Lupita's doesn't measure up | Rock Candy

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lupita's doesn't measure up

Posted By on Sat, Aug 3, 2013 at 2:05 PM

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Of all the various cuisines that are available in Little Rock, my wife loves Mexican the most. Our most recent experience with Mexican was less than stellar, so I felt like I owed it to her to try again and see if we could find a Mexican joint that would fulfill her cravings. To that end, we headed up Cantrell Road to Lupita's, a small, blink-and-you-miss-it Mexican joint that seemed at first glance to be just the sort of place we were looking for. After eating there, all I can say is...I'm sorry, Jess, better luck next time.

A meal at Lupita's starts with a basket of chips and three separate dips: a smoky chipotle salsa that we found thin but passable, a habanero salsa dotted with avocado and cilantro that was quite nice, and a bowl of the thinnest, most tasteless queso into which I've ever dipped a chip. It's perhaps unfair to complain about something that comes to the table at no charge, but I promise that a six year old could make better queso with a jar of Cheez Whiz and a microwave.

The menu is divided into two sections, a "traditional" Mexican section and an "American" section. From the Mexican half, we ordered a chicken chimichanga (a dish more of the American Southwest than anywhere) and a hard shell taco (again, not all that authentic). From the American side, we went for the most American food of all: a foot long hot dog covered in chili, cheese, onions, mustard, slaw and jalapenos. My hope was that the mixed menu would be so good that I'd have a place to grab a burger or BLT when the wife wanted chalupas — and we could both be happy. No such luck.

The chimichanga was attractive in appearance, with a crisp, golden brown exterior covered with a cheese sauce that was world's better than the thin stuff we started with. On the inside, however, things fell apart, with wads of spongy, pre-cooked chicken swimming in a tasteless mix of beans and onions. Flavors were muted, uninspired, and completely limp. The hard taco was much the same, with some flaccid ground beef sitting listlessly in a stale, oily shell with only a smattering of iceberg lettuce and some pre-shredded cheese as companions. In a town where slow-cooked tacos al pastor and cabeza are available for around a buck, charging three dollars for this sub-Taco Bell taco was an insult.

The foot long turned out to be the highlight of the meal, although it didn't have to try very hard to do so. A couple of well-grilled dogs were nestled on a toasted bun and then piled high with chili, slaw, peppers, and onions. The dogs were tasty, and the chili was pleasantly spiced — a nice change from the bland food we had otherwise. The dish can't quit be considered a success, though, since the piles of coleslaw layered on top overwhelmed everything else, making the bun a soggy, inedible mess before we were more than four bites in.

With the multitude of great Mexican options across the city, I don't really see how a place like Lupita's can open up with such apathetic food, nor do I see a reason why the Mexican-craving masses should waste their time and money here. Cheaper and tastier options are available, whether it's authentic cuisine you're looking for or something more like Tex-Mex. Lupita's was a disappointment, which makes me 0-2 for Mexican of late.

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