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‘Am’ fare best bet at Lupita’s

By Jennifer Christman

This article was published May 16, 2013 at 3:40 a.m.

nachos-are-loaded-and-come-in-two-sizes-with-choice-of-meat-large-beef-pictured-here-at-lupitas-7710-cantrell-road-little-rock

Nachos are loaded and come in two sizes with choice of meat (large beef pictured here) at Lupita’s, 7710 Cantrell Road, Little Rock.

Lupita's Original Mexican Food

Shots of some of the items on the menu at Lupita's Original Mexican Food off Cantrell Road in Little Rock. (By David Harten)
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You’d expect a restaurant called Lupita’s Original Mexican Food (or perhaps Original Mexican Food Lupita’s as it appears on the exterior green-white-and-red banner) to serve tostadas, burritos and fajitas.

But double cheeseburgers, foot-long hot dogs and BLTs?

Lupita’s, located in the easy-to-miss and tricky-to-exit Cantrell Road strip center spot that formerly housed Eastern Flames, Burger Mama’s and Route 66 Diner, is what we call an Am-Mexican restaurant, offering as much American food as Mexican (14 entrees of both cuisine categories on its laminated menu pages). It could be a compromise kind of place when you crave tacos and your dining companions crave chicken tenders or turkey sandwiches.

The interior could also be described as Am-Mex, featuring fake plants, a plug-in waterfall, a flat-screen TV playing Mexican soap operas, cafeteria roller chairs (there are also some folding chairs and some window booths), illuminated “moving” wall pictures, and a flower-adorned Virgin Mary statuette. The food-stained tablecloth at the booth we visited twice had seen better days.

Admittedly, we’ve had better Mexican food, and we’ve had better American food in eateries with more atmosphere. But we probably haven’t had better service.

The young woman who waited on us during two weekday dinners was very considerate, continually offering Diet Coke refills (no margaritas or cervezas available, at least not yet; a sign confirms an alcohol permit is being sought), extra napkins, additional napkins and yet more napkins. Sure, there was only one occupied table in the restaurant on both occasions, but we’re sure she would have been as attentive if busier.

Diners receive a complimentary basket of chips with small bowls of a thin hot sauce and a bright yellow cheese dip that a friend rightly likened to “the stuff you get on movie theater nachos, only not as good.” No other starters are listed on the menu, although a table might select an order of nachos ($7.99 medium, $12.99 large) to share.

The price of the large nachos probably should have tipped off my companion that this was not a for-one entree. What came to the table was hulking group-size platter of chips, ground beef (chicken is another option) cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos and onions that was more impressive in size than savor. While the beef was a bit dry and under seasoned, we appreciated that the kitchen topped the dish with slices of ripe avocado.

A chubby chicken chimichanga ($9.99) was proudly presented with rice and a surprise side salad. But something about the tortilla-beans chicken-and-cheese bundle was off. There was a general bitterness and a bit too much bite from raw (or just undercooked?) onion.

Other Mexican dishes ($2-$12.99) include quesadillas, burritos, tortas, tacos, tostadas, tilapia, fajitas, flautas, a Mexican salad and an order of vegetables.

We fared better with the American fare.

Buffalo wings ($8.50 for 10; $17 for 20; $25.50 for 30) were cooked just right, without too much grease and with just enough flavorful, zingy sauce. But we would have preferred blue cheese over the provided ranch dip and celery sticks over the provided Texas toast.

The Crazy Burger ($9.50), with a juicy beef patty beneath grilled onions, red and yellow bell pepper, bacon, mushrooms, barbecue sauce and alleged jalapenos (we never detected those) was crazy tasty. And it was crazy big, inspiring a man from another table (who talked up Lupita’s $8.50 torta or Mexican sub sandwich) to stop by and admire it. Twice.

“Quite good,” said the friend who shared the Crazy with me, adding, “Of course, give me bacon and barbecue sauce and I’ll follow you anywhere.”

It was also crazy messy. We were glad to have those napkins.

Lupita’s Original Mexican Food

Address: 7710 Cantrell Road, Little Rock Hours: 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday Cuisine: Mexican, American Credit cards: D, MC, V Alcoholic beverages: Permit pending Wheelchair accessible: Yes Carryout: Yes

(501) 779-5220

Weekend, Pages 33 on 05/16/2013

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