Pepe Delgados: Campus Corner Round-up, part two
This is part two in my series exploring some of the best places to eat in what I consider to be one of greater OKC’s most awesome shopping and dining districts — Campus Corner in Norman (see part one covering Victoria’s Pasta Shop here). Today we take a look at Pepe Delgados, a place I’ve been wanting to try for a very long time.
First off, let’s clear up one important thing — Pepe Delgados is not Okla-Mex. “What is Okla-Mex?” you ask. Well, as defined in our review of Casa Perico, it’s the type of place where you get chips, salsa, cheese sauce and sopapillas free with every meal. We’re so accustomed to this in Oklahoma that I fear sometimes we may be disappointed when we visit a place that doesn’t conform to this model. I’m not opposed to Okla-Mex. On the contrary, I enjoy many Okla-Mex places, but I also appreciate the opportunity to explore things that are unique and Pepe Delgados offers a different take on Mexican food that I have really enjoyed on my visits.
Let’s just start with that Mexican food staple — the chips and salsa (see a pic). Pepe’s chips and salsa aren’t free, but here’s the thing — they are homemade. That’s right, they make their own chips and they make four different, fresh salsas (two red and two green) and you can try it all for $2.75. Now, there are very few places in town that make their own tortilla chips. Some of the taquerias we’ve reviewed do (such as Taqueria La Original), and I’ve always enjoyed trying them. I’m not aware of any place that makes their own chips and gives them away for free.
While I’m probably the cheapest … I mean, most thrify person I know, I think $2.75 is a great price for Pepe’s chips and salsa offering. The chips are thick and with a hearty corn flavor. They’re not salted much, if at all, and they don’t need to be because the natural flavor is enough. The salsas were all very fresh and flavorful with a range of heat levels to suit anyone’s palette.
Fresh and flavorful is really the name of the game at Pepe’s. They don’t use anything out of a can, not even tomatoes. On my first visit, I spoke with a few regulars standing next to me in line about what to order and they all said “pick one of the daily specials. You can’t go wrong.” So, I looked over at the specials on the board and went for the Puerco en Salsa Verde (see a pic). When it came to my table I knew I had made the right choice. There were chunks of pork nearly the size of my fist, slow-cooked in a smooth, green sauce. The pork was so tender it easily came apart with a nudge from my fork. I wished the sauce would have had a little more heat, but the textures, the flavors … they had me at first bite. It came with Pepe’s standard rice and refried black beans, which are very good for rice and beans. It also came with tortillas which were great for building my own tacos out of this amazing meat. As you can tell, I really enjoyed the whole dish.
Side note, I don’t think that Pepe’s makes their own tortillas. I failed to ask about that. I could be wrong, but both the flour and corn varieties struck me as pretty standard. They do, however, serve them nicely warmed and wrapped in foil.
On my second visit, I found yet another winner in the Rajitas en Salsa Chipotle ($7.75 lunch, $8.75 dinner – see a pic). This is a standard menu item and offers a choice of chicken or steak. I chose the steak and it was, you guessed it, very good. The sauce on this dish was a smooth, spicy red sauce made from fresh Chipotle peppers. The strips of meat were flavorful and tender. Again, it came with tortillas, cilantro, rice, beans and a bit of spicy salsa allowing me to assemble some of the best-tasting tacos I’ve had. Win #2 for Pepe’s.
One of the highlights of dining at Pepe Delgados is getting to talk with Emilio, who has owned and operated the restaurant since he opened it in 1992. He’s almost always walking about the restaurant talking with his guests. This is how I know so many details about the food. He’s very passionate about his food and very proud of the fact that they made everything with fresh ingredients. He really seems to enjoy his work. It was a lot of fun talking with him.
Pepe’s is a counter-service restaurant so the service is limited. After you order, they bring your food to you, but that’s about it. You get your own utensils, drinks, to-go containers for leftoevers … etc. This is another difference between the standard Okla-Mex places which tend to be full service. Still, I found the staff I did encounter to be very friendly and efficient.
They also have a great covered patio out back. I love dining outside so that’s another plus for Pepe’s. And, they have a whole section of their menu dedicated to vegetarians, which is not something you see too often at Mexican food places.
I guess the only thing I don’t like about Pepe Delgados is that it’s located so far from my house. Of course, that makes it something that will remain for me an occasional special treat. And that’s the bottom line for me with Pepe Delgados — it’s a special place. It stands out from the crowd of Mexican places with its very fresh, unique and affordable approach to Mexican food.
Have you been to Pepe Delgados? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Get more information and photos in EatAroundOKC’s restaurant listing for Pepe Delgados.