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.