Among Bushwick’s 2014 mourned closures was The Salad Wheel, a former healthy joint on 9 Jefferson Street. Needless to say, one of the investors, Karla Muniz, was directly impacted by the closing but took on a very Buddhist approach: where one door closes, another opens. Rather than view the closure as a failure, she decided to work on her dream of opening her own taqueria named after her mother. The landlord of the building got to know Karla while Salad Wheel was open, and offered up the space to her.
The dream has now become realized: La Lupe opened a little more than a month ago. The space has a positive energy when you walk into it. Bright words are painted on the wall. Upbeat music and voices of friends fill the room. People order tacos and eat messily at tables after grabbing their own silverware and jalepenos. It’s the perfect place to visit with friends to relax and enjoy great, affordable food and no frills.
Karla grew up in Ecuador where her mother and aunt opened the country’s first Mexican restaurant which then blossomed to other businesses. Karla would travel to Mexico and eat at taquerias and learned about Mezcal from her father. While many of the ingredients to make traditional Mexican cuisine are available in New York, they weren’t in Ecuador so her family would have to grow it themselves. Needless to say Mexican food has a deep place in Karla’s heart. La Lupe isn’t just a restaurant: it’s a story and collection of memories. As Karla told us, “Some people take their memories and write a book, or make music. I opened La Lupe.”
“The energy is very important to me in La Lupe. Our door is open to everyone, but this not the place to go if you’re looking for someone to wipe your mouth,” Karla told us. La Lupe is also a place for community. Not only did the landlord of the building help her by signing her over the lease, but while she was renovating neighbors and surrounding business owners would lend her a helping hand. One person continued to drop by to check on her progress, and he is now working as a delivery man. She plans on continuing to involve those from the area in her restaurant. “Who I hire is also very important. When I interview people to work here, I want to make sure they get along with the team. My employees’ happiness is key.” Although Karla’s opened other businesses, including a bed & breakfast in Ecuador, she said this is the business she’s the proudest of because of all the work she had to put into it. “I painted these walls myself, I picked out every piece of furniture. Everything is from my own two hands.”
While the menu is extensive and the drinks are incredible, La Lupe is not done expanding. Karla told us of soon-to-be brunch, as well as a Mezcal tasting that they’re working on adding very soon. We’re very excited to see what else La Lupe does.
Just about everything is made from scratch at La Lupe, including their salsas and hot sauces.
The chorizo is picked out with a very specific (and secret!) amount of fat from the butcher, and then marinated for 24 hours. Although the chorizo taco is certain to cure your hangover, it’s not too greasy. ($2.95)
The Paloma is made with tequila, grapefruit soda, lime and chili salt. The chili salt is made in-house, and is a nice offset to the freshness of the drink. Karla told us, “Everyone thinks the margarita is the traditional drink of Mexico, but it’s actually the Paloma.” I could see why. This drink was very refreshing! ($11)
The carnitas taco is marinated for three days. Karla makes the marinade herself, as it’s one of her mother’s secret recipes. She says they hope to make the tortillas themselves in-house soon as well. ($3.25)
The Pozole is the best soup you will find just about anywhere for $6. It’s a hearty serving and filled with chicken, hominy and pork. The broth itself is enriched with all of the flavors from the meat. It can definitely be considered a meal in itself, and the perfect cure for the winter cold. ($6)
The fish taco is one of their best-sellers and I could really taste why. The crunchy outside perfectly balanced the tenderness of the fish. The dressings of slaw, salsa verde and radishes were an exciting touch. Every bite of the fish taco was different from the last. ($4.25)
The margarita did not skimp out on tequila and definitely worth the price! Karla told us, “Everything here is a memory. The tequilas are my father’s favorite tequilas.” ($10)
The elote was actually one of my favorite dishes. It was delicately grazed in mayo which is made in-house as another secret recipe. The cheese on top is crumbly and a nice change in texture. Definitely a must try! ($3.95)
The Mexican Burger is definitely a great meal for someone who’s really hungry and ready to chow down on a big meal. It’s comes with a special sauce, guacamole and a fluffy bun with a side of chips. ($9.95)
The Blancharro is perfect for anyone who loves a sweet drink. Made with Mezcal, lime, Mexican cola and of course, delicious chili salt, it’s almost like a dessert drink to top off all the savory dishes you’re bound to consume. ($11)
La Lupe is located on 9 Jefferson Street. Hours: Mon-Tue: 12pm-11am daily; Wed-Fri: 12pm-12pm; Sat: 11pm-12am; Sun: 11am-11pm. Happy hour: 4-7pm.