As has been discussed on the blog CookingEatingDurham, Taqueria Lopez is aggressively trying to brand itself as, well, more than a taqueria.
The new menu came out in the past week or so and it is daunting. It's not a Tex-Mex restaurant, thankfully, but this menu seems to be taking a step in that direction. Often times "all things to all people" isn't the best way to go. The menu is very large and somewhat confusing. Many dishes appear in strange categories. There are combinations, platillos, beef/chicken/pork, fajita, and breakfast sections to name just a few. Is the cooking still pretty solid? Yes, but my visit today was a bit underwhelming.
I eat at Lopez quite frequently, perhaps every two weeks on average. I've enjoyed watching it steadily improve. At first it was good but terribly disorganized and slow. Although language has always been a problem there, in 2008 I've had numerous very tasty and quick meals there. It even became something of a study/hang out spot for me.
I ordered the chorizo eggs. While what I had wasn't objectionable, it also wasn't as good as I might have imagined. They do such a nice job within the simple constraints of tacos, I thought they'd be able to pull the same with Mexican breakfast. The eggs were scrambled with some chorizo strewn throughout. Rather than creamy eggs, however, these were cooked nearly to the point of rubberiness. Also, the normally generous helping of the restaurant's delicious beans was reduced to literally about three tablespoons. The addition of some salsa and the always-tasty tortillas made it such that I still enjoyed my plate. Still, for $6.89 plus tax and tip, I got probably two scrambled eggs, an ounce or two of chorizo, a few bites of beans, and a little puck of rice. The value proposition just wasn't quite as compelling.
Finally, one of the greatest culinary tragedies in my nearly four years in Durham. The salsa bar is gone!!!!!! No!!!!! The salsa bar was pretty much the reason I went to Lopez so often. With the chips, the wonderful nopales salsa, many fond memories were made. No longer. I spoke to the owner about this and he explained to me the story.
Apparently, a health inspector (everyone knows they're no fun), a new one, had an issue with it. Something about the lack of circulating air or something. So it's been 86'd. I'm just a bit skeptical, however, because on the menu they now sell many of their salsas for 79 cents each. Interesting. Perhaps too many people were just getting a couple tacos and they were losing money on the bar. Considering most of the other taquerias have similar salsa bars (if not as good) I wonder why Lopez in particular was singled out. Regardless of why, it's a tragedy.