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Beverly Ferree
Beverly Ferree

Taste Local: Chelino's

Jan 30, 2018

When Marcelino “Chelino” Garcia came to this country from Aquas Calientas, Mexico, in 1979 at 15 years old, he had just 36 cents in his pocket. At that time, he could not have fathomed the success he would eventually have in Oklahoma. Starting with his first restaurant in south Oklahoma City 28 years ago, Chelino now has 13 restaurants located across the Oklahoma City metro, including his most recent one located at 2113 Riverwalk Drive in Moore.

Chelino started his career in the restaurant business on the ground floor. As a dishwasher at Nino’s Mexican Restaurant in Oklahoma City, Chelino would watch and learn as he was in the kitchen. Eventually he started cooking for the restaurant, moving his way up to management, first as the assistant manager and then the general manager. Everything he learned working at Nino’s stayed with him when he opened his first Chelino’s location. Now he owns 13 restaurants, import stores, an ice cream factory, a bakery and a tortilla and meat market.

Chelino’s daughter, Sofia Marquez, echoed what so many already know about her dad, “As an employer, my dad is willing to take his shirt off his back to give to an employee. I believe that is why his more than 500 employees enjoy working with us. He truly cares about each and every one. He will show up to a restaurant and greet all by name!”

Chelino’s new location in Moore seemed like the obvious next move for their business, “We have lived in South Oklahoma City our whole lives. We are established in the area, so we thought it was time to move to Moore. We know that it’s quickly expanding, and we think it is a great place to be!”

One of the things that makes Chelino’s so popular is the consistency of the food. No matter which location you eat at, you are guaranteed to have delicious and fresh food. They have many of the most popular Mexican dishes, including enchiladas and tacos, but they also have their specialties like Nachos Nortenos, which are traditional nachos made with fajita beef or chicken, beans, cheese, jalapenos, sour cream and guacamole, but they are made with fried flour tortillas instead of corn. Also popular is their Salsa Lupe, made with poblano peppers, onions, potatoes, avocado and their special spices. My personal favorite is the carne guisada, made with beef, chicken or shrimp and salsa verde (green salsa). It’s spicy and reminds me of where I grew up in El Paso. 

And the one dish that keeps people coming back to Chelino’s is their fajitas. “We take pride in marinating them with our secret spices in our meat processing factory,” Marquez explained.

But perhaps the dish most popular with Chelino is the one he named after his mentor, Nino. Nino’s Favorite Enchiladas comes with two enchiladas topped with a fried egg, served with rice and beans. If you’ve never tried enchiladas with an egg on top, you’re missing out.

But one thing is for certain, no matter what dish you select at Chelino’s, whether it’s spicy or mild, it will be good. After all, it’s backed by 28 years in the business and a man who is determined to help others just like he was helped years before.

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