El Rio Verde: The Wet Burrito

Posted by Tasha on November 17th, 2009 in Restaurants

El Rio Verde

Having lived in Tulsa for more than a quarter century, I’ve had my share of meals that by most accounts would fall into the Mexican genre of food.

Set down in front of me on technicolor Fiestaware has been everything from a cheese-doused, deep-fried chimichanga filled with Rotel and composite chicken to handmade tamales I had to order either in Spanish or by number from one of those back-lit menu boards we know from snack bars at high school basketball games.

I know I just painted the opposite ends of the spectrum of what could feasibly be called Mexican food in the lower Midwest. But, here’s the deal: I’m not one of those food writers who leads a concurrent life as a food snob. Sure, I like fine food and dishes that resonate with authenticity. But, I also like bagged tortilla chips and several brands of canned enchilada sauce. I’d eat the dishes I described in the preceding paragraph with equal satisfaction. And vigor. And by dirtying the same number of napkins.

A secret: All the great food writers are messy eaters. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. This is one of the easier ways to aspire to greatness in our lives.

Since my opinion on the importance of authenticity of cuisine is neither here nor there, I’m also not one of those food writers who is hellbent on globetrotting to discover how different foods are “supposed to be prepared.” I’ve never been to Mexico, but I have shopped in grocery stores that, for a certain red-headed, SPF-60 addict, required an English-Spanish dictionary.

All of that said (yes, I’m about to get to the actual food part of this post), I love to get my nosh on at El Rio Verde.

El Rio Verde

At 38 N. Trenton, just off Admiral and Utica, its safe to say the location is right for authentic Mexican food. The decor is spot on, too.

El Rio Verde

El Rio Verde

While conservative talk radio personality Neal Boortz isn’t exactly my top pick for best-ever radio show host, I love what I heard him say once about Mexican food restaurants. He likes ‘em bright, he likes ‘em gaudy and he likes ‘em pretty darn near offensive to the eye. The more cacophonous and contrived the decor, he says, the better the food.

I couldn’t agree more.

El Rio Verde

This, ladies and gents, is the fabled El Rio Verde wet burrito. It’s one of the first things folks hear about when they come into town and ask where to get some good food – food that is distinctly Tulsa.

What it is: A steering-wheel-sized flour tortilla packed with pulled beef (or pork or chicken), refried beans, fresh pico de gallo, rainbows, ponies and baby giggles. It’s smothered in a rich enchilada sauce and topped with a few hands full of queso blanco. Sour cream and fresh guac are stacked on top almost humorously, like eyes.

El Rio Verde

Anyone still feeling snooty about authentic Mexican food? I know a lot of folks say that once cheese and refried beans come into the mix, a dish ceases to be authentic Mexican food. To those people I say, fine.

All the more for me.

For all of this my debit card was charged a mere $6, a bargain for a platter-sized lunch, and I was allowed to continue to sit at my table to chatter with my friend and dining buddy, and our basket of housemade tortilla chips and salsa were refilled regularly. We didn’t even hear a tisk-tisk. My buddy and I, we were in real-girl heaven.

Girls, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not ladylike to eat the entire thing. I did, and no one looked at me sideways.

Guys, if you can’t eat a whole wet burrito, you’d better have the cash for a tip to make up for it. You can’t slack on the machismo in a place like El Rio Verde and expect to get away with it.

El Rio Verde

Have you made your way to El Rio Verde? What do you order there? I hear the breakfast is good enough to send a person right back to bed.

El Rio Verde on Urbanspoon

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22 Comments to El Rio Verde: The Wet Burrito

  1. Ed Sharrer

    On November 17, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    1

    Love El Rio Verde! I love their Camarones Rancheros, fish tacos (as close to authentic Baja as we can get here), cevice (with octopus!), tortas, and absolutely love their breakfast. Great huevos con chorizo.

  2. beautynbeast16

    On November 17, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    2

    I like that place, but you should go to Casa San Marcos at 21st and Garnett and then EL Burrito. Thos are some authenic mexican places.

  3. GreenEyes

    On November 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    3

    Good thing you snapped a photo of those burritos quickly – you were only minutes away from having nothing but empty plates to look at. (Not that I would know what it’s like to eat an entire wet burrito myself). And P.S. my favorite thing at El Rio Verde IS the wet burrito (pictured above – the one with the fork about to go in it, because no, I couldn’t wait until AFTER you took the photo to dig in).

  4. Tasha

    On November 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    4

    Ed – Mmm. Camarones Rancheros. And huevos con chorizo – oh, boy. Sam's Mexican God mother can whip up a super-mean batch of those, but I'd be happy to give El Rio Verde's a try.

