Cocina Guatelinda: a better taste of authentic Guatemalan cuisine [closed]
Cocina Guatelinda is located at 3043 NW 16th Street (near Drexel) across from El Mariachi Super Mercado in west OKC (map). They are open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 11am to 9pm and Friday through Sunday from 8am to 9pm. Closed on Wednesday. You can reach them at 405.601.1300 or visit their website . They accept MC, Visa and Discover.
PLEASE NOTE: Cocina Guatelinda is no longer in business.
I first caught whiff of Cocina Guatelinda from a co-worker who had told me of a great little Latin American restaurant serving up a delicious, spicy soup that knocked his socks off. I tried their Sunday stew special and, though I didn’t find it to be spicy at all, it still made for a great meal and an interesting dining challenge. I’ll describe this experience in more detail in a bit.
The restaurant is designed with an open-kitchen concept. The last time I visited a place this open was at 105 Degrees where you can literally see the chefs making the food right out in the open. If you’re the paranoid type, this is great because you’ll know if anyone does something unpleasant to your food. Seriously though, it’s really cool to see your food being prepared out in the open, especially in a restaurant setting since you can see all the hard work being put into making your order. The experience is akin to being in your mom’s kitchen and watching her cook dinner.
Every patron here is treated to a fresh basket of chips, tortillas, black bean sauce, a roasted chile salsa, and escabeche. If you’ve never heard the term escabeche, it’s made of pickled jalapeños, carrots, onions, cauliflower and cabbage. This side dish is a specialty of the mom in this family run place and it goes deliciously well with everything I’ve had here. You’ll also notice that the tortillas aren’t your typical store bought Mexican variety. These are particularly thick and have some weight to them and you can definitely tell each one is uniquely handmade. While you’re waiting for your food, you can also catch up on your monthly dose of Latin American music videos playing on either of the two flat panel TV’s hanging on the walls.
I’ve had the opportunity to try the Tuesday Special — Jocon (chicken simmered in tomatillo sauce for $6.99) and the Carne Guisada (beef and potatoes in sauce for $6.99). Both of these dishes are served with potato salad (carrots, potatoes, green beans and onions) and rice pilaf. The Jocon came with two small pieces of chicken and left me wanting a bit more meat, but with all the other food on the table I was still able to satisfy my big appetite. The Carne Guisada had a good flavor to it and was definitely fulfilling. All the flavors from the dishes to the sides and salsa all meld together nicely and you can tell everything is made with a mother’s touch.
Now, on to the stew. It has been a while since I’ve eaten a meal and looked like a complete idiot trying to figure out how to eat it. This was the case while I was trying to eat their stew.
With my spidey sense, I could feel that some of the workers were laughing at me while I was trying to eat their Sunday special, Caldo de Gallina Criolla or hen stew ($7.99). The meal comes in a bowl on top of a larger dish and is filled with hen along with ginormous chunks of carrots, chayote (kind of like a summer squash), yucca and potatoes. It also comes with a separate plate of rice, diced onions, cilantro, a wedge of avocado and lime, not to mention all the other condiments I mentioned earlier.
Overwhelmed with so many possible ways to consume this delicious goodness, I thought, “Hey! There are tortillas in a basket and meat in the stew, why not make a taco?!” I later realized that traditionally these tortillas are treated like you would a treat a basket of bread at an Italian restaurant. That is, for dipping in sauce and eating — not so much for making stew tacos.
I asked my server what the proper stew-eating technique was, and I think her response was something like “Yes! It’s very good, yeah?” After I was unable to conquer the language barrier, I just continued working at my stew with my taco technique. Fortunately, the son in the family who works there noticed that I was about to make a mess of my white shirt and instructed me on the proper form. I will pass on his advice to you so you can avoid my stew etiquette faux paus.
First, you get all the chunks of vegetables and put them around the outside of the bowl (that’s why the plate it’s resting on is so large). Then you put the rice, onions and cilantro found on the other plate into the soup according to your preference. Give a nice squeeze of the lime and you’re ready to eat. Don’t forget to grab some of the tortillas and dip them into the bean sauce or salsa. Simple, right? Now you don’t have to be a fool like me when trying their daily soup specials. By the way, the son assisting me also noted that Monday’s Caldo de Res (beef stew) was his favorite.
Not everyone is a fan of horchata (a cinnamon rice water beverage), but I usually try to get it with my Mexican food and have been quite disappointed with a lot of the places around town. At some places it’s too sweet or not sweet enough or just straight out awful. But Cocina Guatelinda serves horchata that’s just right, and they also gave me free refills! That made me a particularly happy camper. I hate having to pace myself to make sure my horchata lasts for the full meal and Cocina Guatelinda removes that limitation.
If I had the choice between this place and Café Antigua for Guatemalan food, I’d say this place has better flavors and has more reasonable operating hours. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Café Antigua has great food for breakfast, but since they open at 8am and close at 5pm I can never make it in time for a meal during the work week.
I have yet to be disappointed with the food here and will definitely dine here again. If you’ve had the chance to dine here and especially if you have your own special dining technique, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.