It’s not easy being green, but Elote Café & Catering is proof that it can be well worth it and delicious.
Libby and Jeramy Auld opened the Fresh-Mex restaurant in downtown Tulsa in 2008 with a commitment to excellence and the environment. Elote started as a lunch spot, but that quickly changed. “If you’re only open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., you’re limited. We didn’t want to hinder the growth of downtown. We wanted to be part of it,” says Libby Auld. Since then, the restaurant has grown into a downtown favorite. Elote is also Oklahoma’s Greenest Restaurant, the only Platinum Certified ECO restaurant in the state.
Elote’s cuisine mixes organic ingredients with Central American flair, and its concept is built on a green foundation. “There is so much waste in the restaurant industry. I felt I could make a difference by having a green restaurant,” says Auld. You’ll find Elote in the old home of Nelson’s Buffeteria. “When you refurbish a building instead of building new, that is a more sustainable practice. That’s one way to help green the city,“ says Auld, but Elote’s owners didn’t stop there.
Elote’s commitment to reduce and reuse repeats itself throughout the café. One of the best examples is the unique Luchador Bar. The bar is named after the masked Mexican wrestlers, who, thanks to Elote, have a big following here in Tulsa. You can watch the wrestling some nights at Elote and consider it dinner and a show! Mexican buildings simply made out of mortar and bottles inspire the bar’s design. In fact, the mortar and the grout are the only parts of the bar which are not recycled. The wood supporting the base came from old railroad ties discovered in the restaurant’s basement. The smooth
golden wooden bar top is repurposed wood from a remodeling project at the Auld’s home. Auld found the colorful bottles at a local recycling center. “The recycling center isn’t used to people taking things out,” says Auld. “But that’s what we did. Pretty much the entire bar is recycled. Talk about cost effective!”
While “going green” can save money, in some cases it requires spending more. For instance, Elote’s to-go containers are 100% biodegradable, made from sugar beets and corn. They cost the owners about 75% more than the standard Styrofoam, but Auld says it’s worth it. They also recycle and compost. While there is an expense with recycling, they save with a smaller dumpster because they aren’t throwing as much away. “It’s okay if it’s a wash” says Auld, “because we’re doing the right thing.”
At Elote, all printing is done on 100% recycled paper; they wash their own linens and support local business to put money back into the local economy. Elote’s meat is organically grain fed and raised in Bixby. During farming season, May-October, Elote uses Oklahoma-grown items from farmers markets two to three times a week. Does that take more time? You bet, but its time well spent. “Customers are eating healthier food, my employees are eating healthier food, and I’m eating healthier food,” says Auld, “The end result is going to be better for you and your health.”
You will find the standard green items on the menu, like guacamole and margaritas, but mixed in are old favorites with new twists. From spicy, Ghost Pepper Salsa to Salmon Tacos and Sweet Corn Tamales, Elote is generating a lot of buzz for its tasty, healthy, filling food. Even the popular television show Man v. Food stopped in to sample Elote’s signature Puffy Tacos. A puffy taco is made up of two flour tortilla shells flash fried (think sopapilla) then filled with either grass fed beef, free-range chicken or vegetables. It is then topped with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato onion relish, cheese and crema fresca. The Veggie Burrito is also a favorite; it was perfected in the Auld’s home kitchen. You’ll find standard sides like rice and beans or opt for sweet potatoes or Elote (roasted corn). Wash it all down with local and traditional Mexican beers, Sangria, Tequila or any beverage of choice. Be sure to check out your straw, too. Not only is it green in color, but it is made out of plants and is biodegradable. “We are very fortunate to have people support us the way they do. I think people want more green businesses in Tulsa,” says Auld. The restaurant that gives back to the earth gives back to the community, too. Just last month, Elote held the Luchador Run to benefit the downtown YMCA.
Clearly Libby and Jeramy Auld have cooked up a recipe for success. Now they have plans to recycle the idea. Come spring, you’ll find their new booth at the Cherry Street Farmers Market. The environmental trendsetters are also working on another eatery called “The Vault.” It will feature American fare, but will serve up the same environmental practices as Elote.
It will be located in the former National Auto Bank building at 7th and Cincinnati. In fact, they’ve just been given the green thumbs up. TL