I believe that there are forces outside of our control that may shape our day or lead us to do things we wouldn’t normally plan on doing. Maybe it is divinity sweetening your life, maybe in some cases it is evil doing its nasty work. Some force was at work when I texted my friend Mark to see if he wanted to grab lunch. We jinx texted each other with the exact same sentence word for word: “Ever been to Lupita’s on Broad?”
With a coincidence such as that there was not a chance of us going anywhere else. It wasn’t until we were there that we realized it was Cinco De Mayo. That must have been the force drawing us into this taco Death Star-like a tractor beam.
Even more of a coincidence is that it was the day after (gasp) Star Wars Day. I was freaking out. Too many forces at work here, including possibly THE force. When we walked through the door there was an old school television with a VHS machine playing-you guessed it — “The Karate Kid.” They must have aired Darth and the gang the day before. Nobody says, “May the 5th be with you.” I’m told tacos with Macchio is a Mexican tradition.
I’d been once before. Mark had certainly been. There are plenty of people who adore this hole in the wall. I think a lot of the charm is it has a “diamond in the rough” feel to it. It’s a little bit of a greasy spoon type of place that is off the beaten path for some tourist visiting the “birthplace of Mardi Gras.” For that, locals appreciate it as a place you must know the password and secret handshake to get in.
When Mark last graced the pages of this paper he was working on his pronunciation of Mediterranean dishes with great success. At Lupita’s he was quick to exhibit his skill in a south-of-the-border accent.
“I watch a lot of cooking shows on a Mexican channel to help with my Spanish,” says the cunning linguist. Impressive. Mas impresionantes.
The complimentary chips and salsa were as good, or better, than most of your run-of-the-mill order-by-number Mexican joints. We decided we must try the guacamole dip ($3.50). This is more of a prepared dip than it is the chunky guacamole most of us are used to. I believe it may have a bit of sour cream mixed in, but no tomatoes or chunks of onion. Thankfully you get a strong blast of cilantro. Despite it being not what I thought it would be, I did enjoy it.
Shrimp cocktail ($10.95) was a must for me. At this price you get a dozen shrimp, but you may opt for a half dozen for $7.95. They didn’t have the giant glass for the large so they brought out two smaller versions. Score for Mark! A Mexican shrimp cocktail is more like a bloody Mary with chunks of avocado and pico de gallo. This version was complete with a sweet Del Mar sauce. I found it delicious. Mark concurred.
For Mr. Saunders the Sinaloa ($5.49) was the ticket. That’s a fancy name for three tacos. Mark is a growing boy, so he added one tamale. There were no complaints from his side of the table. I had the value of the day with the Puerto Vallarta ($6.95). A delicious taco, a burrito, and a cheese enchilada were enough to choke a horse.
By the time I got through the taco I was in no mood for the burrito and enchilada. A bite of each would be enough for the day. Both tasted pretty much as expected, though I was not a huge fan of the sauce that covered it. I’d say it was smoky but a little too sweet for my taste.
We were full, but visited again wanting more. Cut to one week later. No Ralph Macchio on the tube. Disappointed and with tears in our eyes Mark went straight to the taco menu ($2.50 each). He settled on three varieties including carnitas, borrego and cabeza. Ordered on corn tortillas with a side of salsa verde these were more like classic Mexican food. The carnitas (pork) was a little dry, but still good. I didn’t mind. The borrego (lamb) was probably my favorite, but Mark favored the cabeza.
Cabeza means head, so it’s the meat from the head of a cow. No, it isn’t the brain. The head is steamed and the meat is removed. It’s delicious. Don’t knock it. This was a side of Lupita’s that was less Americanized, and I liked it.
I decided to try a bit of the “soul” portion of the menu. Here is what they mean by soul. Fish, pork chops or chicken wings can be ordered in sandwich form or with fries. The Monday daily special is hot wings (50 cents each) so I couldn’t pass that up. Served on a bed of lettuce surrounding a bowl of ranch dressing the wings were extremely messy and awfully delicious. It isn’t a four-alarm fire, but rather a hot enough flavor.
On this day it was between the fish (fried tilapia) or the pork chop sandwich. I took the pork chop sandwich ($4.50). A fried bone-in chop was between two pieces of toasted white bread with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. It was simple. It was good. The only problem I had was that it was too big to comfortably eat. Halfway through I broke out the knife and ate it as a deconstructed sandwich. I didn’t even mind the bone.
I can see why the place is popular. It has repeat customers because it is cool. Sure, not everything is great, but it is at least good. Find gems like the shrimp cocktail and the borrega taco and you have a lunch spot that can seem pretty special. I’ll be back for the lengua. Mark will be back for the Spanish practice. He’s getting better every day. We will all go back for some Macchio.
Sweep the leg, Johnny.
460 S. Broad St.