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Antojitos Lupe – Bernalillo, New Mexico

Antojitos Lupe Authentic Mexican Cuisine in Bernalillo

Antojitos Lupe Authentic Mexican Cuisine in Bernalillo

Gustavo Arellano, the brilliant and hilarious author of Ask a Mexican, a widely syndicated newspaper column published mostly in weekly alternative papers, has become one of my go-to sources of entertainment and information, particularly regarding our common and beloved Spanish lexicon.  His inimitable wit and perspective is amusing and enlightening.  Take for example his translation of the word “antojitos.”

in an article published in his parent newspaper, the Orange County Weekly, Arellano observes that “the Spanish menu entry antojitos translates as “appetizers,” but the expression connotes more than mere snacks. It derives from the noun antojo, which describes the cravings unique to pregnant women. Antojitos, then, is “little cravings,” and Latinos know that their before-the-main-meal bites should be so appetizing that expectant females snarl at husbands to seek these delights at ungodly hours.”

Tomatillo salsa and chips

Tomatillo salsa and chips

Expectant mothers snarling! Ungodly hours!  Obviously antojitos should be good enough to elicit the type of carnal response usually reserved for something more than special…something great.  One could surmise that in a sense, antojitos are the Mexican equivalent of dim sum, but where antojitos translates to “little cravings,” dim sum translates to “a bit of heart” or “heart’s delight.”  In either case, Mexicans are passionate about their antojitos which in every sense are a heart’s delight.

Barry Popik, food etymologist extraordinaire explains in his fabulous blog that the word “antojitos” has been cited in American newspapers since at least 1937.  He credits Claudia Alarcon writing for  Chefs.com for shedding more light on the topic of antojitos: “Perhaps the most difficult group of dishes to explain in all of Mexican cuisine, antojitos are best described as small dishes that are meant to be consumed informally, either from street vendors at lunchtime, in cantinas with drinks before dinner, or at home or in the street as late night snacks.”

Tostada de Ceviche

Tostada de Ceviche

In October, 2009, a new restaurant named Antojitos Lupe opened on the ill-fated corner of Camino del Pueblo and Avenida Bernalillo, a corner which has seen many restaurants come and go, all in short order.  The site’s previous tenant was Charlie’s Burgers & Mexican Food which lasted less than a year in that location.  Antojitos Lupe, it turns out, is the second instantiation of a popular and similarly named restaurant in the Duke City.  Lupe’s Antojitos and Mexican food on Zuni Road has been pleasing palates in southeast Albuquerque since 2007.  There are several other Mexican restaurants in that area, but Lupe’s has established a faithful following.  One reason might just be Lupe herself.  She is a delightful woman with a luminous smile and happy glow reserved almost exclusively for her Bernalillo restaurant.  She rarely visits her Albuquerque restaurant, but has a trusted staff on whom she relies to provide high quality victuals and service.

In Bernalillo, Antojitos Lupe has no competition from other Mexican restaurants and in fact, only a half-dozen or so restaurants of any kind call the City of Coronado home.  As in the original Lupe’s, the walls are an almost shockingly red watermelon color, a holdover from previous tenants at the site.  Another holdover is a framed photograph of General Francisco “Pancho” Villa.  Menu boards, posted over the order counter, include only a smattering of the items on the menu which is a veritable compendium of deliciousness from Central Mexico.

Huarache con carne asada

Huarache con carne asada

Contrary to the name on the marquee, the menu isn’t solely about appetizers.  There are a number of breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees available.  As you contemplate the menu, a complementary bowl of nearly luminescent neon green tomatillo based salsa (called salsa verde) and chips is brought to your table.  The tomatillo salsa is only mildly piquant, but most definitely fresh tasting.  More prevalent flavor sensations come from the tanginess of limes and the sharp, fresh flavor of cilantro.  It’s a very good salsa, a bit on the watery side, but the chips are formidable enough to hold large quantities of it.  The chips are thick, crisp and low in salt.

A rotating array of Aguas frescas (including Pina, Jamaica and Horchata) to slake your thirst are served in Styrofoam cups.  If you wish to reduce your carbon footprint, try an ice cold bottle of Jarritos, the famous Mexican soda pops which come in nine delicious and colorful fruit flavors: Tamarind, Mandarin, Fruit Punch, Jamaica, Lime, Grapefruit, Guava, Pineapple and Strawberry.  The horchata is cold and delicious with a flavor more than vaguely reminiscent of the milk left over after eating a bowl of children’s breakfast cereal.  The pina (pineapple) is even better.

