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Apr 14, 2007 12:03 PM

Taqueria Lopez (Durham) - Offensively bad experience

I just had lunch at Taqueria Lopez in Durham. I really hope my experience was a gross exception, because that was one of the worst meals I've ever had. First of all, the restaurant itself was filthy - food scraps covering the floor, two flies buzzing around the sickly-looking condiment bar, and the fruit drink containers totally caked with grime. I ended up not dispensing my fruit drink for fear of getting sick. I ordered the quesadilla asada and the tacos campechanas. It took 20 minutes for them to prepare those items, even though I was the only customer waiting for food service.

The asada meat in both the quesadilla and tacos was rock-hard and burnt black beyond recognition. Beef jerky is "melt in your mouth tender" compared to this. Here's a photo:

The chorizo in the tacos was greasy and completely bland. Total polar opposite to the morsels of divine goodness one can get at Los Comales.

Hopefully this was just an off day, but I won't be taking the opportunity to find out.

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  1. God I hope so as well. My only trip there was great but it was about a month ago. That location is horrid and nobody as done well there thus far. My biggest fear was that they'd have the same bad luck and it is certainly hard to keep the quality up when nobody is coming through the doors because the staff gets so deflated and the owner can't afford to throw things away that they should. Of course, that only ends up perpetuating the situation.

    My experience and that of others has proven that there is a very talented chef behind the scenes there. I hope that they can pull it out.

    1. Hmm ... I've eaten at Taqueria Lopez 8-10 times (most recently, 4/10) and never had a less than satisfying experience. Yes, service is a little slow, but the place has always been clean, and the food has always been tasty. I did notice that the Health Dept. rating recently dropped from 96 to 95, but that hardly suggests a major falloff in cleanliness.

      Detlefchef, I hope they can pull it off, too, though, I have my doubts because, as you noted, the location is horrible. (That whole plaza is a commercial graveyard, IMO) Last week, I noticed that the prices for plates have been crossed out on the menus and no new prices listed, which can't be a good thing. I also noticed they've added pizza to the menu (not necessarily a bad sign, but not an encouraging one) and last time I was at Duke, I saw a bunch of flyers with half price and $2 off coupons (again, not encouraging).

      1 Reply
      1. re: mclaugh

        I too have never had a meal there that was anything less than good.

      2. What time of day were you there?

        1 Reply
        1. Just went back again last night. I've eaten there twice since mikeh posted this and found the food to be delicious both times. Well, I'll qualify this latest one, we sort of let him bully us into ordering a burrito because "all my American customers love them". Both my wife and I like burritos as much as the next person but I was somewhat concerned about the "all my american customers" bit. All in all, it was a pretty good burrito but not as good as either my al pastor or lengua tacos.

          One thing that I really appreciated was the fact that the Tamarindo agua fresca was not crazy sweet but tangy and refreshing.

          1 Reply
          1. re: detlefchef

            Guess I just caught them at a rare off-moment. I'll get back around to this place since it's so close. Maybe on a weekday evening.

          2. Well, unfortunately, TaqLopez may be circling the drain. The health dept. score is now down to 90, and if the momentum of the past 6 months is any indication, is headed further south.

            It's a shame, really: the food is VERY tasty and the proprieters are gracious and friendly. Wouldn't have given a tinker's dam about the health dept. score back when I was in college, but these days, I don't see the sense in playing gastronomic russian roulette.

            4 Replies
            1. re: mclaugh

              I was rooting for them also. I think their mistake was charging $2 for tacos when excellent tacquerias like Los Comales or Super are charging $1.50. 50 cents may not sound like a big deal but when a large part of your clientele is day laborers who I suspect are price conscious, saving $1.50-2 on lunch may be a big deal.

              1. re: mclaugh

                It doesn't take many minor dings to get down to 90 . . . I doubt your kitchen at home would get much above 90 if the health inspector were to pay you a visit.

                I think you're just trying to scare off the n00bs who just read that article in Gourmet Magazine about Durham taquerias . . . . ;-)

                1. re: rossgrady

                  As I mentioned above, I had eaten at TaqLopez 8-10 times prior to the OP's post in April, and have eaten there once or twice a week since then.

                  Unfortunately, TaqLo's health dept. rating has been trending downward for some time now: in April (Q4), it was 95, down from 96 in March (Q3), and that was down from 98 in Dec '06 (Q2). As of July (Q1), it's down to 90. An occasional rating dip could be written off as an anomaly, but 4 consecutive quarters of declining ratings looks to me more like a trend.

                2. re: mclaugh

                  We got a meal there last week and the food itself was quite good and nobody had any bad reaction. It was our first time there and we intend to go back. The service was a bit slow but not to the point of being annoying. All the food we had was clearly homemade and que rico.