Max Pollo – authentically authentic
Max Pollo is open every day for lunch and dinner and is located at 2504 S. Harvey (map).
Authentic. Is there a word that is more mis-used among the general American public? I hear it every day at work, “Hey you want to eat at this authentic Mexican buffet down the road?”. Or, “Hey Andrew, we are going down to Tacoville for lunch. That place is crazy authentic, you will love it!”. After I hurt their feelings, unintentionally, by pointing out their ignorance in cuisine, I usually invite them to come join me in a truly authentic experience in Capitol Hill at Max Pollo.
Sure, I probably over-react to incorrect statements. Loose and lose are not the same word, yet I’m amazed at how they seem to be interchangeable among people who e-mail me. Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb are not “the same”. That could be an entire article on its own. A plate of greasy ground beef, diced unripe tomato, and a cheap shredded cheddar imitation stuffed in a flour tortilla and presented to the public as a taco is not an authentic Mexican eating experience. Even if it is in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood. Even if the cashier appears to be of Hispanic heritage. No, not even if your waiter brings your ticket to your table and signs it, “Thank you Amigo!!”. Now I am not against these restaurants, don’t get me wrong. There are some fantastic Tex-Mex, Okla-Mex, Latin influenced Mex restaurants in this town that are tasty and that I would recommend (refer to the review of Casa Perico), but authentic they are not.
Max Pollo is authentic. Let me describe the atmosphere. First off, Max Pollo lies in the heart of Capitol Hill, the unofficial Hispanic Capital of Oklahoma City. I and my fellow food adventurers are the only non-Hispanics in the building and usually receive stares from the others eating there. Waitresses speak very little English and are unable to describe menu items outside of , “Um…it’s chicken, it’s spicy, it’s…how you say….fish?”. TV’s blast the Univision channel and some sort of Mexican MTV at amazingly loud levels. If there is a big soccer game on, you will not get in, and probably do not want to go in. Immigration raids are common.
Lets get to the menu. Max Pollo is named after its founder, Max, combined with the house specialty, broasted chicken. I’m not sure what the process is with this type of chicken, but wow is it flavorful. They use this chicken in their taco’s, enchilada’s, tostadas, and whatever else has chicken in it, I just can’t decipher what else has chicken in it. I usually get the Max Pollo dinner which is a half of one of these chicken masterpieces along with some rice, beans, and roasted potatoes. Max Pollo has tilapia served about 20 different ways. You can get it smothered in garlic, peppers, onions, or maybe as a plate of fish tacos. If you have never experienced a real fish taco, you should. Two corn tortillas thrown on a grill to warm up and then decorated with tasty, perfectly fried chunks of what I assume is Tilapia with onions, fresh cilantro, and diced tomato. Yummy! They also have numerous shrimp and octopus dishes. Shrimp cocktails consist of a large glass full of shrimp, octopus, oysters, and other sea creatures swimming in a tomato-based liquid. I have friends who swear by this dish. Also a shrimp ceviche dish where your shrimp is marinated in lime juice until the citric acid “cooks” it.
There are other choices that I cannot interpret that I am sure are equally tasty. Perhaps a fun game would be to play some sort of “Spanish Menu Roulette” where you close your eyes, point, and then eat whatever it is. Don’t worry, they do serve chips, salsa (chock full of what appears to be a chipotle type pepper), and some sort of liquid cheese type product for all us gringos to snack on while waiting on our plate of cultural goodness. After you have finished experiencing a menu choice here you can always go around the corner for a paleta (Mexican Popsicle) to cool off if you ordered the habanero tilapia dish, but that’s another review.
Don’t be afraid to try a place in a part of town as culturally diverse as Capitol Hill or you will miss out on some of the best eats this town has to offer.