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TLO Restaurant Review: FireLake Fry Bread Taco

Considering that it’s probably the one state dish that all of us, Native American or otherwise, collectively and continually crave, it seems as though the Indian Taco is the Brigadoon of local eats, appearing out of the mists once a month (at best) thanks to the generous souls behind the various fundraisers, church socials or Southside community center get-togethers that have become weekend staples for frybread fanatics.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you; one handmade, fully loaded Indian taco once a month is better than none, and I thank the Creator for that culinary opportunity everyday.

That being said, the blessed entrepreneurial minds over at FireLake, in Shawnee’s Citizen Potawatomi Nation, have gone and done a truly great thing by opening possibly the first wholly devoted Fry Bread eatery in Oklahoma, and for all I know, the entire country.

Located at 1568 S. Gordon Cooper Dr. next to the additionally incomparable FireLake Discount Foods, since Fry Bread Taco’s inception in 2014, it’s not unusual for lines to be almost to the door on even the most blasé of afternoons, a mixture of locals and lookie-loos all in search of satiating their knead for fry bread. This past Friday afternoon was no different.

With an assembly line set-up reminiscent of that of a Chipotle, patrons can craft a Nishnabe-style taco to their own tastes; after the hot-out-the-oil frybread is loaded onto an aluminum plate, you can select between three different meats (grilled chicken, ground beef and ground bison(!)) and three different beans  (black beans, chili beans and pinto beans) before piling on the generously unlimited toppings and a few select sauces, with side items of meat pies, corn soup and even sweet bread, raining down in plentiful portions that make the State Fair’s burnt buffalo chips look like a truly shameful moment of disproportionate appropriation.

Golden brown, delicately fluffed and generously moist, FireLake’s frybread is a pure Gladwell study in perfection, the collective 10,000 hours coming together in one genuinely carnal helping—it’s sweeter taste coming from a substitution of sugar instead of salt in the dough-making process. Once I reached the front of the line, it was, of course, their hearty bison meat, all the way ($6.99), beautifully eschewing the easy out of mixing in taco seasoning for just standard salt and pepper, creating a more natural taste; finish it off with some pinto beans and, sure enough, lettuce, onion, green chiles, jalapenos and so on. Go nuts, brother.

Outside of the aforementioned various fundraisers, church socials or Southside community center get-togethers, chances are you will not find a better Indian taco anywhere. This is all these guys do and they do it with a master’s touch, crafting each taco to taste, an unique thumbprint of tradition and authenticity with every sacred bite that’ll make any tribal member proud to represent on the regular, a flavorful Gathering of Nations for under ten bucks. Enough cannot be said about what’s been done here and, even better, how well it’s been done.

I must also give due to Fry Bread’s meat pies, both in regular (meat, cheese, potatoes and green chiles) and spicy (with the addition of pepper jack cheese and jalapenos), a full day’s meal in a clenched fist at $3.99. Buy two or three and keep them in your pockets for much-needed energy or perhaps as a well-earned treat later in the day, grease-stained dungarees be proud.

While I had no room for their sweet frybread topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream—as much as I wanted to be, for sure—there was no way I was going to leave without paying my respects to their Mdamnabo, or Corn Soup ($3.99). As natural and nourishing at mother’s milk, this Potawatomi potage of roasted corn and bits of meat would be deliciously welcomed once the temps start to drop, put into rotation with my usual caldo to-gos as a blatantly addictive winter warm-up. That being said, even in the high Oklahoma heat of August it was a thoroughly nourishing elixir that explodes with far more heat and spice than you’d think just by looking at it.

From their expertly crafted sovereign fresh flavors and kitchen creations to the paramount of pride, Native American or otherwise,  felt that a joint even exists today, on this sanctified land, FireLake Fry Bread Taco should be the next stop in destination dining, one that goes above and beyond to pay respects to the traditions of the past while normalizing them beyond the blessed special occasions or carnival-based rip-offs of today. ¡Cómpralo ya!


Make America Native Again. Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.

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