Delicious Mexican food, a gorgeous view and lakeside dining? Look no further than Mama Roja on Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City
Last month I took a road trip with my parents to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. We drove, and since it was an 11-hour trip, we broke it up by staying in Lafayette on the way down and Dallas on the way back. Well, the hotel itself on the way back was in the suburb of Addison. It’s one of my favorite areas of Dallas, with nice hotels and tons of restaurants. I swear there are 100 restaurants within just a few miles of downtown. Saturday night my dad and I discovered Thai Star, and found a gem that serves outstanding food.
My original plan for Sunday morning was to have brunch at one of my favorite restaurants nearby before heading back to Stillwater. My mom threw a wrench in the plans, as she wanted to stop at the outlet mall in Allen TX. I’m a big fan of outlet malls, and really love that one. But I also wasn’t that fired up about sitting around until noon when the mall opened, and then still having to drive 4 hours back home. They had the same store she wanted in the Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City, so we woke up early, had breakfast at the hotel, and hit the road.
Through nearly 4 years of this blog, both my writing and photography have come a long way. Looking back at some of my early pictures, it looks like I didn’t even try to focus. Several months ago I began returning to some of the restaurants where my photos were really bad. It’s an opportunity for a new post, and also to redeem my photography skills.
Mama Roja in Oklahoma City is on my list of restaurants to return to for better pictures. It was one of my very first blog posts, and since my parents love Mexican food it was a perfect combination.
Mama Roja is located on Lake Hefner. It’s a very popular area when the weather is nice. You can travel all the way around the lake via sidewalk, and there are boat ramps, fishing docks, a golf course, and trails. Lake Hefner is home to several restaurants, and to date the only other restaurant I’ve reviewed is Hefner Grill.
We arrived after 2PM, so the restaurant was almost empty. On my first visit our wait was about 25 minutes, so an empty restaurant is definitely not the norm. Mama Roja is quite large, with several distinct seating areas. There is a private dining room to the right as you enter, tables and booths in the main dining area; you walk up a couple of steps to the large bar with seating around the bar as well as bar tables and booths. There is a covered circular outdoor patio, and a larger enclosed patio with huge sliding windows. The restaurant itself literally sits on the lake, with gorgeous views.
Our table was in the enclosed patio. I was a little worried that it would be too cold, but they have heaters and of course the windows are closed. As a matter of fact, at one point we were overly warm due to the heaters. They were playing awesome music during our visit, and I found myself dancing along in my seat. I almost felt like I was in Mexico, and it made me want to head straight to the airport and hop on a plane.
Mama Roja makes their own chips constantly throughout the day, and you can tell the difference from restaurants that don’t. The chips are warm, are very light and crispy, and have wonderful flavor. My mom somehow always shows restraint with the chips, but my dad and I will just mindlessly eat them. We actually did pretty well this day, and never even finished the first basket. The salsa is delicious, and has a pretty good kick. The white sauce is warm, and is very smooth and creamy. My dad doesn’t do spicy, so we mixed them together, and that proved to be a fantastic combination.
The Mama Roja menu isn’t as large as other Mexican restaurants, which is a good thing because I don’t do well with big menus. They offer salads, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, entrees, and a small lunch menu. What the menu doesn’t have is many vegetarian/seafood options. My parents are both vegetarian, so when we’re together I normally check menus first before deciding on a place to eat. Of course this is the one time I didn’t check, because most Mexican restaurants offer a nice variety of vegetarian options.
We started with an order of the sweet corn tamale cakes
The tamale cakes are cold, an unexpected surprised. The cakes are delicious, and have a wonderful mixture of ingredients, textures and flavors. The corn cake itself is savory, and the salsa adds a very nice sweetness. The chipotle sour cream cools down the heat from the verde sauce.
My parents both eventually settled on the crispy fish tacos for their entree, which is what I had on my last visit. All entrees come with rice and your choice of beans (refried, vegetarian black, borracho), and they both went with the black beans
I really enjoyed the tacos on my last visit, and my parents agreed. The black beans are like a soup, a very unique presentation. The black beans are excellent, with big chunks of tomatoes and onions.
When I’m at a Mexican restaurant for the first time, I usually get fajitas. I figure if they can do those well, everything else will be good. I already knew the food here was good, but as usual I was having a very hard time deciding what to get. You would think with a smaller menu I wouldn’t have that problem, but sadly that wasn’t the case. After a lot of back and forth, I decided to get the steak fajitas with the borracho beans.
I’ve eaten a lot of fajitas in my life. These fajitas are in the top 3. Ever. The meat was so incredibly tender, and the flavor is outstanding. I tracked down the manager and raved about them, and learned they marinate the meat for 24 hours in soy sauce and pineapple juice. I’m sure there are some other spices in there as well.
The pico is essentially a tomato salad, which is different than normal pico de gallo. The tomatoes are very sweet, bursting with flavor. I’m not sure where they get tomatoes like that in the middle of winter, but they are delicious. Some restaurants skimp on the guacamole, which is why I often ask for double. Mama Roja is the opposite. The borracho beans were wonderful. The broth is rich and well-seasoned. The rice was good, but I only ate a little bit. Again, I wanted to save carbs and make sure I could finish the rest of my food.
Will I go back to Mama Roja? No question. I honestly forget about restaurants on the lake quite often, because I don’t get out there very much. But the view is so amazing, and the atmosphere is really good. I definitely want to go out and run the lake. It’s about 10 miles, so it would be one of my final training runs in early April. And after running 10 miles, fajitas would definitely hit the spot.