Tarahumara’s Mexican Cafe: Tex-Mex with a little something extra

by | July 7, 2009 | 23 Comments

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Tarahumara’s Mexican Cafe is located at 702 N. Porter Avenue in Norman (map). They are open seven days a week from 11am to 10pm. Call them at 405.360.8070 or visit their website.

Tarahumara's Mexican Cafe in Norman, Oklahoma

Several years ago, some friends who live in Norman introduced me to a gem called Tarahumara’s Mexican Cafe. After one visit, it easily catapulted to a spot as one of my top five Tex-Mex eateries in the metro. With so many Tex-Mex places from which to choose, that’s no easy feat.

Tarahumara’s is located on Porter, just south of Norman Regional Hospital and a few miles north of the OU campus. Years ago it was a Mazzio’s, but the owners have totally redecorated it in sunny hues of yellow and orange. While the parking lot is almost always full and there is often a line, the wait (like most Tex Mex places) goes pretty fast. A covered patio and a small indoor waiting area exist for diners waiting for their pagers to buzz. Now that summer is here, they have the misters running to cool the patio area.

One thing that sets Tarahumara’s apart from other restaurants is the flat screen TVs. In addition to regular programming, some of the TVs feature views of the kitchen so that a diner can see food as it is being prepared. It’s nice to see such a clean kitchen where the staff is working quickly to prepare the meals. Another big surprise came on my last visit a few weeks ago. The menu at Tarahumara’s now features color photos of most if not all of the dishes. This new full color menu can also be viewed online.

Tarahumara’s brings the standard fresh tortillas, cheese sauce, chips and salsa as soon as diners are seated. They also offer carrot, jalapeno and onion relish upon request. There is some kind of herb or spice in the relish that I cannot pinpoint. All I know is that it gives a slight smoky flavor to the relish, setting it apart from other places. The flour tortillas are nice and fluffy while the corn tortillas are thin and tender — just the way I like each. The “house salsa” is your standard tomato blend with just enough kick. On my last visit, I requested their green salsa which is a creamy avocado dip with lots of spicy peppers blended into it. One more thing on the set up, the chips are thin and crispy, not oily or chewy at all.

They also have tasty selection of Mexican-style cervezas and margaritas for those who choose to partake. The beers come with lime in a chilled salt rimmed glass, which is perfect for the sweltering Oklahoma heat.

While Tarahumara’s has been a long time favorite, I went twice in the span of two weeks to write this review. On my first visit, I ordered the Guiso Mexicano ($11.85) which is a dish comprised of very tender beef tips in a sauce made from tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. It comes with rice, beans and guacamole. I particularly enjoyed the tenderness of the beef and the spiciness of the sauce. The next day I reheated my leftovers along with some of the tortillas and made my own burrito for lunch.

My friend Nancy had the Tacos al Borrego ($11.85 for 2, $13.75 for 3), which is comprised of Mexican-style tacos with soft corn tortillas rather than hard shells. These tacos come with rice, beans and avocado slices. While Nancy said she enjoyed her meal, she said “I did have a bit of gristle in the steak in my taco, but I would let that slide — they can’t always get all that cut out.”

On my next visit, my mother ordered the Camaron al Mojo de Ajo ($12.60 single or $18.35 for double shrimp or scallops) which is shrimp cooked in garlic butter. While the shrimp were good size, Mom commented they could have had a little more garlic and the sauce could have been better. In reviewing the menu, I see that this dish was supposed to come with Mexican corn. She didn’t receive corn with her meal, but with the ample rice, beans and avocados, it wasn’t missed.

In keeping with a promise I made to myself to order something different this time, I ordered the Bistec Ranchero ($12.75), listed on the menu as a new item. This thinly-sliced, marinated and grilled strip steak had a good flavor, but it was a little on the tough side. In the future, I think I will stick to thicker cuts of meat.

Of note for both of my recent meals — I love it that nearly every single entrée comes with either a side of guacamole or some sliced avocados. To me, that’s an added bonus. I also appreciate that they have an ample lunch menu with lots of great items at value prices, and a low-carb menu for those who are looking for something healthier.

Tarahumara’s stands out to me as a cut above the standard Tex-Mex fare. They offer some unique dishes in addition to the standards and most everything they do is done very well. If you live close by, it’s definitely worth your attention. Even if you live farther away, you might find, like me, that it’s worth a special trip now and then. So check it out, and tell us all about your impressions in the comments below.

Tarahumara's Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

This article was posted by Holley Mangham on Tuesday, July 7th, 2009. It is filed under:

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  • Ryan S. says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 9:53 am   

    I love this place. The green enchiladas are fantastic.

  • Bald Ryan says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 12:50 pm   

    Great fajitas. Tasteless enchiladas. Great, huge Tecates. Great service. VERY clean. Very popular; expect to wait if you come at peak times.

  • Brittany says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 3:12 pm   

    There are several reasons I miss living in Norman. Tarahumara’s is one of them. I can’t wait to go back.

    Their food is good enough to draw “celebrity” crowds… Barry Switzer once held the door open for me!

  • Whitney Fleming says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 3:49 pm   

    I have not been and have heard many great things. I definitly need to try the next time we are in Norman. The addded guacamole or avacado with each entree sounds great!

  • Nickie says:
    July 8th, 2009 at 7:30 am   

    The tilapia lunch special is wonderful. Its my usual order and I make fish tacos with the tilapia and the flour tortillas. This is a favorite place in Norman.

