Celebrating 10 years of Elote with Libby Billings
Q&A with the restaurateur on her downtown foodie journey, plus the upcoming Cinco de Mayo festivities.
Can you believe it has been 10 years since you opened Elote?
No. I feel so old!
When you opened, did you have a vision for the next decade?
Honestly, I did not. I just wanted to have a little, eco-friendly restaurant that was open for Monday-to-Friday lunches. Now 10 years later I own three restaurants and am open nights and weekends, too.
Your Cinco de Mayo party has quickly become a Tulsa tradition. What makes it so much fun?
The luchadores are the main attraction. Puffy tacos and margaritas don’t hurt though. But I think the festival being located on Boston Avenue and being sandwiched in between all the tall buildings make it a really magical setting for Tulsa. (Editor’s note: Elote’s Cinco de Mayo festival is May 4-5.)
Elote was the first Tulsa restaurant to implement commercial recycling and biodegradable waste. Why was it important to you?
I always joke that I was raised by hippies, but it’s true. These were practices at my home growing up, and I wanted to be true to my character and practice them at work, as well. It’s painful to me to see how wasteful the restaurant industry is. Most restaurants put all waste in the trash to be burnt or put in a landfill. At Elote we have a bucket for a local pig farmer, a bucket for compost, one for recycling and finally one for trash. It’s not that much harder, and my employees are happy to help because they know it’s having a positive impact on the environment.
Tell us about your leadership with the Deco District Business Association and the Deco pop-up shops.
I founded the Deco District Business Association about eight years ago. I served as the president for the first five years and loved my time there. We put on really unique events like Chalkfest and the Pop-Up Shops. It was so much fun to bring some life to our district outside of Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. Honestly, I miss it sometimes. But I’m just really busy these days with teenagers and work.
What’s next? More restaurants or businesses?
I don’t think so. My kids are growing up really fast, and I want to spend as much time with them as possible while I can. Who knows what I’ll get into once they graduate high school though.
What inspires you to do what you do?
I have a deep love for entertaining and for trying new things. Whether it’s having a small dinner party at home or throwing a street festival for thousands of people, I enjoy the challenge. I love to feed people, and I love to see them enjoying something unique.
What keeps you in Tulsa?
Tulsa is home.