. I think this is a good recommendation in a state where people have a large choice of Mexican restaurants.


RATING: 23

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

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 11, 2019
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Carne Adobada, Guacamole, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A
Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchilada
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Carne Adobada
star 5 Guacamole
star 5 Beans
star 4 Rice
star 5 Melon Drink
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

 

Menu (Aug. 2018):

Bangkok–Amarillo, TX

Bangkok Restaurant
5901 E. Amarillo Blvd.
Amarillo, TX
(806) 383-9008
Bangkok Restaurant

Bangkok Restaurant


Bangkok is one of several Southeast Asian restaurants along the old Route 66 in Amarillo that have become some of my favorite places to stop when I am passing through. I not only like the Thai and Lao food served at the multiple restaurants within a 5 or 6 block strip, but it seems that something will always be open late at night (Bangkok is open until 11:30 p.m.), and many of them are open holidays such as Christmas (I am not sure about Bangkok in this regard). I have not even come to the point that I have a favorite among these restaurants–I just know that I have had good meals at all of them.

My first visit to Bangkok was in about 2005, and it immediately impressed me with two things–the good food and the fact that there was no smoke. I do not know if in fact it is a non-smoking restaurant because in Amarillo each restaurant can make its own choice, but I just know that I have not experienced anyone smoking in my three visits there. If I am mistaken about their smoking policy I will say that the dining room is large enough that you could stay away from the smoke (if there is any). Probably the thing that would be of concern to most people, though, is the fact that it is cash only (they do not take checks or credit cards). The prices are so cheap, though, it makes me think this is how it could be at all restaurants if they stopped taking credit cards.

From the old and new menus I have picked up, I noticed that some new dishes have been added but there have been minimal price increases on the old ones. The “kaprao” dish I ordered in 2019 appears to be a little smaller than a similar “krapao” dish I had in 2009 (so perhaps they have reduced the portion size a little bit). I am not saying this to discourage anyone, but on the contrary I found that you still get good servings at very good prices. Plates are still very filling even if they are smaller than before (and I do not know if this is the case). In any case, you get a very good portion of rice with the plate, and this is not the case at all Thai restaurants.

Some Menu Items

Chicken kaprao

Chicken kaprao

Chicken Kaprao is a very flavorful and somewhat spicy dish that is so good it makes it hard to try anything else on the menu (I ordered the “krapao” on an earlier visit). Pad kra pao is actually the translation for holy basil, one of its main flavor components but one which was not mentioned on the menu. Instead, the following were mentioned or were items that I saw in the dish: green beans, Thai eggplant, and green, red, and orange chiles.

I should mention that the spice level you would like in the food is what you should order. The spice level is not adjusted for American tastes–the one here is the real deal.

They gave me some chiles on the side but I ended up not using them (this was my insurance in case the food was not spicy enough, but the extra spice was not necessary).

Chicken panang

Chicken panang

My dining companion ordered Chicken Panang, and we shared the dishes. I liked this because I got to sample one of Bangkok’s curry dishes and to be able to say that it was excellent as well.

Items from the “Old” Menu

Krapao

Krapao from the old menu

When I visited in 2009 I also ordered the chicken “Krapao” which visually looks a little different from the current dish but I believe it is the same thing. The chicken was ground (now I believe the pieces are a little larger). I noted that this one had eggplant, bamboo, and green beans (I believe the current one has the same ingredients). Both the old and new one had mushrooms. I did not notice the red and orange chiles in the old version but perhaps they were there. In any case, this was essentially the same dish with the rice served on a separate plate (rather than now when the main dish and rice are on the same plate).

From an even earlier visit I noted that the Chicken Soup was very good (I do not have photos of it). It came in a large bowl, almost big enough for a meal, (and comes in an even larger bowl if you want it). The broth was almost clear, with lemongrass, ginger, and other herbs mixed in for a flavorful base to the very good white meat chicken. Small mushrooms were the only vegetable included. I am not sure the amount of food in the smaller bowl would be enough to make a satisfying meal for the average person, but the flavor was more than satisfying (I ate it as an appetizer). The current menu lists both a chicken soup and chicken coconut soup (I believe the former is what I got).

My Appraisal
This is very much a home style restaurant where you feel that you are sharing a family’s meal. I also feel this way because of the absence of overly-sweet curries and things that some restaurants do to try to adjust their food to American tastes. Here you get a Thai taste, although they will of course adjust the spiciness level and anything else you need because of dietary restrictions, etc.

