In the U.S., chimichangas and burritos are always associated with Mexican food, but in the central part of Mexico those words don’t mean a lot. In Mexico City, specifically, it’s very hard to find burritos that resemble those found north of the border, and the word “chimichanga” doesn’t even exist in our vocabulary.
There is a restaurant in Coyoacán, however, where burritos and chivichangas, which don’t look anything at all like chimichangas, are part of the menu. Back in the middle of the 20th century, Guadalupe Garza de Pintor recognized a culinary gap in Mexico City: At the time there were no restaurants that sold northern food. Pintor, a native of Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua, decided in 1959 to open a merendero, a restaurant where only northern style meriendas (dinners) were served. And thus Merendero Las Lupitas was born.
The success of Las Lupitas can be measured not only by how many years it’s been in business, but also by all the celebrities who have made it their regular dining venue. “[Writer] Carlos Monsiváis used to come here very often with friends and colleagues,” Eva Pintor, Guadalupe’s daughter and the current owner, told us. “Former president Gustavo Ordaz came here all the time when he was secretary of state. It was his favorite place to dine in Coyoacán.”
It is easy to see why Las Lupitas is such a popular spot. Located in the heart of a gorgeous colonial neighborhood in Coyoacán, the restaurant is appealingly appointed in pure Mexican style, with brightly colored wooden tables and chairs and traditional handicrafts. A beautiful mirror depicting the life of a Tarahumara village covers one of the walls. The service is outstanding, and the food is the best northern cooking we’ve ever had in the city.
Merendero Las Lupitas is no longer open just for dinner. Breakfast starts at around 8 a.m. and food is served straight through till midnight. We visited the place for a late breakfast and stayed a little longer to try some of the lunch and dinner specials. Our very attentive server recommended the huevos Las Lupitas, two fried eggs on top of fried flour tortillas and bathed in guajillo and green salsas, and the plato combinado, two thin burritos stuffed with eggs and chilorio (ground pork cooked with peppers and spices, a typical dish in Chihuahua) and a chivichanga, a quesadilla made with a flour tortilla, stuffed with refried beans and Chihuahua cheese and brushed with a guajillo sauce that gives it a reddish hue.
After our breakfast and a long conversation with Eva Pintor and some of the staff, we decided to try something else. What caught our attention the most was the menudo, a northern dish that combines the classical pancita (beef stomach) and pozole. Las Lupitas serves two kinds: red from the state of Chihuahua and white from the neighboring state of Sinaloa. We got half an order of each and enjoyed every bit of it to the last drop.
And if they stayed open through the wee hours of the morning, we most definitely would have stuck around for another breakfast.