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.