Loved Lucha Libre - San Diego
- Alice Q Jan 26, 2008 12:50 PM
I was in the Hillcrest area today and dropped by Lucha Libre for lunch - the decor is a kick, with the pink walls, Anchorman trashcan, dioramas and wall art, chandelier, etc. The food is good too - the chips are fresh and crisp and I loved their salsas - the medium red salsa is fantastic and so is the creamy cilantro. I ordered a crispy queso taco (they should call it a "heart attack taco") a greasy disk of crisped melted cheese topped with steak, chipotle crema and avocado slices; a pollo asado taco; a "tap out" - grilled chicken, grilled veg, cheese and poblano sauce; and a TJ Hotdog (only $1.50!) - and brought it all home to share with my husband. I ate the crispy queso (minus most of the cheese) he ate the hot dog, and we split the two chicken ones. I preferred the tap out, but they were both good. The tacos are larger than street size, similar to El Zarapes, and the food is definitely in a similar category with Zarape and Mama Testa - better than Zarape, imo, and not quite as elaborate as Mama Testa (or as expensive). I think they'll be a great addition to the neighborhood.
I also stopped by Chilango to check it out - the menu looked great but I didn't have time for a sit down meal, so I moved on to Lucha Libre. Definitely want to try it soon though!
I also noticed that BOTH of these places are CASH ONLY for the time being - if you get stuck, the liquor store owner by Lucha Libre will give you cash from your ATM card without a purchase for a $2.00 fee.
here's the menu: http://www.tacosmackdown.com/LuchaLib...
We stopped by Friday night and actually got a little tour of sorts from the wonderful, enthusiastic owner Jose. His quesatacos and sweet preparations reminded me of the Tacos Ermita in Tijuana - which he was indeed familiar with. He and his brothers were born in DF and tried to convey to us the cultural importance of the Luchadores in the Mexican Psyche - especially those who grew up with them.
He has a catering company and had this idea for quite a while even scouting a place in Pt. Loma for quite a while.
An interesting thing we learned is that - if given prior notice. The green booth area and large table will be roped off (Luchadore style) and can be reserved for a more 'formal' dinner with real classy silverwhere and table service. I thought this was the coolest idea ever.
The place is quite popular it seems already. The best part of our tour were when he showed us the bathrooms. We put some pictures up here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/98128783...
For Brunch I went to Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop. Eventually I want to try everything, but today I tried the Tap Out Pro Meal with rice and beans. The generous owner Jose offered me a mini Holy Moly Gourmet Burrito as a sample and I graciously accepted. How sweet of him.
Digging into the Holy Moly first, the taste of cinnamon in the mole which the chicken was soaked in was overwhelmingly apparent. With each bite, I oohed and aaahed over the flavor.
The Tap Out had a tasty marinade of something, don't know what (the menu says creamy poblano sauce, that must be it!). Delicious. The menu says it's topped with avocado slices, which I peed in my pants over, but when it came the gourmet taco was topped with guacamole. I heart beans, but the ones that come in the pro meal didn't wow me over. Despite that the beans were a nice subtle complement to the entire meal.
Salsas at Luche Libre were yum. The Cilantro Salsa is absolutely addicting.
I had to go the bathroom 30 mins after my meal...that means it was good.
Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop is what happens when most of the effort is put
into the theme and decor, and the food is not well thought out. The restaurant
visually appeals to my Mexican-american sensibilities: the garish pink and
baby-blue colors that are iconic in a Mexican barrio, the Mexican wrestling
motif that brings up childhood memories of watching the televised bouts with
my grandfather, and the "Champion's Corner" decked out in golden,
tongue-in-cheek French elegance. That last (perhaps subconscious) reference
to the cultural awe struck by Maximilian and Carlota reveals an authentic
awareness of the Mexican mind. What's surprising is that one so in tune with
the culture neglected giving more attention to the food.
One of the dead giveaways in Mexican cooking is the quality of the tortillas.
They are such a staple in the cuisine that their quality reveals the care and
effort put into the cooking, and this is especially true if the house
specialty is the taco. When we were served our complimentary basket of
tortilla chips, it was immediately clear that the tortillas used were
substandard... "tiesas" in Spanish, meaning stiff and cheaply made. We were
concerned that the same tortillas would be used in the food. Sure enough,
they were. I ordered the nachos with steak. Everything in the meal was of low
quality. The steak was almost flavorless, the tortillas were cheap (decent
tortillas are not hard to find in southern California) as were the pre-fab
sauces squeezed onto the top of the heap. My friend ordered a surf-and-turf
taco. The beef and shrimp were adequate, but it was double-wrapped in the
same poor tortillas, undercutting whatever flavor was to be enjoyed from the
So much style over substance was reflected in the presentation of the food as
well. Serving the meals in cheap, little styrofoam plates discredits the meal
itself. In keeping with its hip decor, using quality paper plates is greener
yet still underlines how basic the taco is to the culture.
It saddens me to see such energy and earnestness fall short. It's rare to
find a Mexican-american eatery that addresses it's own, neither playing to
the dominant culture nor trying to impress our cultural homeland. The concept
behind the Lucha Libre Taco Shop deserves a better effort.
The decor at Lucha Libre is a real kick, no doubt about it. We walked in yesterday for lunch. After spending a few minutes admiring the stuff on the walls, we approached the counter. The young guy behind the counter just sort of stood there, no greeting, looking clueless, like "where am I and what am I doing here." Most places like this have a menu prominently displayed on the wall but not here. Finally we focused on a ratty piece of paper lying on the counter that constituted the menu. Several of the items on it were crudely scratched out with a ballpoint pen. Then we noticed there actually was a menu board, but it was on the floor behind the counter. There was no listing of available beverages, but we order some tacos and nachos, asked about drinks, were told that they have soft drinks, ordered those, and proceeded to the beverage and salsa station, only to see that they have a dispenser offering three aguas which we would have preferred.