The thing that is difficult about the menu is that it lists items such as “chicken soup,” without telling you that this is a very complex chicken soup with Asian flavors which include lemongrass, etc. I have observed many customers come in who seem to be regulars, and know what dishes they like. I do not think there would be anything here that I do not like, but of course when I come to a place that cooks in the real Thai style I like to take advantage of it as much as possible. The kaprao dish is something I like to order here because I cannot find it at a lot of Thai restaurants, and certainly few dishes that are as good as the one here. Nevertheless, if you feel like getting something simple (such as chicken soup) I would say that if you are in the mood for it, it can be equally satisfying.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Thai
Cost: $
Hours: Closed Wed.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Cash only

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 11, 2019
Number of Visits: 3
Best Items: Chicken Kaprao, Panang Curry, Chicken Soup

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Thai Tea
MSG: N/A
Buffet: No
Special Ratings
star 5 Chicken Kaprao
star 5 Panang Curry with Chicken
star 5 Chicken Soup

 

Menu (Jan. 2019):

 

Swadley’s Bar-B-Q–Bethany, OK

Swadley’s Bar-B-Q
4000 N. Rockwell Ave.
Bethany, OK
(405) 470-4343
Swadley's BBQ

Swadley’s in Bethany a half block south of Route 66


It seems that there are enough versions of barbecue in Oklahoma that one person can never try all of them, but a few restaurants have become particularly popular such as Swadley’s Bar-B-Q. With the original location in the west Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany, Swadley’s moved from NW 23rd & Council to NW 39th Expressway & Rockwell and has established several branches throughout the metro. It seems that the family’s 80 years of experience in the food industry is paying off (Swadley’s celebrated its 20 year anniversary as a restaurant in 2018).

I really dislike restaurants that answer “everything” when you ask “what is especially good here?” or “what is the restaurant’s specialty?”. The employees at Swadley’s told me “ribs,” and I would agree that this is usually the best item. I have found several varieties of meat that are worthy substitutes, though, and for most occasions I think I actually like them better. In this respect Swadley’s is among a handful of barbecue restaurants in the city that offer such a variety of good choices.

In need to make a couple of comments about Swadley’s at the outset. One is that I have found the quality to be inconsistent over the time I have been coming, and this is undoubtedly what has caused many reviewers and commenters to largely dismiss the barbecue here as not being representative of Oklahoma’s best. I will say that I understand this sentiment, but I have found the quality to be much more consistent in the last couple of years (as of this writing in 2019). Some of my friends and relatives from out of town have come here and found it outstanding, as have I. It still has some weak points, but I have not found inconsistent quality to be one of them on the last several visits.

Another major point is that the side dishes have always been a major factor in my desire to come here versus other choices that might be available. For a while this was inconsistent as well, although the Memorial Road restaurant seemed to keep the consistency while it was lacking at the Bethany location. Now, though, I consider this problem to be “fixed” as well, at least in my experience. No place is perfect, but it is always better to have an upward trajectory, as I believe this one has.

The Barbecue

Rib dinner

Small order of ribs

Swadley’s menu describes the Ribs as “Hand Rubbed Honey Rib Dinners,” and I thought the flavor was one of the best I had tried. Three types of sauce were available, but before applying any of them I tried the “eating the meat plain” test to see if the flavor was worthy of standing on its own, and it passed with flying colors. I thought it had just the right amount of smoke flavor, but it seems that everyone has their own preference, so this is just my opinion. The meat left a smoky aftertaste in my mouth after the meal was finished, but did not overwhelm the other flavors while I was eating the food.

The really important factor of the ribs, though, was the tenderness of the meat (and this is even more of a factor now that my teeth are no longer in the best shape). This is the one thing I most often find lacking in ribs, especially in other parts of the country (but sometimes even in Oklahoma). I would have to judge Swadley’s ribs as being just about perfect in every way, although this does not mean I could not find others (especially in Oklahoma) that are as good or better.

Ribs. sausage, and brisket

Three meat dinner with ribs, sausage, and brisket

Brisket is probably the next most popular item at Swadley’s. This meat is “24 Hour Sugar Cured” and while it is not meat that will fall apart when touched by a fork, it has the kind of barbecue flavor that would be expected in a good Oklahoma “Q” restaurant. The brisket, though, has shown the greatest variability of any item over the times I have tried it, ranging from moist to dry. This, along with the hot links, has been my biggest disappointment at Swadley’s.

One way to try different types of meat at Swadleys’s is by ordering the “2 Meat” or “3 Meat” dinners (as shown in the photo above). One surprise for me was that Swadley’s has excellent Turkey, which I tried on one of the plates. In this case I thought Swadley’s was better than most other BBQ restaurants that serve turkey. When ordering turkey I do not like too much smoky taste, and I thought Swadley’s was just right, as well as having very good meat.