    GreenEyes, there are a few reasons why no one likes to eat at restaurants with me. First, I over-analyze, resulting in a lot of plates sent back to the kitchen. Second, no one can eat until I've snapped 576 photos of the food. I am so, so bad and rude and generally unpleasant when dining with others. I had a buddy with me for ERV because she'd only dined out with me once before and hasn't really been exposed to the horror that is sitting at the same table with me when I send back a plate of salmon because it's not quite rare enough. Yikes!

  5. GreenEyes

    On November 17, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    5

    Hey TDT: Just in case you didn't catch on, I AM the person you were with at ERV. That mysterious hand with the green bling and the fork – that's me. That's actually MY burrito in the photo. And it's making me hungry as I type.

  6. Tasha

    On November 17, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    6

    Holy crap, I'm an idiot!

  7. Brett McKay

    On November 18, 2009 at 1:20 am

    7

    Oh man. That place is fantastic. My wife took me there a few months ago after I finished law school so I could get a wet torta. The last time I had a wet torta was when I lived in Mexico. The one at El Rio Verde tasted just like the ones I'd buy in the streets of Tijuana. Of course you have to wash it down with Coca-Cola Meixicana.

  8. Joe

    On November 18, 2009 at 1:49 am

    8

    Tasha, you have to go back for their breakfast. Love their Huevos Rancheros and a big Coke in the bottle – yum yum!

  9. Nancy

    On November 18, 2009 at 4:09 am

    9

    Great post- but now I'm so hungry!! Also love their sopes and will definately try the wet torta!

  10. Brooklyn

    On November 18, 2009 at 5:07 am

    10

    I HAVE been there! I didn't figure it out until I saw the outside of the building. I don't really remember what I had because I don't like Mexican food, but I do remember my friend breaking a tooth on the chips and not being able to eat his meal when it came. Sad.

  11. Steven H. Roemerman Sr

    On November 18, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    11

    I found a bullet shell in the parking lot there once! Anyway, I concur, El Rio Verde is straight up awesome….but get there early or you will have to wait for a table

  12. Brian

    On November 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    12

    I can't wait to try! Love your writeup. I call those "Donkey Burritos"

  13. Brigid

    On November 18, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    13

    I'm never brave enough to try the authentic places because I'm meat-free (and mostly dairy-free now), and very few places do refried beans without lard. That does look delicious, though!

  14. NatBean

    On November 19, 2009 at 2:21 am

    14

    rainbows, ponies, and baby giggles!!!!
    I almost choked on my drink with that one.

  15. Jill of All Trades

    On November 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    15

    This is our fav place to eat and we darken their doors at least once a week at the minimum. The steak wet burrito is my choice most of the time. YUMMY…I'm hungry

  16. Brian Schwartz

    On July 26, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    16

    *Gus van Sant, one of our most talented film directors, put a lot of time and effort into filming a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho"

    *The Wet Burrito is just one of those gustatory treats that, like a fine food muse, inspires all great food writers to excel themselves.

    *I knew you'd written a review of Rio Verde but had forgotten how well-written it was.

    All of these are valid excuses for my presumption in writing my own review of Rio Verde's Wet Burrito after you wrote yours.

    http://www.tulsafoodblog.com/lunch/el-rio-verde-tulsa

  17. Hiroko Rubenstein

    On November 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    17

    Hey there, long time lurker here with my first ever comment! My daughter is getting married to her lovely mexican gentleman soon, and I’m tasked with doing the wedding arrangements! I thought enchiladas would be a nice snack, so trying to find some good enchilada recipes. What do you think? Any other suggestions?? Anyway, thanks for your hard work as ever… I’ll try to comment a little more on future posts.

  18. Jack Montgomery

    On February 9, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    18

    It has been a few years since my wife and I had dinner there but as I recall it was all that the previous posters mentioned: its pretty loud and raucous, interior design is truly Mexican design w/ the bright colors if not NEON Bright. There were about 20 0f us on a Sunday evening and the food and beverages and especially the service was terrific. Good chips and salsa.

  19. Tasha

    On February 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    19

    Good point about the service, Jack – always stellar when I’ve been.

  20. Shel

    On February 9, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    20

    OMG, you are hysterical. Awesome awesome awesome. I think I’m in love. It might be the burrito.

    I’m a first-gen Tulsan who isn’t even there anymore. It’s still my town, though, and I love it. Thanks for giving it the props it deserves.

    Nice work.

  21. Delsmom

    On February 9, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    21

    ERV was one of the first restaurants I ate at before moving to Tulsa aover 10 year ago. It still kicks grass! My only complaint is that they removed the jukebox that was over by the door. On many a-weekend mornings, way back when, my ex and I would I dine there with all the latino crowd elbow-to-elbow. The jukebox would be blaring with loud thumpin’ tuba music and the place would be rockin’ with a beer on every table! Glad it’s still there and thriving.

  22. Betty

    On February 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    22

    My daughter is in Barcelona and she posted this on her Facebook because she misses the wet burrito so much. Our family loves this place!

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