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Apr 26, 2012 06:42 AM

Is Lupe Tortilla Open?

I'm hearing rumors that Lupe Tortilla may have had a soft opening already. Has anyone been? I haven't called recently but I'd like to try to get in asap. I love this place!

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  1. We went on Sunday and were told that they were still in training mode but were happy to seat us. They said the would definitely be open in time for Cinco de Mayo.

    The food was great and the service outstanding. It's easily accessible from the access road on Mopac, heading north, that goes past the interesection at Steck. You can turn right in to the parking lot before you get to the light at Great Hills.

    1. The location at Arbor Walk is open. If you tell them it's your first time there, they will give you free tiny fajitas to sample. They still have some kinks to work out - i.e., my chalupa didn't have any beans on it (?!), nor any guac. Pass on their carnitas - boiled pork tenderloin, no fat. Fajitas seem like a good bet, if pricey. The puffy taco was pretty good; get it with beef, not with chicken as their chicken is cubed, not shredded, and it makes tacos awkward to eat. They're not gonna be as good as San Antonio puffy tacos, but they're decent. Refrieds are very nice and a rarity for Austin, good and gooey, not loose like many places, and there is bacon grease in there, by golly. All in all, not bad, and a definite step up from many Tex-Mex places around town.

      This is written from a San Antonio native viewpoint on Tex-Mex, BTW.

      5 Replies
      1. re: addlepated

        I so get your SA viewpoint. I lived there for several years and it was my first tex mex experience. I'm always comparing other tex mex to that, which is wrong, I know. I guess you just always remember your first. Whatever it may be.

        1. re: thymetobake

          Thanks - I have a hard time finding anything in Austin that rings my bells. Lots of places have one or two dishes that come close, but there's no place where I can go and order anything on the menu at random and be bowled over, probably because, as you say, I'm holding it to my SA standards. I just need to bite the bullet and drive an hour south for my fix!

          1. re: addlepated

            I know what you mean. I used to work with a born and bred in Austin Mexican lady who often talked about 'San Antonio style' salsa, enchiladas, etc. I had never thought of it as being a specific style. But after eating around different places in Texas I guess there are different styles of tex mex. The 'San Antonio style salsa' I gave up on finding and finally figured out how to make it at home. Heading to west texas this fall / winter for a little vacation and I'm looking forward to trying their version of tex mex.

            1. re: addlepated

              Addlepated, Thyme, can you recommend some spots for an Austinite making a SA journey?

              1. re: tom in austin

                El Milagrito for breakfast - their barbacoa plate is so, so good. They focus on the food, not the website. ;) Their homemade flour tortillas are making my mouth water just thinking about them. The breakfast plates come with a side of home fries that have been fried up in chorizo. Make sure to ask for their green sauce if it's not on the table. It's similar to El Pollo Rico's here in Austin, and is a perfect accompaniment to a barbacoa taco.

                La Fonda for dinner. It's a San Antonio institution. They have split into a couple of differently owned locations now; the last one I ate at was the one in Alamo Heights, and it was divine: (I usually go for the Friday Special; you can also order puffy tacos a la carte.) They have homemade corn tortillas (and probably flour, too, but the corn are so good that I've been ordering just those for a long time).

                Many Tex-Mex places in San Antonio will serve you butter for your tortillas. It's a thing.

                Close to La Fonda is Paloma Blanca (beware noisy website) - - also very good.

                For fun, Mi Tierra downtown is open 24 hours a day and is connected to a panaderia in front. They serve okay cabrito, and they're next door to El Mercado, which is a great place to shop, especially for the Oaxacan and Guatamalan embroidered dresses that have come back into style - they'll be 1/4 the price here than they will be in the clothes boutiques. Also, there will be strolling mariachis here. Another noisy website (whyyyy?)

                I'm sure there are many more, but those are the places that I tend to hit when I'm back in town visiting since they're convenient for me. Maybe someone else has some suggestions too.

        2. I stopped by there right at 11 today. The manager said if the soft opening runs smoothly over the weekend then they will officially open on Monday. Very exciting. The only downside was that I tried to make a reservation for next week and the manager said they don't take reservations. I hate when restaurants do that, makes me eat there way less often.

          1. Many thanks for getting the word out! I have been waiting for the Westlake location to open and was not paying attention to Arbor Walk. After reading your post last night, we shifted the schedule around today so we could head over and eat.

            First off, I spent a good number of adult years in Houston- so I was already familiar with Lupe Tortilla and a big fan at that. For those familiar with the Houston locations, you will be happy to know that everything I saw and tasted today is identical to what you will get at the Houston locations- right down to that wonderful sharp cheddar served with the fajitas that is just as good as the cheddar Luther's BBQ used in their baked potatoes back when they were around in Houston. As with the Lupe's expansions within Houston in recent years, it looks to me like nothing has been sacrificed with the Arbor Walk location.

