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Lupita's Taqueria cooks up tasty tacos, authentic fare

Somewhere in Southern Oregon’s dining landscape between myriad taco trucks and “express” drive-thru windows for Mexican food sits Lupita’s Taqueria.

Handy to Grants Pass’ downtown, this walk-up window boasts a much larger menu than the typical taco truck and also provides plenty of seating in a pleasantly appointed porch. Owing to an adjacent public parking lot, it’s a cinch to access Lupita’s at 147 N.E. E St., in the block between Northeast Sixth and Seventh streets. Enjoy a meal on site or take it to go.

With no shortage of competition in Grants Pass, Lupita’s menu board proudly proclaims that this is authentic Mexican food. And from what I’ve tried, I’m inclined to agree that Lupita’s has a bit of an edge over local counterparts.

Fifteen menu headings spell out Lupita’s bill of fare. There are all the standard choices of meat: ground or shred beef, steak, chicken and pork, either marinated for pastor or roasted for carnitas. Yet Lupita’s offers them in ways that other Mexican establishments should but many simply don’t.

There are tacos and burritos, tostadas and chimichangas but also taquitos, nachos and quesadillas, presented not as appetizer afterthoughts but as main dishes in their own right. And Lupita’s touts the option to make several items “veggie style” with olives, tomatoes, scallions and jalapenos.

Prices range from $5 for a bean and cheese burrito to $8.25 for the deluxe burrito with choice of carne asada, pastor, carnitas or relleno, topped with guacamole, sour cream and salsa and served with rice, beans and pickled carrots. “Lupita’s style” takes tacos into the deluxe realm by enveloping a crisp corn tortilla filled with beans and choice of meat inside a soft flour tortilla covered in melted cheese for $3.25.

Fans of combination plates with rice and beans will find 13 choices at Lupita’s from $6 to $8. And anyone who simply hankers for meat paired with bread can select from five fillings for Mexican tortas or even hamburgers and cheeseburgers.

Need to feed a crowd? Lupita’s also sells tamales by the dozen for $30. A single tamale is priced at $3.50.

Baja-style fish tacos tempted both my friend’s appetite and mine. Lupita’s batters and deep-fries white fish or shrimp and tops it with cabbage, pico de gallo and homemade white sauce on two layered corn tortillas for $2 apiece.

For that price, we easily could have — and probably should have — each ordered our own taco. But my friend and I instead bargained bites of the taco upon agreement to a combination plate. I vouched for the chile relleno, and he tacked on a chicken enchilada ($8).

Although the combination plates come with a small handful of chips, we requested a side of chips and salsa for $4. And no Mexican meal would be complete in his and my estimation without horchata, that refreshingly milky, cinnamony beverage made from ground and strained rice. The large size, which constitutes a full quart, costs a mere $2.50. There also are American fountain sodas and bottled Mexican sodas, plus the hibiscus drink agua de Jamaica.

We had our pick of seating in the adjacent porch. Tables and chairs line Lupita’s exterior wall while benches pulled up to a wooden bar ring the porch’s perimeter with a view toward Northeast Sixth Street. It’s the perfect arrangement on warm summer days when so many diners are looking for a little elbow room to dine outdoors.

Hardly five minutes of sipping horchata had passed before our order was called at the window. All food items come packed inside or presented on disposable containers and plates.

Generously portioned, the fried fish protruded from either side of the corn tortilla. Toppings were crisp and colorful, emphasized by the lime wedge and portion of pickled carrots on the side.

More monochromatic, the combination plate crowded beans and rice against the enchilada and chile relleno. At first it looked like almost any other cheese-smothered entrée until we dug a little deeper into the relleno.

Rather than another omelet laced with diced green chiles that I’ve seen at so many of the region’s Mexican restaurants, this was a whole mild green chili stuffed with cheese and properly egg-battered and fried until puffy and golden. It was so delicious that I at once understood why Lupita’s menu prices a single chile relleno as a side dish for $4. I’d be hard-pressed to visit Lupita’s again and not order one.

I’m also a sucker for taquitos, which Lupita’s prepares either “rancheros” with corn tortillas or “calientes” with flour tortillas on a bed of lettuce and tomato with guacamole and sour cream. Pairing taquitos with a bowl of tortilla soup ($3.75), I’m sure I wouldn’t miss rice and beans.

Lupita’s Taqueria is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Call 541-476-3082.

Tempo Tidbits

Outdoor dining is in the works at La Tapatia Restaurant in Phoenix.

The taqueria and market is open daily while the front entrance facing South Main Street is transformed into a covered patio, said general manager Jose Bugarin. Owners of the 28-year-old establishment decided to go ahead with the project when the coronavirus caused a drop in business over recent months, said Bugarin. In addition to catering, La Tapatia offers curbside pickup and delivery through DoorDash.

The first phase adds a ramp to the building’s north entrance that accommodates customers with limited mobility, said Bugarin. The facade will get a facelift with a new door, windows and stucco, he said. Customers will walk enter through the new patio, which will be covered up to the sidewalk adjacent to South Main Street. The project will be completed in about a month and will not entail changes to the restaurant interior, said Bugarin.

“It’s still gonna be the same format on the inside,” he said.

La Tapatia’s retail butcher shop offers beef, pork, seafood and such specialty items as ceviche, oxtail and tripe. Its menu of tacos on handmade tortillas and numerous other items has roots in the cuisine of Guadalajara, Mexico.

See lataprestaurant.com

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Diners at Jasper’s Cafe can choose their favorite burgers competing in the Quick and the Dead recipe contest.

The Medford restaurant will tally votes over the next two weeks for customer-submitted burger recipes. The contest kicked off July 4 with four rounds of head-to-head burger competition, culminating in mid-August with a winner that Jasper’s will feature as its burger of the month. The winning burger also claims a $50 gift card and Jasper’s hoodie.

Semifinal submissions featured such ingredients as fresh corn, Hollandaise, raspberry barbecue sauce, jalapeno cream cheese and peanut butter on burger patties. Semifinal winners were Alisia Cook, Sarah Munyas and Christopher Kiser. Jasper’s is at 2739 N. Pacific Highway. See jasperscafe.com

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The following restaurants in June received perfect scores of 100 on their semiannual inspections by Jackson County Environmental Public Health:

62 Burgers & Brew, Shady Cove ; Angelo’s Pizza Parlor, Phoenix; Baci’s Pizza & Pasta, Rogue River; Back Porch Bar & Grill, Jacksonville; Mustard Seed Cafe, Jacksonville; Puck’s Donuts, Phoenix; Savage Creek Scoops & More, Grants Pass; Taco Bell, White City; Willie’s Tavern Inc., Eagle Point.

See the county’s searchable database of restaurant and food service inspections at healthspace.com/Clients/Oregon/jackson/Web.nsf/home.xsp

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Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow thewholedishblog on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.

A combination plate with two items costs $8.
Chile relleno is a whole, cheese-stuffed chile egg-battered and fried.