Sausage was one of the choices on the 3 Meat dinner shown in the photo (and is barely visible under the ribs). This choice was not very exciting, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because I prefer the sausage at the German and other specialty restaurants.

Sampler plate

Sampler plate with turkey, sausage, brisket, hot links, ribs, and pulled pork

Take out orders are quite popular at Swadley’s, and one that offers a large variety of meats is the sampler plate with six items (shown in the photo above). The Pulled Pork, which I tried for the first time with this order, was cooked well with burnt ends, and I thought was excellent. The turkey was as good as it had been the first time I tried it. The Hot Links seemed too spicy to me, and I thought were not as enjoyable as the sausage.

Pulled pork and chicken

Two meat plate with pulled pork and chicken

For a while I had a turkey fixation that seems to have kept me from trying the Chicken, but now the chicken is an almost constant part of any two or three meat dinner because of its excellent flavor.

Pulled Pork has become another one of my “top three” choices (along with chicken and ribs), although unlike the others I think it is really only good with the sauce.

I have not cared for the Sauce as much as at some other restaurants, but there are several varieties so most people can find something to their taste. I think some of the sauces are way too sweet, but the thick and juicy sauce is really pretty good. Best of all, though, is the fact that none of the sauces seem to contain MSG (and I have had enough experience with the sauces that I should know by now if they did).

They provide several types of pickles and other condiments to make sure you have the full Oklahoma barbecue experience.

Side Dishes
Swadley’s serves an array of side dishes which makes it difficult to try them all, and I think this is another of the restaurant’s best features. Baked Beans come in two styles– sweet or hot (I was told the hot one was really hot with jalapenos included, but it was not any spicier than most Mexican food). The sweet baked beans were initially sweet for my taste, but now it has become one of my “go to” side dishes (although I really think the ones at Billy Sims are better).

The Okra was extremely non-greasy compared to most versions, and I think is one of the best choices for a side dish (but it needs to be eaten right away and would not make a good take-home dish).

The Green Beans seemed bland to me at first but now have become a consistent favorite of mine (and bland is good compared to the things some restaurants do to their green beans).

The Potato Salad looks as if it is mostly mayonnaise, but it has a good blend of flavors that makes it better than it looks.

Corn on the Cob was cooked just right, and I thought was very good.

The Cole Slaw either comes with chunky pieces of cabbage and a very good dressing (this is something that I think has become more consistently good over the past ten years or so).

Other Items
The Iced Tea is especially good, with both sweetened and unsweetened available (at one time I saw that they used Luzianne–I do not know the current brand but it is still good).

The restaurant recently switched from Texas toast to a roll on the dinner plates. I liked the Texas toast better, but the current roll is still a good feature to help round out the meal.

Turkey sandwich

Turkey sandwich

The owner pointed out on one visit that sandwiches are popular at lunch, and this may be a way for people with a light appetite to enjoy the food here (the sampler plate and some other combination plates seem clearly designed for families rather than individuals).

Ice cream machine

Free ice cream is available from the machine

A free Ice Cream Cone machine is also available. Even though this type of ice cream from a machine is not the best, I really enjoy it as part of the tradition of eating at Swadley’s. My biggest complaint is that I always have to ask the staff which side of the machine is vanilla and which is chocolate (I like the vanilla).

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

Occasionally a person may prefer one of the regular desserts, such as chocolate or strawberry cake. Out of the two I think the chocolate is a little better, although both are good choice.

A Summary
Overall I think I like the meals here better than the individual parts of it, simply because there is so much selection and all of it is good. I don’t have proof of this, but it also seems that the servings are larger here than at other places (for the same amount of money). This is good Oklahoma barbecue, about which I really have no complaints.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Barbecue
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No
Additional Locations: 8317 S. Western Ave. (OKC), 2233 W. Memorial Rd. (OKC), 308 E. Hwy. 152 (Mustang), 1629 E. OK-66 (El Reno)

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 10, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Ribs, Pulled Pork, Chicken, Okra, Green Beans, Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, Chocolate Cake

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Pork Ribs
star 5 Pulled Pork
star 5 Chicken
star 5 Turkey
star 4 Brisket
star 4 Hot Links
star 4 Sausage
star 5 Potato Salad
star 5 Cole Slaw
star 5 Green Beans
star 5 Okra
star 5 Sweet Beans
star 4 Spicy Beans
star 4 Mac and Cheese
star 5 Chocolate Cake
star 5 Strawberry Cake