  • Heather says:
    July 8th, 2009 at 8:33 am   

    I lived in Norman for 5 years while going to school and this was by far the favorite eating place for my friends and I! Many birthdays, special events, or just regular dinners were spent at Tarahumara’s. Everyone had a favorite and whether you ate the same meal every time or tried something new it is always delicious. The wait is never very long and always worth it! Since graduating I moved to Edmond and I miss Tarahumara’s delicious food more than anything. My favorite are the carne asada tacos, they are incredible!

  • Laura says:
    July 9th, 2009 at 7:57 am   

    I love Tarahumara! Last time, I got the Chicken Mole, and it was amazing. I couldn’t believe how much chicken breast was in the mole sauce. Beware of the seeds sprinkled on top. If you don’t like heat, you need to brush them aside.

  • Tex-Mex at it’s best « Between Spaghetti and Soufflé says:
    July 10th, 2009 at 3:53 pm   

    [...] has a great write up on Tarahumara’s this week, and I learned something [...]

  • Kevin says:
    July 11th, 2009 at 12:36 pm   

    Here, above all others, when my impatience can withstand the hordes. When impatience reigns too strong, then a very very close second for me has been Tulio’s.

    Then there’s the rest, but I rarely ever get to any of them.

  • Nickie says:
    July 13th, 2009 at 12:11 pm   

    Another lunch at Tarahumara’s, lunch special was the Serviche, (cold seafood salad type dish with lots of lime. It was their special today. I have a new favorite.

  • Alisa says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:57 pm   

    I think Tarahumara’s is fantastic! I particularly love their chips and salsa.

  • Sara says:
    July 16th, 2009 at 9:15 am   

    Not to be redundant, but I too, LOVE Tarahumara’s. It’s my favorite mexican/tex-mex restaurant in the OKC metro area, imo it beats Ted’s hands down! I went there often during my time as a student at OU, and four years after graduation, I still go back from time to time even though I live in OKC. The staff is so friendly and attentive, even though they are usually very busy b/c the restaurant is packed. My favorite thing on the menu is the pork tamales. Definitely worth a trip to Norman!

  • Mikki says:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 2:03 pm   

    I agree that this is a wonderful choice, the only issue is that this restaurant is not Tex-Mex, but merely traditional mexican. The owner is from Chihuahua, Mexico. After living near the Mexican border and eating both Tex-Mex and Mexican food, i don’t feel it is Tex-Mex at all.

  • Andrew says:
    July 29th, 2009 at 7:56 pm   

    I have lived in Norman for almost 14 years and still have not been able to figure out what the obsession is with this place… mostly from people out of OKC. It is better than most of the Tex-Mex places in the city but it nothing to write home about… I think it is above average but barely

  • Chris Hennes says:
    August 12th, 2009 at 1:14 pm   

    I moved to Norman last year and have eaten there a half dozen times: I can understand both sides of Tarahumara’s. Order carefully and you can get some very good food, order poorly and you can wind up with utter crap. I was especially surprised to see someone above comment positively on the Tilapia tacos, which I found to be an absolutely miserable specimen of overcooked flavorless fish.The Carne Asada tacos are very good, however. Why all these places insist on wasting time and money on that “cheese” goop is still beyond me, however.

  • Cult of Nobody says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 6:00 pm   

    “There is some kind of herb or spice in the relish that I cannot pinpoint. All I know is that it gives a slight smoky flavor to the relish, setting it apart from other places.”

    I have never eaten at Tarahumara but I would guess that the spice is either chipotle (smoked jalapenos) or possibly cumin(comino). I have never considered cumin smoky tasting but the perky little chick from the Food Network that makes meals in 30 minutes always says it has a smoky flavor. So maybe it affects peoples palettes in different ways.

  • Clayton says:
    August 20th, 2009 at 9:18 am   

    My only complaint would be the crowds. They manage them just as good as any restaurant though. It’s amazing how friendly the staff is when they’re kept so busy.

    Make sure to ask for lime if you have a beer. They can lime and/or salt the rim of the glass!

    I’d like to see a review of Pepe Delgado’s in Norman. I bet it’s the most authentic mexican food in the OKC-area.

  • MaryAnn says:
    November 14th, 2009 at 7:49 pm   

    Love, Love, Love this place!!!! Its the best mexican in OKlahoma! YUMMY!!!! Everything is top notch-service, food, and drinks.

  • Christina says:
    July 14th, 2010 at 10:48 am   

    The next time you visit try the Carne Guisada. It’s a mexican beef stew. It’s become one of my favorites. They are always very busy but worth the wait and the drive to Norman.

  • Ode to Tarahumara’s: My Favorite Mexican Food in the WWW « SanFranciscoSooner says:
    August 13th, 2010 at 1:00 pm   

    [...] time I left Norman for a long period of time, Tarahumara’s was my first stop when I got back. Case in point: Went to China, went straight from the airport to [...]

  • Jason says:
    September 21st, 2010 at 12:43 pm   

    Have eaten here a few times, never impressed with anything ive had. Definately did not live up to the hype.

  • Kaylee says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 1:46 pm   

    I really like this place! I have only been a handful of times as it is in Norman, but I always had great service with friendly people and a clean environment!

  • Diedra says:
    April 22nd, 2011 at 8:12 pm   

    After circling the parking lot and almost deciding to go somewhere else, we finally got a spot. It looks like they might be building more parking to the west of the place. We really liked it. We went for lunch. We had great service and the food was served promptly. I would definitely go back!!

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