A three taco plate with rice, beans and salsa

It wouldn’t be a true antojitos experience if you don’t partake of at least one preprandial treat.  Perhaps the most intriguing are the Huaraches.  No, not the Mexican sandals popular with the Bohemian set. Barry Popik explains that huaraches are “thick, oval-shaped corn tortillas, often topped with meat, cheese, beans, and cooked cactus leaves.”  The name “huaraches” was either coined or popularized by a popular Mexico City restaurant named El Huarache Azteca.

The name fits.  Huaraches are shaped roughly like a human foot, and just as a human foot needs covering, the thick corn tortilla needs toppings.  Indented by hand so that it has “borders” to hold its component ingredients, one huarache at Antojitos Lupe is topped with ground beef, shredded lettuce, Mexican crema and queso fresco.  The ground beef is well seasoned and best of all, it isn’t refried  (fried once then reheated) as at some restaurants.  Even if you don’t add a smidgeon of salsa, this is a surprisingly flavorful meal starter.  Perhaps even better is a huarache topped with chorizo and potatoes.  The chorizo is nicely seasoned and imbues everything it touches with flavor.

Chile Rellenos with Beans and Rice

One entree highly recommended by the wait staff is the Bisteca Ranchera which at many Mexican restaurants is a supermodel thin slab of beef.  At Antojitos Lupe, that slab is cut up into small pieces and based on how well the flavors meld together, is sauteed with tomatoes and onions.  At least, this entree tastes as if it is all prepared together instead of the tomatoes and onions being added later.

The Mexican state of Oaxaca is known as the “Land of Seven Moles,”–moles which can be found in such colors as red, green, black, brown and yellow.  Moles are an intricate sauce made by grinding and toasting chiles, seeds, spices and sundry ingredients.  Though they appear to be rather simple, moles are, in fact, highly complex and unique, no two cooks preparing it the same way.  While some New Mexicans won’t “deign” to eat mole, others find it a surprising alternative or even supplement to their beloved chile.One of the most common ways to have mole is over chicken and at Antojitos Lupe, “over” is an understatement.  A full chicken leg and thigh are thoroughly covered in mole.  In fact, the entree looks as if it chocolate has been applied by trowel, so densely covered is the poultry.  This is a messy entree guaranteed to require several napkins and copious finger-licking.

Red chicken Mole

Red Chicken Mole

Among the most intriguing items on the menu are three molcajete dishes.  A molcajete is essentially a seasoned stone mortar meticulously carved out of a single rock of vesicular basalt by a skilled artisan.  Not only are they esthetic, they are highly functional, used for crushing and grinding spices and as serving vessels.  That’s how Antojitos Lupe uses them.  The minute you place your order for one of the molcajete dishes, the round, three-legged mortar goes into the oven before your meal is prepared.  Your entire meal will be served in the cavity of the molcajete which retains heat for the entire duration of your meal.  This is “too hot to handle” heat that keeps your meal steaming hot for as long as half an hour.  The Molcajete Lupe is the house specialty, a spectacular melange of Mexican favorites: carne asada–thinly sliced grilled beef flank steak; pollo asado–grilled chicken; carne al pastor–marinated pork; queso fresco–a creamy, soft white cheese that tastes like a mild feta; nopalitos–verdant strips of nopal (prickly pear pads) cooked with onions; and finally, homemade corn tortillas.

Individually, each item on this entree is quite good, but as a collective, the entire dish is fabulous.  The juices from the sauteed onions and nopalitos coalesce with the al pastor to penetrate the chicken and beef, imbuing them with a surprisingly delicious flavor and a moist texture.  The corn tortillas make excellent tacos, engorged with a little bit of everything on the molcajete plus the side of beans and rice that comes with this entree.  The other two molcajete dishes are a chicken-based Molcajete Pollo dish and a meat based Molcajete Asada.

My friend Señor Plata enjoys his very first Molcajete Lupe

The caldo de res, a hearty beef and vegetable soup, is a meal in itself.  Served in a bowl equal in size to the swimming pool sized bowls used for Vietnamese pho, it’s big enough to share–not that you would want to.  To compare caldo de res with some Vietnamese soups wouldn’t be much of a stretch.  Both have restorative properties and are especially wonderful in cold weather.  Both are elixirs for whatever ails you, offering the comfort only a mother can match.  Both are flavored with marrow from bones.  Lupe’s caldo de res is made with bone-in beef shanks boiled for hours until tender. Mixed in are chunks of zucchini, carrots, chopped cabbage and mini corn on the cobs. It’s the beef broth which will absolutely delight you.  You’ll relish each spoonful, maybe even disposing of the spoon to slurp it up right from the bowl.

