Tulsa taco spots are more divisive than politics or religion.
Tempers run high with tortillas on the line, and Tulsans square up to defend with skin. A simple timeline request for "best taco" pits sons against mothers, and reminds one to delete that dude from high school who answers "Jack in the Box."
The Tulsa World stepped in it last October when they published a "best tacos" list that included nods to Margaritaville and more than one sushi restaurant. Even if they had stuck to traditional Mexi-joints, there was a criminal omission from their list: Pollos Asados al Carbon.
The truck sits behind a strip in Kendall Whittier at the northeastern corner of Admiral Boulevard and Lewis Avenue. Owned by brothers Mario and Daniel Ruiz, Pollos’ claims to fame are the green sauce and the $5-for-five-tacos deal.
The whole chicken dinner they’re named after is what caught former mayor Kathy Taylor’s eye, and earned them a slot at Mother Road Market.
Their spot at MRM is called "& Tacos," and features an expanded menu including fried dishes like chimichangas. All of the meats are the same indescribably delicious ones from the Pollos Asados truck, so you simply pick a protein and choose your meat delivery device.
Burrito, quesadilla, chimichanga, Gordita …
And tacos. Duh.
Mario says even at Mother Road, their taco sales dwarf the other meat vehicles. That’s because—and I am aware this is the Franz Ferdinand that’ll kick off World Taco War One—they are the best tacos in town.
"Best taco" is a bold statement, and one best viewed through the lens of Quantum Taco Theory. There is objectivity in taco adjudication: tortilla quality, moistness of meat, regional seasoning, and price. Pollos comes up aces in all categories.
But discussion—and mere observation of—a taco’s assumed quality can warp their value in a reality hinging on mutual hallucination. However, it is an increasingly agreed-upon Matrix glitch that Pollos is the best, and we must pray for those stuck in the Mr. Taco timeline.
Meta-taco-physics aside, we will consider the data.
Those meats, for one.
There is a sweet and savory depth to their pastor that hints at cinnamon and clove. Their cabeza is buttery from the fat content, bringing to mind a perfect pot roast. Even their basic asada—a meat skipped over by some taco snobs—is moist and seasoned to what can only be lazily called "perfection."
Other options include chorizo, barbacoa, and campechana, though they lack lengua and tripe—or as former Edible Tulsa contributor Zac King calls them, "the goober meats."
Then there’s that green sauce.
Salsa verde is available at a wide variety of trucks around town, but there is something different about Mario and Daniel’s. It is very creamy and spicy from the avocado and jalapeño, but its flirtations with holiness come from a recipe that’s been in the Ruiz family for "as long as [Mario] can remember."
But hailing a taco truck in the ever-trendy Kendall Whittier district as "the best" would be the height of hipster folly without a true control. So I took my friend and taco hunter, Nick Flores, on an east Tulsa truck safari.
We tried four well-respected trucks, tasting the bare bones asada and pastor at them all, but none came close. I will not name them, because they all were great in their own right. One popular truck had recently upgraded to a trailer the size of a midway fair attraction—complete with a spinning cone of pastor they freshly shave off.
But Pollos Asados they were not.
That the best truck in town could be so close to downtown and midtown isn’t as odd as it seems.
As of the last census, Kendall Whittier was 31 percent Latino, and Latino enrollment in the neighborhood school is over 50 percent. In fact, Pollos Asados’ whole chicken dinners are a cornerstone of many neighborhood Latino families’ dinner tables. Mario said they sell 80 whole chicken dinners a day at the truck alone.
Mario and Daniel have been serving this community for 11 years, and have seen their sales increase with the influx of breweries, bars, and bookstores. Daniel is very quiet, and Mario only slightly less so. Humbled by both the patronage of his restaurants and interest in he and his brother’s story, Mario says business is booming at their Mother Road Market location, and they have no plans to ever jack up the price on Pollos’ five-for-$5 deal.
Mostly, though, he’s grateful: "We are thankful for the people that have given us the chance to feed them."