DEFCON Dining: Lupe Tortilla

Carne Asada at Lupe Tortilla.JPG
Carne A-sad-a
Fresh on the heels of my personal DEFCON Dining Waterloo, my wife made the questionable decision to allow the kids to invite a friend out for dinner. I'm sure all the parents out there are keenly aware of the dangers imposed by the inclusion of other people's children. Even in the best of circumstances, they can't be trusted. You haven't trained them.

This time, not only were we including a wild card, it was a kid from whom we can regularly expect trouble. A common refrain at my house, when my kids have been playing with this particular neighborhood chum, is "what did X do this time?" You can imagine my trepidation in wrangling the crew in the car for dinner.

The phrase "any port in a storm" can certainly hold true in DEFCON Dining, and that tenet may well have saved us, this time. We'd been intending to dine at Spaghetti Western, hoping that the combination of laid-back, family friendly vibe and simple food would get us in and out without major incident. When we couldn't find a parking space, we headed elsewhere.

The kids were starting to whine, hungry and disappointed at the lack of noodle options on display, and I decided that timing was of the essence. I whipped into the next restaurant parking lot I passed, which just happened to be the Lupe Tortilla across the street. It had been years since I'd eaten at Lupe Tortilla. The last time, I'd been dining at their Southwest Freeway location, lured under the auspices of a "play date." My memory was largely one of mediocre food with sand in it, one of the pitfalls of dining anywhere that has an attached playground.

Prior to that, I'd had some positive experiences with Lupe food. Before she went vegetarian turncoat on us, one of my sisters-in-law had traditionally done a Tex-Mex Christmas Eve, with fajitas and trimmings picked up from Lupe. I remember a clean, meaty flavor, simply accented by strident lime and dusky black pepper. I recall finding some appeal in that combination of boldness and austerity.

With that in mind, I ordered the happy hour special Carne Asada for $12.95. The steak was tender, showing the tell-tale perforations of a jacquard at work. It was also unfortunately mealy, with an unpleasant fattiness that coated the roof of my mouth. Instead of bright, assertive lime, there was only a mild sourness. No trace of black pepper was there, filling in the background. Of interesting note were the salsas. One tasted like watery borracho beans, the other like a fresh and chunky, surprisingly un-gross version of Taco Bell's Fire Sauce, its predominant flavor coming from dusky chili powder.

Despite the disappointing food, we had a decent time. The other happy hour drinkers out-shouted my kids, pitchers of margaritas creating a boisterous atmosphere on the oddly carpeted patio. Without the lure of a sandbox, the kids stayed at the table, happily drawing on their paper menus, and deciding what to have for dessert, which was included in the kids' meal price. The lure of chocolate in exchange for good behavior can be a mighty motivational tool, and they didn't need to know that it was already guaranteed.

So I think I've learned something here. While I won't bother with the sandbox-outfitted Lupe, I just might hazard another venture to this one, in a pinch. I'll just make sure to do it at happy hour. It's nice to dine somewhere the adults around you can be expected to behave about as well as your kids. It's all about perspective, after all.



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Location Info

Lupe Tortilla

2414 SW Freeway, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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9 comments
lupe tortilla
lupe tortilla

The daily bread. There was a time when every cook who was responsible for the family meals, either kneaded bread, whipped up a quick batch of biscuts or rolled out tortillas on a daily basis. Times have changed and breads of all kind are now readily available on the grocery shelf

JWDC
JWDC

Maybe if you try the Chicken Little, you will change your mind.  Especially a good deal if you get it to go.  They give a huge bag of chips, large salsa, bean salsa, a couple tortillas and the entire entree for just around $10. And it is enough to feed 2 people. I even ask for some extra rice and ranchero sauce, and they don't charge.  You drink your own booze at home, don't have to tip a waiter, and end up with a pretty economical meal.  And IMO, it really is a good dish.

Rexster1505
Rexster1505

Not surprising about the fajitas. That's what they tasted like when we went to the one on 59 inside the loop. That was about 8 years ago. At least they're still consistent in their quality. If it hadn't been for the strong margaritas, they would have been worse.

Tosshi
Tosshi

I work right next to the Lupe Tortilla at 6 and 10 and I have yet to figure out the appeal. The Ninfas on Navigation vs Franchises argument doesn't hold true because the 6 and 10 location of Lupe is still just bad Tex-Mex. Add in the horrible wait times at lunch from all the offices nearby and it just adds up to continual bad service. Luckily I only have to suffer it a couple times a year for department lunches.

Kidfreezone
Kidfreezone

It can't be THAT long since you've been to "a" Lupe Tortilla, unless it was to the original that has been near I-10 and Hwy 6 for 40 years or so.  The horrible franchises only started popping up around town a few years ago.  There is no comparison on the food.  Think Ninfa's on Fondren vs. Ninfa's on Navigation.  That's why it's nearly impossible to get a table at the original Lupe Tortilla anytime.  Forget Friday nights, especially if you have no children.  After a long wait, you'll spend the whole night spouting curmudgeonly things like, "do they not HEAR that kid screaming?" and "honey, stick your foot out next time that kid comes barrelling by our table."

ec
ec

Where is Ninfa's mentioned???

trisch
trisch

According to Lupe Tortilla's website, the Hwy. 59 location opened in 1998 as the company's second location. So, yeah, it could have been quite a long time ago that Nick ate at a Lupe Tortilla that wasn't the original.

Bruce R
Bruce R

I'm pretty sure Lupe's has had franchises for at least 10 years or so.

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was the HWY 59 location my SiL got her fajitas from, and that was right about ten years ago, maybe a few more. I've never actually eaten at the original location. 

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