When Samuel Bueso arrived in the U.S. seven years ago from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, he never imagined the path he’d take to the present.
The chef and owner of Misasa Latin Grill in Oklahoma City, Bueso was a chef for 20 years back home. He had family in the U.S., including Oklahoma, so when he moved, Bueso worked as a banquet server at the Cox Business Convention Center. His real passion, however, was cooking. On the side, he catered for friends and family, until word of mouth referrals kept him so busy that he decided he needed to cook full time.
Four years ago, Bueso opened La Fonda K Tracha with a business partner. He wanted to show off some different cuts of meat, rather than just the traditional American staples; after two years, he opened Misasa Latin Grill in Warr Acres. With help from several family members, its popularity grew.
Last year, however, Bueso was detained due to problems with his immigration papers. It took eight months to resolve his case, and when he returned, he had lost everything. Unable to operate without him, his restaurant closed.
“I didn’t think I would be able to open again; I had nothing left,” says Bueso. But soon after, he says life began offering him opportunities. “I just grabbed them as they came, one after another.”
He learned that the old Fonda space had become available. It seemed impossible at the time, but Bueso managed to raise $3,000 towards reopening … but he still didn’t have any equipment.
“I didn’t even have all of the pots and pans that I needed,” he says. Another opportunity came along when the owner of nearby City Restaurant Supply intervened. “They told me that they believed in me, and my food, and how hard I work, and they wanted to help me reopen.”
With some upfront credit for the supplies he needed, his dream was once again within reach.
Misasa reopened at 3003 N. May Ave. in May of 2021. The space is small, but he plans to expand into the area next door, adding a bar and Friday night karaoke. Upon my visit, there were no printed menus, which I think is a great way to explore Honduran cuisine.
“We opened this with almost nothing,” says Bueso, “so we just started cooking and telling customers what kinds of things we have each day.”
This system works well for regulars, who already have favorite dishes to request or are happy to try anything new. I love a “chef’s choice” dining experience, so I did the same.
The Parrillada, or barbecue platter, features four types of meat: chicken, carne asada, pork and chorizo, along with tajadas (plantain chips), rice and beans, a fresh slaw, salsa and a delicious creamy sauce. On the side, we ordered a couple of baleadas (thick, handmade tortillas filled with beans and cheese), and it was more than enough food for two. Their “naturales” (fresh juices) are made in-house (as is everything else) and are delicious. The canteloupe is perfectly sweet and refreshing.
One of the most popular Honduran dishes offered is “pollo chuco.” It may seem funny that the translation is “dirty chicken,” but Bueso says it’s a popular street food originating in his hometown.
“I want to keep everything true to the food of my home, so I make it exactly as you get it in San Pedro Sula,” he says. “My tradition, my culture, my food – that is what I want to show people here.”
A typical Honduran breakfast plate is also offered, with beans, meat, corn tortillas, cream cheese, avocado and eggs. Ten dollar specials change Monday through Friday, and entrées run between $13-$19.
Bueso admits that he gets anxious every time someone new visits. He sheepishly grins and says of his desire to win over new fans: “It’s like my favorite Lady Gaga song … applause, applause, applause. I live for the applause!”
Based on my visit, he’s on the right track.