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Jun 8, 2007 07:00 PM

Lupita's in Evanston

There has been a running debate on this board about Lupita’s on Main Street for several years. It has its partisans, who mention it frequently in response to queries about good restaurants in Evanston. They get quite excited about it. Adjectives like "excellent" "innovative" have been used to describe it. Those who love it all say the same thing: the nightly specials are the things to order. They’re creative, prepared with love.

I have counted myself among its detractors based on a single lousy meal I had there about four years ago, ordered from the regular menu.

I decided to give it another chance tonight. I determined to judge it on its specials only. What was I thinking?

We ordered the halibut steamed in a banana leaf with tomato plantain sauce. It didn’t taste bad but was very ungenerous – a small piece of halibut, a tiny portion of rice, about the size of a scoop of ice cream, and a little mound of barely dressed lettuce topped with a mealy slice of winter tomato. The flat slab of fish was dense and slightly chewy, giving every sign of having been frozen. I expect better for $18.95.

We had decided to play it safe by ordering the chicken breast stuffed with chicken, chorizo and cheese, but that was truly shocking. It was a flat slab of chicken topped with spinach and a huge mound of nasty chorizo with rubbery cheese melted on top. It sat in a puddle of tomato sauce which almost certainly came straight from the can. The chicken had a horrible wet texture and a slightly acrid taste. I flipped it over and, sure enough, there were the fake grill marks. It was just a pre-fab, food service grade chicken breast – the kind that lousy fast-food restaurants buy in 10 pound bags. This delicacy was priced at $17.95. It was honestly inedible. Not merely bad, but not even an acceptable food product.

I absolutely would have cut my losses and left after this, but having eaten only half of the tiny fish entrée, I was ravenously hungry. Since my cupboards at home are bare, I ordered a piece of coconut cream pie. But Lupita’s managed even to screw that up. Aside from the few flakes sprinkled on top, it contained no coconut. Nor did it taste like coconut. Nor did it have a pleasant texture. It was just a dense gelatinous slab, slightly sweet. It seemed to have been made of milk, sugar, egg yolk and lots and lots of cornstarch. It tasted faintly of refrigerator.

Lupita’s is a travesty. Awful from the weird, oily, non-corn chips all the way though to dessert. By the time we left, there were people standing in the vestibule, waiting to snag our table. What’s wrong with these Evanstonians? There are a great many restaurants in this town that are not good. But this one is uniquely terrible, and they can’t even tell.

Evanston suffers under a Mexican curse. All options are bad, but Lupita’s has to be the worst.

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  1. CathleenH, I concur with you 100%. You haven't said anything I haven't thought, spoken or typed here before. That place is drek! The food is awful and bland, and the dishes are custom designed for the non-Hispanic North shore (dull/non spicy) tongue.

    If it's Mexican you crave, then go south 1-2 miles into Rogers Park for the real thing, last week Roger Spark posted an excellent list of go-to spots on the Rogers Park thread.

    1. The chips are weird. I assume they are of flour base, but WOW - very greasy and overcooked.

      1. They also serve the worst margaritas in North America. Just unspeakable.

        How this place has managed to stay open for so long is a mystery to all.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sundevilpeg

          This topic really got me thinking about how many awful Mexican places are on the North Shore, I'm convinced that it must be the makeup of the general population that allows for such crappy restaurants.

          So in addition to Lupita's in Evanston I give you two more to avoid in the area:

          Las Palmas- of Evanston & Glenview
          Lalo's - Glenview (and wherever else they may apear)

          1. re: abf005

            I cannot stand Las Palmas and I DO NOT know what the hype is about it. Lalos was unremarkable. they have that HUGE location in Chicago that I mistakingly went to. I wasn't impressed.

            So, North Shorians, just drive a bit South of Evanston to Roger's Park because ANYTHING there would be better. We split hairs on this on Chowhound (whihc ones best, etc) but ANY are better than Las Palmas.

        2. For whatever reason there are some people here with an axe to grind.

          Mexicain food in the greater Chicago metro area is on the average bad. Sure there are some real gems, but for every good one there are ten bad to awful places, and yes I include the over hyped Rodgers Park area (worked and ate in Rodgers Park for 5 years).

          4 Replies
          1. re: EvanstonFoodGuy

            Then spell it right. It's ROGERS Park. Not Rodgers Park. I will say that That Little Mexican Cafe in Evasnton was probably the worst Mexican food I have ever had. Ugh.

            1. re: EvanstonFoodGuy

              Sorry that I may have given anyone that impression, but I don't have an axe to grind with Evanston. There are plenty of other good restaurants in the area, just not good Mexican ones.

              In my earlier post I was pointing out that its not just Evanston, but pretty much the whole North Shore, that as a whole has mostly awful, not authentic or spectacular Mexican restaurants.

              Basically if you go north after Rogers Park it's big a wasteland for Mexican food until you get to Waukegan.

              As to the greater Chicago area and that 10-1 ratio comment, well thats just silly!

              1. re: abf005

                Fair enough.

                Well 10-1 is a little overstated, but having lived in the southwest and visited Mexico a few times I offer my opinion that with the large number in the area your typical Mexican restaurant in Chicago and the burbs is to put it politely... average at best.
                I have dinned a few gems while living here in Chicago that where great.

                I could say the same about Chinese; I have had some really terrible meals at Chinese restaurants in almost every city, probably some of the most bastardized cuisine of them all.

                1. re: EvanstonFoodGuy

                  I used to live near Lupita's and I have to say it is truly a refuge for the desperate. I would almost reject it for the horrible chips alone. While I am not a guacamole fan generally, their guacamole is also unappetizing. Las Palmas is similarly mediocre, but I personally prefer it to Lupitas. I have to disagree somehat about Little Mexican Cafe. While perhaps a tad overpriced, the food there is pretty decent and my wife, who does love guacamole, says that LMC's guac prepared tableside is fantastic.