            The beef fajitas are one of my favorite Tex-Mex dishes of all time, and very unique. Thick skirt steak that has been tenderized to where it looks like cube steak, and whatever the marinade is- there is a whole lot of citrus and salt in it. Makes for a very strong flavor- you will love it or hate it. Side tip- I tend to prefer red meat on the rarer side, but at Lupe's I ask for my fajitas well done. They are so well tenderized that it does not leave them tough plus you get a really great blackening on the outside. Crazy, crazy good.

            Side note on price- the beef fajitas are $18.99 for a half pound and $36.99 for a pound. That is at the higher end, but do note you are going to get a full portion of meat- cooked weight. I have had more than my share of "discussions" with managers at other places over a "pound" of meat and got the excuses about pre-cooked weight and including the onions etc. Not an issue here. 1 pound really will serve 3 people, and on the half pound 2 people can have a pretty good meal.

            The rice is good- lighter than usual for this fare and not sticky. The refried beans are outstanding- good texture and like addlepated said, there is some great fat in here.

            Homemade tortillas are a standout for me as well. The corn are delicious and pretty filling as they are quite thick. The flour are very large and about as thin as you will ever find for a tortilla. I don't know the nutrition content in either, but for those aiming for a lighter meal this is one case where I would go with the flour (but try the corn anyway- they are outstanding.)

            Meatwise- I would definitely go for the beef here. As someone pointed out above, the carnitas tacos are pork tenderloin- and not as masterfully prepared as the beef fajitas (and one note- read the menu closely. The carnitas are advertised as tenderloin but it is in the fine print long after the big bold title "Carnitas" They are honest about it, but not as obviously as they should be). The chicken here is above average, but I have not really gone nuts over it. To be fair- I am very picky about chicken and in the realm of Tex-Mex only at Little Pappasito's in Houston (not to be confused with the Pappasito's chain) have I been consistenly impressed with chicken fajitas. Certain well-run Pappasito's locations (including the one in Austin) come close. Lupe I would put right after- still above most other places I have been but not quite at the top.

            Tableside guacamole was excellent- and I noted that for $8.99 one gets two avocados versus 1 avocado for $9-10 at other places where I have had this before. Good liberal dose of garlic salt- you have to ask if you want jalapenos.

            Did not have the queso but looking at other tables seemed same as what is done in Houston- velveeta base but with some other things to give it better thickness and some good flavor. Still, I hate velveeta, so if you share my view be cautious.

            For those who may wish to go before the soft opening is done- I called ahead this morning and they were not doing phone reservations. You have to show up and get on a list. We came at 2PM today and were given a "reservation" for 2:45PM. It is worth the wait- plus you have some good shops nearby to browse the time away- but at least go down there prepared for it. And for the record, the place was entirely full the whole time we were there. So at this point I do not think they are trying to keep the occupied table count manageable- but rather managing a waiting list for a very popular place to eat.

            Service was excellent as well- the mood over there is really positive. I do not think they expected this soft open to be so successful, and the positive energy is wonderful.

            6 Replies
            1. re: elpaninaro

              so a half pound of meat from some middle brow chain costs more than a LB of meat from BBQ jesus himself? please explain this absurdity to me.

              1. re: mickeyjones69

                I concur. This is ridiculous. Habanero is half the price; is Lupe Tortilla really twice as good?

                1. re: tom in austin

                  How are the fajitas at Habanero? I think the only place I've ever had fajitas that I remember is Hula Hut, believe it or not - both their Shiner Bock and their Thai fajitas are tasty. I don't tend to order fajitas at many places after an unfortunate incident at Maudie's, but if Habanero has good ones, I might revise my position.

                  1. re: addlepated

                    Habanero Cafe's fajitas are unctuous and toothsome, long on flavor, fired over mesquite. Tougher than the picture-perfect tenderness of the Southeast Texan fajita trope, but dancing with yumminess. On a good day, they're probably the best in Austin. However, they play the game straight, dealing in a piece of beef that can be quite tough. On a bad day, I wouldn't recommend the place to folks with dentures.

                    1. re: tom in austin

                      Hah, my husband just informed me that he gets the spicy fajitas every time he eats there. I guess I'm just not paying attention! He concurs that they're really good. Will put on my To-Do list.

                  2. re: tom in austin

                    Hey guys- my only point was that at some other places I have been in the past (notably Chuy's before they got deplorably bad) the lower price for fajitas also came with a lot less meat for your "pound". Got worse after the recession- once I actually weighed the meat on getting home and Chuy's had given me 6 ounces of meat in my "pound" of fajitas plus a ton of onions.

                    No doubt it is pricey- just say in at least a couple of cases it is not quite as pricey as it seems when you consider what you are actually receiving. As for Habanero I have not been yet. Given the raves I have heard on this board- including from trusted friends- it seems like that is the likely contender for best in Austin.

