The sign outside Cocina de Guatelinda’s reads “Authentic Guatemalan and Mexican Cuisine.” Truer words were never written. At this small restaurant every visit is like walking into a friend’s kitchen and sitting down at the table for dinner. While perusing the menu, the sights and smells of the kitchen pervade the senses. You see flour being patted on fresh tortillas and potato salad being mixed; the scent of the daily soup simmering on the stove wafts through the dining area.
The first greeting comes with a basket of chips and a couple salsa options, one with a little heat, one more mild. If you’re really fortunate, you might even have a surprise third option that chef and owner Piedad DeLeon has put together. My table had one with roasted red peppers and onions that was delicious.
To cool the tongue there are a few beers and fruit juices to choose from. If you’re in the mood for something different, try the Horchata, a traditional Latin American beverage flavored with cinnamon, rice water, and pumpkin seeds.
There are a lot of menu options, but several dishes are real standouts. The tamales are large, wrapped in banana leaves and made with your choice of rice, potato, or masa. The Pepian, a spicy chicken dish, is cooked in a zesty tomato sauce. The fried tilapia comes out whole, head and all. Some people don’t like to have their food looking back at them, but in this case, a little eye contact is worth it (or as some other guests have tried, you can cover the fish head with a napkin).
Then there are the Pupusas: tortillas stuffed with any combination you choose of pork, cheese, and loroco, a plant that grows mainly in Central America whose flowers and flower buds are used to flavor food. The loroco is green, crunchy, and adds a subtle flavor to the dish.
Aside from the more unusual Central American options, they also have plenty of crowd-pleasing dishes like enchiladas, fried chicken, carne guisada, and even a hot dog wrapped in bacon. The house potato salad, blended black beans, and fried potatoes all make first-rate side dishes. One of the most amazing things is that most dishes are under $10.
While visiting Cocina Guatelinda, stop in at their grocery store next door, Tienda Gutalinda, and pick up ingredients to make these classic and authentic Guatemalan dishes on your own.
Guatelinda has been a frequent oasis for my friends and me on these hot Oklahoma summer days and nights. Still, looking at their long list of stews and soups makes me wish for fall and winter to come even faster.
Open everyday (except Wednesday) from 11:00am to 9:00 pm
3043 NW 16th Street, (405) 601-1300
(c) 2010 Kim Hickerson All Rights reserved. Kim is a writer living in Crestwood, Oklahoma City.