Juan del Fuego: Review
About two years after I stopped waiting tables, the nightmares of being in the weeds finally ended. For those of you who don’t know the term, “in the weeds,” it essentially means you have more tables than you can handle and they’re all needing something five minutes ago and you can’t remember what kind of dressing table 21 wanted on their salad and the baby at table 25 smashed up crackers all over the place and your manager is glaring at you because he’s dealing with an upset guest and oh, here comes a group of six, headed right toward your section.
Not that that ever happened to me.
I have always said everyone should wait tables for at least a few months of their lives. It should be a pre-requisite to truly becoming an adult. It teaches so many essential, valuable lessons that are applicable to daily life. I’ll save my long list of lessons for another post, but one of the greatest things learned while waiting tables is how to multi-task. How to think ten steps ahead of what you are currently doing; to visualize the end-result and to get there in the most efficient way possible.
If you’re still unsure of what I mean by this, hop on over to Juan del Fuego in Norman, OK and sit at the bar. Order a cup of coffee. Watch and learn.
The bar is the best seat in the house. Why? Because you’re basically sitting in the kitchen. When I was little, I would ask my grandma how I could help her cook. She always told me, “Just watch me. That’s the best way you can help.” Well, I was a huge help at Juan’s on Saturday morning during the 10am rush. Not only was I watching, but I had a camera on his back the entire time he worked.
Together, we flipped Chorizo Omelets, threw bacon in the deep fryer, grilled blue corn tortillas for Huevos Rancheros, made blueberry pancakes and smothered as much food as possible with our homemade red sauce. All while constantly sharing half of our flat top grill with piles of hash browns and fuego fries.
Oh, did I forget to mention? The owner of this diner – the man whose name is on everything from the sign out front to the coffee mugs – makes each meal for each guest with his own two hands.
Watching Juan and his wife, Elayne, work the kitchen was impressive and exhausting. The duo works together seamlessly. She flitted around him, prepping omelets and sprinkling queso fresco while he broke eggs and dropped them on a pan with one hand and passed off a completed order with the other. Guests frequently stopped by the bar area to say hi to Elayne, to ask how her mom was doing, to thank Juan for a great breakfast. They never missed a beat.
These two go way back in the restaurant industry. Juan spent 17 years working at the Diner, a well-known Norman landmark, and Elayne worked there for five. They’re used to being extremely busy. They’re used to being watched by the guests.
Justin and I waltzed in at 9:45am on a Saturday morning and walked right up to two open chairs at the bar. We were very lucky. Usually at this time, there is a line trickling out of the restaurant. We didn’t ask questions, we just got to it!
A Facebook fan suggested that we try the Tamales and Eggs ($7.99) and the Banana French Toast ($5.99). We also ordered the Chilaquileggs ($5.99) and after Justin realized the bacon was deep-fried, we quickly requested a side.
The Banana French Toast was wonderful. Two slices of wheat bread were cut in half and covered with sliced bananas that were grilled briefly on the flat top. It was lightly dusted with powdered sugar and served with syrup on the side. I loved that it wasn’t topped with syrup already because I prefer to add my own, if any at all. I was especially delighted to see that the syrup dispenser was impeccably clean and didn’t have a speck of sticky syrup on it!! I did a little dance for that. Overall, the dish was light and seemed pretty healthy for French toast.
The Tamales and Eggs came with two pork tamales and two eggs covered with your choice of homemade sauce. We couldn’t decide between the red or the green, so we got both. ”Christmas” style, as they call it in New Mexico. I personally LOVE Juan’s red sauce (which, by the way, they sell by the jar). But when it comes to the tamales and eggs, I vote green all the way! This was Justin’s favorite dish.
The scrambled Chilaquileggs – Juan’s twist on Chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican dish – were served with thick, crushed homemade corn chips, green peppers, onions and fresh diced tomatoes. This ended up being my favorite. I’m really big on adding a little crunch to just about anything I eat and I really enjoyed the corn chips and, of course, the red sauce in this dish.
If breakfast isn’t your thing, don’t despair. There are several lunch items available on the menu including tostadas, burger melts and enchiritos. Juan del Fuego is open daily from 7am-2pm and is located in the Red Bud Plaza across from Sam’s on west Main Street.
Watch Juan in action here: