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Fan Fare

With its authentic Oaxaca-style Mexican dishes, relaxed (yet upbeat) vibe and margaritas that rock, the color-splashed El Guapo's Cantina is worth a crosstown drive during rush hour.

Donna Leahey
Sarah Eliza Roberts
June 28, 2019

Do you enjoy a relaxing meal on the patio with friends or family, sipping something cold, and people watching? What if you could do it over a plate of freshly made, delicious, authentic Mexican food while overlooking a breathtaking view of downtown Tulsa? Fortunately, you can do all of those things at Tulsa’s only rooftop cantina, El Guapo’s.

El Guapo’s has owned its corner of downtown since 2007, and not just because of the view from the roof; a lot has to do with its authentic Oaxaca-style Mexican dishes. A mountainous region with coastal areas, Oaxaca is located in the southern part of Mexico. The area is known for cheese, various flavors, and mole — a type of sauce based on one or more chili peppers.

“It’s authentic Oaxaca [at El Guapo’s],” says Samantha Olmos, El Guapo’s manager. “We’re the Mexican restaurant everyone wants to come to.

El Guapo’s has owned its corner of downtown since 2007, and not just because of the view from the roof; a lot has to do with its authentic Oaxaca-style Mexican dishes. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)
El Guapo’s has owned its corner of downtown since 2007, and not just because of the view from the roof; a lot has to do with its authentic Oaxaca-style Mexican dishes. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)

“People come in and get a certain vibe. It’s very relaxing. People are happy here. It’s not corporate here. All of that is why El Guapo’s has been so popular.”

El Guapo’s downtown location’s decor is quirky and eclectic, with brick peeking through stucco, bright turquoise and terra cotta paint, and giant-headed cherubs and paintings of chickens decorating the walls. The feel is something between visiting your abuela’s house and going to a festival. The south Tulsa location is a bit less whimsical, but every bit as fun. And both feature that fresh take on Oaxaca cuisine.

One of the most popular menu items is also Olmos’s favorite: the smoked steak and cheese flauta. “It’s a big flour tortilla fried with steak and cheese and served in a bowl of queso.” The flautas are creamy, the crispy tortilla delivers a lovely crunch, and the queso is rich and full of great cheesy flavor.

Smoked Steak and Cheese Flautas (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)
Smoked Steak and Cheese Flautas (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)

The Tacos el Guapo is another excellent menu choice. They’re street tacos with corn tortillas, onions, cilantro, a spicy tomato salsa, and topped with your choice of carnitas, carne asada, or tinga. Or, if you want to steak it up, try the Tacos al Carbon — flour tortillas with fresh, savory, perfectly-seasoned smoked steak, Jack cheese, guacamole, crema, and pica. You can get either with rice and beans or a side of fruit. These are some seriously good tacos.

If you’re looking for a tasty starter, there are plenty of options. There’s the can’t-go-wrong choice of Cantina Queso. Hearty it up by adding seasoned ground beef or chili con carne. Maybe you’re in the mood for El Patron’s Super Nachos or some tasty elote (two grilled corn cobs with chipotle mayo and cotija). They’re all great choices, but give the Tony Collins Dip a look. It’s a layered dip of refried beans, seasoned ground sirloin, white queso, sour cream, and avocado verde salsa, all topped with fresh pico. It’s a creamy, savory treat you’ll want to double dip into. What a great way to start your cantina visit.

Of course, El Guapo’s serves up a great burrito. Before you make a choice, check out their burrito of the week. You might take a moment to consider whether today might be a chimichanga kind of day, because the chicken chimichanga is stuffed full and crunches so right. While you’re looking over the burritos, be sure to check out the wet burrito. It’s a generous plate of extra goodness: a large flour tortilla generously filled with cheese, refried beans, poblano rice and your choice of chicken, ground beef, or carne asada. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s then smothered in white queso, salsa roja, and pico de gallo. It comes with sour cream and guacamole. The creamy, savory, fresh flavors come together into a festive medley of southern Mexican goodness.

What goes better with Mexican food than a cold, sweet, tangy margarita? “Our margaritas are unique,” says Olmos. “They taste fresh. We have over 100 tequilas, one of the biggest selections in Tulsa.”

One of the best choices if you like color in your margs is the hibiscus margarita. “The hibiscus syrup is made in the kitchen,” says Olmos. This margarita is not just beautiful to look at; it’s lovely to taste. The hibiscus syrup gives it a fruity sweetness without being too sweet. Light, sweet, floral, and pretty. If you want a more serious margarita, consider the Lucky Day made with Grand Marnier. This is one serious margarita with a downright authoritative bite. It’s the perfect way to enjoy that rooftop view.  

Finish your meal off with a basket of sopapillas, served fresh and hot with a side of honey. Or try the churros, filled with Bavarian cream and topped with your choice of cinnamon sugar or strawberry topping. “They’re so good,” adds Olmos.

El Guapo’s offers several specials. Margarita Monday lets you enjoy house margs for $3. Taco Tuesday features $1 pork street tacos and $2 Tecate beers. Wednesday gives you the chance to try that amazing wet burrito for $6.99. Tequila Thursday lets you enjoy $2 tequila shots. And every day from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., the lunch special is a two-choice combo for $8.29.

El Guapo’s Cantina

332 E. 1st St. | Tulsa
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

8161 S. Harvard Ave. | Tulsa
Monday-Sunday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.