NORMAN — Campus Corner in Norman has seen many business come and go. Many of those today are different from previous generations. But Pepe Delgado’s is a classic among its customers and shows all the signs it will be around for generations to come.
Pepe Delgado’s is a Mexican restaurant on Asp Avenue. Owner Emilio L. Salinas opened Pepe’s in 1992 when he moved to Oklahoma. Salina’s said he was looking for a place to make a living and Norman ended up being that place.
Salinas wasn’t formally trained in a expensive culinary school, but instead learned at a young age working in various hotels and restaurants in Mexico and California. His food shows the experience and expertise he developed.
“When I opened in ’92, there were not many Mexican restaurants in Oklahoma. They were all Tex Mex,” he said.
When he opened Pepe’s, his goal was to appeal to those who yearned for true Mexican food as opposed to the crowd happy just having Tex Mex.
He said Pepe’s cooks southern-style Mexican food. The ingredients he uses in his kitchen are traditional ingredients used in the areas of Mexico where he grew up.
Some items on his menu cater to the customers who like Tex Mex, but are made with traditional ingredients. But for those who always want something more ethnic, order one of the three daily specials.
Salinas said the specials are always dishes he grew up with in Mexico and the food is of the highest quality.
“We use real fresh ingredients,” he said, adding that to keep the food authentic, many of the ingredients are imported directly from the region Salinas lived in.
Staff do not use any canned ingredients or bottled sauces in the restaurant, he said, rather everything is made in house.
“Don’t ask for Tabasco because you won’t get it,” Salinas said.
Salinas’ restaurant uses no animal fat in its food and cooks don’t fry many things. Only chips and potatoes are fried. Salinas said Pepe’s caters to a lot of vegetarians.
The restaurant’s goal since opening has been to make good, healthy Mexican food. Salinas said he wants to show Mexican culture and food from the 31 states in that country.
Pepe Delgado’s doesn’t just excel in exceptional Mexican cuisine. The restaurant also features 39 premium tequilas, the largest selection in Oklahoma, Salinas said.
Each Friday, the restaurant makes tamales using banana leaves from Oaxaca and Guerrero.
For 17 years, the restaurant has fed many hungry college students, university employees and Norman residents. Salinas said he plans on being around for many more years as Pepe’s feeds new generations of people looking for great, healthy Mexican food.