We got our chips and it's obvious from their color that they were not fresh. A bite confirms this. So our orders arrive. We start to chow down, but the chips in the nachos are also stale and the taco tortillas are worse -- stale, chewy, and tough. The filling is ok, but wrapped in these nasty shells it's a waste of time. Even picking around the chips, the nachos are bland and not very tasty. So we ate a bit and dumped the rest in the trash.
We had parked near El Indio. I am a San Diego native and had never been there, despite its widespread reputation for Cal-Mex food. Since we were hungry we ducked in. I was surprised it wasn't even a table-service restaurant. We ordered an enchilada and a chile relleno at the counter from a girl who was as clueless and disinterested as the guy at Lucha Libre. Siblings? While our expectations were low, the soggy, sodden mess that was delivered was inedible, so that went into the trash too. We joked that it was a waste of what might have been fresh tortillas since there was a tortilla press prominently displayed behind the counter.
People, how hard is it to serve fresh chips and tortillas??? These are the most basic staples of Mexican food. They don't even have to made in-house -- you can buy them practically anywhere. The chips and tortillas at Lucha Libre reminded me of Ranas in Spring Valley, which served the nastiest I've had in years. I was also reminded of Lot 81 on Morena Blvd. When they opened a year or so ago we went there three or four times and ordered their specialty tacos a few times. The fillings were tasty but the tortillas were terrible. We told the manager twice that they were bad but he didn't seem to care and shrugged us off.
I think I may be the only one but I actually really like El Indio. But I think I might be the only one on this board; maybe because I don't have super high expectations and think of it more as a better "bertos" kind of place. I always like their flautas, chille relleno and carnitas tacos. Also their hottest salsa is well balanced and tasty for being a "hot" salsa. Don't hate me cause I like it!
I don't hate anybody. :-)
I've eaten there a few times, under duress. I've never gone of my own volition based on those few experiences. Some of their stuff is really horrifying, like that thing with the chopped up beef taquitos swimming in nacho cheese sauce.
If I want taco shop food that's better than 'ertos, I'll hit up something like El Cuervo or Maritzas.
That's really odd - I was given good crisp fresh chips - and owner was behind the counter. Maybe he wasn't there when you went? I don't know how else to account for the difference. It definitely sounds like the nachos are not the way to go - another friend told me he didn't like the rolled tacos either.
I just figured the issues with the menu were opening fits and starts - I am sure eventually they will hang the menu board up on the wall, and I think they ran out of their printed paper menus - they only had a few left when I was in there, and I took one. :-)
Did you try El Indio's chips? Their food is pretty nasty, but their chips are still some of the best in town, at least IMHO.
re: Alice Q
Have you ever tried El Napolito in Encinitas? They are on Santa Fe drive just east of the 5. Their salsas and chips are great. I have seen them at a few places, but just up in north county. There is something about El Indio's chips that I don't like. Is it the burned paprika? flavor or that the chips are too thick? But I do like their rolled tacos.
Thanks so much for the great report! I'm itching for my next SD trip to give them a try. The Holy Moly burrito sounds like HEAVEN!
I have a big feeling i'm going to really love this place- I allready love the concept behind it!
I stopped by on Sunday afternoon, late, and the staff was taking a break, having a nice time, presumably over dinner. No customers as I walked in. I chatted with a friendly guy who steered me toward the queso taco. So I ordered and sat down. The chips were as fresh as I would want, and quite thin, with a brittle kind of crunch. I presume they were made on site. The taco arrived and I dug in, armed with a couple of servings of salsa. I was told the cilantro salsa was good, so I had some of that, as well as the picante one. There was also a pineapple salsa that was unusual, but my taco didn't need anything till the last bite when it got a dip in the picante to send it on its way.
The queso taco is a couple of soft tortillas (6" diameter?) with a large circle of melted and crisped cheese on top, all wrapped around 4 or 5 strips of fairly tender and very flavorful beef, and topped with avocado, mild chipotle crema and some crumbled cheese. The crispiness of the fried cheese was a good counterpoint to the soft tortillas and the chewiness of the meat. (The meat wasn't especially tough, but it did have some strength to it.) I didn't notice anything objectionable about the tortillas, and thought that the dish was a success. I ordered another one to go for the family, together with a plate of 5 rolled tacos, which I think were somewhat ordinary. The total bill was less than $11: very inexpensive.
The guy behind the counter apologized for the menu not being complete, and I accepted his explanation that it was a work in progress. I was hoping I'd like the place, and I did. The decor would have put me off had it not been for the friendliness of the staff, and after I sat down and looked around I decided it was kind of fun. I like the place, and will go back.
re: epicureous eggplant
EE thanks for the link. Whoever wrote this piece really got it right about the affects of escalating food and fuel prices. I thought the article was well written, very clear and cogent.
I like Lucha Libre because it's fun. I think their portion sizes are a bit on the large size (but then I'm a girl and not in the 18-25 yo demographic <GG>) and some of their prices are on the high end for a taco shop, but the quality is pretty decent and so are the flavor profiles. But teh inside is such a hoot with all the lucha libre deocrations it makes a visit worth while.
EE and FC are right, we need to keep patronizing all these little, indy operations to help keep them afloat.