Yes, I know I’m the pendejo that’s late to the Abel’s game.
Buried deep within the sprawling buffets, apartment complexes and recycled Wal-Marts that make up the flat beige enigma that is Warr Acres, Abel Ramos’ eponymous eatery, 5822 N.W. 50th, has quietly gained cult notoriety for over 25 years, effortlessly walking the line between neighborhood taqueria and sit-town Tex-Mex; it’s a line that can be seen as soon as you walk through their doors and notice the unusually balanced mix of clientele, both Latino and non-Latino, dining together in culinary armonia perfecta.
Complete with hand-painted murals of Mexican villages that adorn every faux-dobe wall, the wide-open, almost sleepy feel of Abel’s adds a much-needed laid-back atmosphere to the cramped Northside Tex-Mex scene, one where you don’t feel rushed to stuff your face and leave; if anything, it’s the kind of joint where, post-sopapilla, you want to order one more refill of that aqua fresca and manspread those huevos for just a few minutes more than usual.
Even though Abel’s does (and does right) the Oklahoma-friendly set-up of fresh tortilla chips, hot queso and somewhat-mild salsa, that didn’t stop me from ordering an appetizer anyway, the first glowing must-try on their surprisingly concise menu: the defiantly named Warr Acres Nachos ($8.99).
Comprised of said tortilla chips and shredded beef with quickly congealing cheddar and jack cheeses that have been practically smelted on top—with sour cream and guac on the side, thanks—much like their hometown namesake they were básico as Hell while still managing to be pleasantly designed to please any palate, Warr Acres y más allá. You couldn’t make them any better at home, holmes.
Like most Mexican restaurants, for an all-encompassing taste and a mucho mas sampling of some of the best of what they have to offer, you usually can’t go wrong with anything monikered El Conquistador or Super Grande or, in the Abel’s case, Fiesta. Test this fan theory the next time you’re out.
The Fiesta Platter ($13.99) is a self-described party on a plate, one that is so loaded with Mexican munchies that you might want to bring an easily romanced date to split the dish with you (and if you’re lucky, the check). You’ve got two astoundingly goopy cheese enchiladas, a thoroughly crunchy beef taco and a pleasantly plump beef tamale covered in chili. Add some frijoles y arroz with a dollop of guac and aye Dios mio that’s truly a fiesta for your face, a shindig for your estómago and a get-together for your gut, tip not included.
That being said, as of late, I’ve finally veered off into the specialties sections to live life among the seemingly more regional chuletas and guisados Abel’s has got going on, with a recent favorite being the exceedingly complex Pollo Mango Habanero ($12.99), a chicken concoction rich in tropical flavors that dances cheek-to-cheek with an intense, simmering heat that is, at first bite, lovingly unexpected but repeatedly welcomed.
A spatchcocked and deboned chicken breast is thickly glazed with Abel’s house mango habanero sauce, a gelatinous force to be edibly reckoned with as it sweetly seeps deep into the musculature of the meat for an additional tasty treat; while it is served with rich, beans and avocado slices, you’re gonna just want to ask for extra tortillas to sop up all that addictive leftover juice before the sopapilla arrives.
And for real: once that sopapilla is done, instead of rushing out the door, get yourself a refill, kick back for a few minutes and let that food digest. Put your head down on the table and have a short siesta if you must! Cómpralo ya!