When we first discovered Antojitos Lupe, dessert options abounded, but the only way you’d have room for any is if you asked for a to-go box (some entrees, such as the Molcajete dishes, actually taste even better the next day).  Dessert options included flan, arroz con leche (a sweet rice with milk dish) and bionicos.  The very word “bionico” is intriguing.  For those of my generation, it conjures images of the Six Million Dollar Man, a television show chronicling the adventures of an astronaut “rebuilt” with “bionic” implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision

Caldo de Res

Bionicos are so-named because they impart quick energy.  Lupe explains that bionicos are very popular for breakfast in parts of Mexico, not only because of their quick energy but because of their healthful qualities.  They are constructed of fresh, hand-cut fruits–strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, pineapple, banana, apples–topped with granola, coconut, unsweetened yogurt and just a bit of syrup for sweetness.  Unlike some granola-based breakfast dishes, bionicos aren’t cloying in their sweetness; instead, the fruits impart their naturally fresh flavors–natural tanginess, sweetness, juiciness and tartness.  The dessert is easily large enough for two to share. 

Alas Antojitos Lupe no longer offers desserts.  As wonderful as the sumptuous sweets were, they weren’t moving very quickly and have been removed from the menu.  I kept the two previous paragraphs and the photograph on the review to remind patrons of what they’re missing.  Perhaps they’ll inspire a grass roots effort to bring them back (or at least the bionicos).

Bionicos – for breakfast or any time

The lofty menu at Antojitos Lupe means future visits are inevitable.  Good cooking, attentive service and reasonable prices means there’ll be plenty of company at Bernalillo’s newest and only Mexican restaurant.  Then there’s Lupe herself, a perpetually smiling woman with the energy to multi-task as hostess, waitress, cashier and cook.  She’s sweeter than any of the desserts formerly offered at the restaurant.

Antojitos Lupe
180 East Highway 550
Bernalillo, New Mexico
(505) 867-2145
1ST VISIT
:  17 October 2009
LATEST VISIT: 27 July 2012
# OF VISITS: 6
RATING: 21
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Chicken Mole, Huaraches, Tomatillo Salsa, Bisteca Ranchera, Molcajete Lupe, Molcajete Asada, Bionicos

Lupe's Antojitos on Urbanspoon

Category: Bernalillo, Mexican
  • Barbara says:

    We’ve been twice, both times for breakfast and are anticipating returns for lunch and dinner. The chilaquiles are fantastic, very very close to the version we first encountered in Ensenada. I think the secret is in the red sauce, which Antojitos Lupe does just right.
    This time my dad and I split the Molcajete Lupe…a delicious combination of beef, chicken, pork, cheese, onions, tomatoes, cactus and anything else they have in the kitchen, served in a very very hot molcajete…and served with their declicious homemade corn tortillas and a side of rice and beans.
    I hope they stay…although there have been other diners both times we’ve eaten there, it’s hardly been crowded.
    This is a shame because they serve one of the best breakfasts in Bernalillo and I have to believe the same can be said about lunch and dinner.

    February 16, 2010 at 9:21 AM
  • Nara G says:

    I find myself driving to Bernalillo for work often, and only recently stopped in to Lupe’s. I went in the convenience store next door, and then figured I’d pick something up for lunch. So mad I never stopped sooner!!! She is so sweet and is always smiling. My absolute favorite is the flautas de papa. They’re fried but not too crispy, with plenty of delicious potato filling, lettuce, queso fresco, and rice and beans with the platillo. They have a huge selection, and lots of yummy things to drink as mentioned in the blog. They’re fast too, but you know your dish is being prepared fresh.

    It’s been pretty busy the couple times I’ve been there, but I was also there at the noon hour. Seems like a lot of people get things “para llevar” – to go – so I’m hoping that’s why the dining area isn’t packed.

    I can’t wait to try more from here. It’s really really good.

    June 18, 2010 at 5:33 PM
  • Sandy says:

    Viva Lupe’s! We finally got around to trying this place and are glad we did. I had the chicken mole which was delicious. My wife enjoyed the chile relano. The service was friendly and quick. A repeat visit is in the works much sooner than it took us the first time.

    July 7, 2010 at 1:42 PM
  • The Globalizer says:

    Fantastic food — it’s a shame they’re not busier. Get the word out!

    I’ll be making a regular trip from ABQ for the Molcajete Lupe.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:20 AM
  • Sr Plata says:

    Well, Sensei said I had a choice, hot soup in the middle of summer in New Mexico or something very different cooked in a bowl made of volcanic stone mortar containing meat, cheese vegetables, chile, etc. and for one second I went ‘hmmm’. So, we went to Bernalillo, stopped at this gas station where I look up and there is the restaurant sign. Somehow I felt I was taken back in time where I pictured many a diner to be shared with gas stations to feed the masses who were moving West. I was advised by Sensei to have the ‘Molcajete Lupe’ and I did with one slight modification; yes, you have heard it before, I don’t eat pork so I had extra steak and chicken to replace. This unseemingly hot/steaming bowl made of stone is carried to our table and I am wondering why this dish seemed so out of place in this establishment. I understand that this is the only place in the Albuquerque area to have an authentic Molcajete and I am so impressed. It was amazing that the food stayed so hot all the way thru the meal because the heat was held by that stone-like bowl. It was another WOW moment to feast on that and was surprised, as by the comments that came before me, that it was not crowed. I’m not sure how well known it is by the masses that a non-standard dish such as this being served. I thought that with some word of mouth, this dish could bring in troves of people, obviously a mixed blessed, good for them but a line for me. It was served with corn tortillas, beans and rice. This was truly a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that is close to home and work but which makes you feel as if you are in another place south of the border. I’m glad Sensei was there to interpret the Spanish and to ask questions. It went beyond my 1 year of junior high (mid-high for the new generation) Spanish class. This was another gem I found here in Albuquerque that again has impressed me.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:24 PM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    June 2010:

    Barbacoa de Borrego was my choice for my first visit (I am a lamb freak). The lamb was steamed and then grilled for a bit of crispness and served with a soup containing garbanzos and flavored with cilantro and epazote. Swirl chunks of lamb in the soup and you get a superb combination of tastes exploding onto your palate.

    This is one of my favorite places.

    August 17, 2011 at 11:39 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Just had lunch at Antojitos and can’t wait to go back.
    My wife and I had two dishes, both excellent.
    We split a plate of Chile Rellenos and they were the best I’ve had.
    OK, I may not be the foremost authority on Mexican foods but I know what I like and
    the Chile Rellenos were terrific.
    And the chips and salsa starters were great, the “red” not too hot, just right.
    Our next dish was the Molcajete Lupe and we both thought it was great.
    It was my first Molcajete and my first taste of nopales.
    It won’t be my last..
    Gil’s Thrilling……. has been my guide to great meals in New Mexico.
    My wife has announced she wants to go back for a dinner of the lamb stew and further announced she liked the rice and beans.
    Wow! Antojitos Lupe scored big with both of us.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:27 PM
  • Sr Plata says:

    Sr Plata returned to have his ‘Molcajete Lupe’ this evening to see if it was as good as the 1st time having lunch there and yes, it was! He brought his father-in-law to try who also enjoyed the tastes. He had the combo that consisted of beef, chili relleno, beans, rice and some other goodies. I think the next time I come, I will try that because I liked how his plate looked as much as mine. He tried a bit of my cactus that was grilled with the onions with my meet and said it was tasty. They close at 8pm for those that need to get there for an early dinner. I hope they read these cause they are doing a good job.

    October 27, 2011 at 7:34 PM
  • Andrea says:

    I adore this place. Glad to see there are twice as many opportunities now to feed Duke City’ers. :-)

    March 2, 2012 at 1:30 PM
  • Dave says:

    We finally got to Lupe’s this afternoon for take out. We should have heeded Gil’s recommendation way before this ! We’ll surely make a point of going through the menu as the three entrees we sampled were each remarkable.

    I believe what distinguishes Lupe’s from so many other restaurants is an amazingly subtle virtuousity with the herbs and spices used in the preparation of the dishes. Very reminiscent of the elegant hand of chef Saul Paniagua in his ( Lamentably ) short tenure at ‘ Four Aces ‘…..where each bite of the dish lead the palate through a delightful array of sensations and surprises based in and amplifying the virtues of the main ingredients. Try the shrimp diabolo ( sp. ) and you’ll see what I mean.

    We look foreward to learning more of the fine points of Mexican cuisine& happily we have Lupe’s to educate us.

    D.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:18 PM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    The long-awaited new version of Lupe’s had its grand opening today, October 30. Same menu. Same charming Lupe.

    You deserve to treat yourself to Molcajete Lupe.

    280 U.s. 550
    Bernalillo, NM 87004

    October 30, 2013 at 2:50 PM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    Correction:
    180 U.s. 550
    Bernalillo, NM 87004

    (505) 867-2145

    October 30, 2013 at 3:00 PM
  • Rich A says:

    Ate at the new Lupe’s for lunch today (I’d never been to the previous location). The mole de pollo was delicious, excellent.

    “I’ll be back!”

    November 7, 2013 at 12:04 AM
  • Jana Perez says:

    Suggestion: Upload new location and contact information with menu.

    My Family and I have enjoyed your Authentic Mexican menu at its fullest. My Husband prefers only you and your brother’s restaurant in Albuquerque on Zuni when ordering Menudo. We have been loyal customers since approximately 2009.

    December 21, 2013 at 9:13 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Lupe needs two things: A better more visible sign and the finish of construction on 550. The food needs no improvement.
    Still the best rellenos around.
    Business is improving as more folks are finding the new location. My wife and I are rooting for its success.

    December 21, 2013 at 2:21 PM

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