              2. I was there last Thursday and was completely underwhelmed by everything I had. The salsa was mediocre, as were the chicken fajitas in my "taco" salad. There was nary a taste of the dressing that was supposed to come with that salad. I have given them the benefit of the doubt since they weren't officially open, but I was quite taken aback by the steep prices. I really don't think they can command them.

                8 Replies
                1. re: texasgirly

                  All the talk on price got me thinking. I guess I did not pay much attention since I have lived back and forth between Austin and Houston most of my adult life.

                  FWIW- in Houston, both in terms of quality and location (more the latter)- Lupe's real competition are Guadalajara, El Tiempo and Little Pappasitos. I just checked their menus online for kicks and they sell the pound/for two beef fajitas for 34.95, 33.69 and 39.95 respectively. So by Houston standards, Lupe's is pretty much right on.

                  In Austin I think they may be okay with this given the locations- Arbor Walk and the HEB complex in Westlake. Lots of foot traffic at both, plus areas where you have a lot of transplants- such as me- who are more likely to have fond memories of Lupe's from Houston days.

                  Lupe's in Houston has a large and fiercely loyal following. When I was working in public accounting in Houston, Lupe's was one of a small number of "go-to" places for happy hour or a "No Return" Friday lunch. To this day when I am in Houston and go to the one on Kirby, I almost always run into someone I know. And with so many of us Texas-Exes so eager to live in Austin- I think they will do alright in the specific locations they have chosen, but time will tell.

                  1. re: elpaninaro

                    I'm a fan of Habanero and eat there frequently--2 to 4 times a month--but it's a different type of fajita. I've been to El Tiempo and Little Pappasitos in Houston (and the original Ninfa's, which is perhaps overpriced, but which I like, at least for fajitas) and would welcome something similar in Austin. (Haven't been to Lupe's yet.) Habanero does a very thin cut of beef (not skirt, unless it's cut unlike any skirt I've seen) over mesquite. Not very toothsome or meaty but tasty--esp with their salsa, etc.--at least to my palate. Ninfa's and the others are meatier, a bit deeper in flavor. And, in my experience, El Tiempo and Ninfa's manage to add a lot of grill flavor to their meat... whether through the actual grill or not, who knows. (For those who have only experienced Ninfa's in Austin... it wasn't the same, for whatever reason. Maybe the prices were, but, in my limited experience, the food wasn't.)

                    1. re: Steven Dilley

                      Re: "Not very toothsome"... Now I'm confused. What is the definition of toothsome? Isn't it "of delicious or appetizing appearance, flavour, or smell" or something similar? If so, I'd say (on a good day) Habanero delivers a better appearance, flavor, and nose than any fajitas in Austin? This is what the usage of mesquite helps assure, right? Superior aroma and flavor. The only place they go wrong sometimes is the toughness, yeah?


                      Synonyms & related words:

                        1. re: rudeboy

                          He has entered into the revered pantheon of the ascended beyond to join Twill and MPH, but at least I can read his awesome blog.

                    2. re: elpaninaro

                      Elpaninaro, I also was introduced to Lupe's while working at a public accounting firm in Houston and for the same reasons as you! That made me laught pretty hard. Did you work for a now defunct giant? I just had to ask. I worked for another firm later and the "NRL" was not a known term there. For shame.

                      I also hit the soft opening last Friday. I shared the beef fajitas for one with my coworker. The fajitas were even better than I remembered. Extremely flavorful and tender with the thin tortillas that let you taste your meat and toppings. The price is a shock but we were able to share and feel satisfied for about $10 each, so really not out of line for a lunch. I am very happy for this addition to the area. I cannot wait to go back and enjoy a margarita on their patio. They did a good job setting it up, you can almost forget you're in a parking lot.

                      1. re: missmitzi

                        Yup! I was there until spring 2001. I left before things got very bad- though for other reasons (I only wanted to do my 2 years for experience and then go into startups/expanding companies- now on my 4th!). The NRL was a time honored tradition- but we made up for it with 100 hour weeks during busy season.

                        1. re: elpaninaro

                          Funny enough, I was also introduced to Lupe Tortilla while working at one of the Big 4 firms. I made it eight years before I threw in the towel. We never had the NRL either, although I sure wish we did.

                          I finally went to LT today for lunch and it was good, but it left me a little underwhelmed. The beef fajitas were very good, but they weren't as amazing as I remembered them to be. I was hoping the marinade would be more flavorful on the meat, as this is what always stood out to me in the past. The meat itself looked like it was sent through a meat tenderizing machine. It looked more like meat for a chicken fried stead than it did fajita meat. The fajita meat itself may have been slightly disappointing but the huge and thin tortillas blew me away. They well exceeded my expectations. And the refried beans were also fantastic.

                          I was also a little surprised by how cramped the tables were. We were in the area to the right of the entry. The tables were really tight and it was also hot in there.

                          Overall I’d give the experience a C+/B-. I have such fond memories of this place that I will certainly go there again. Plus I would never count out a restaurant for less than perfect food/service/etc just days after they opened. They still need to work out the kinks.