Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Casa Lupe (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Chicken

Casa Lupe and the Case of the Mysterious Tortilla Chips
(To be read in the voice of Sgt. Joe Friday from Dragnet)
***Warning: you may groan when you read this***

Chapter 1: The Setup
It was high noon on a sunny summer's day.  The kind of day that makes you wonder why you hole yourself up in an office all day for the almighty Dollar.  My partners and I rolled into the strip mall in our "nacho cruiser", not quite knowing what we'd find.  Prior evidence showed that Casa Lupe was one of those places where peoples' dreams came true - dreams of spicy, tangy food from south of the border, dreams of drinking beer on the clock and staggering back into work to fall asleep at their desks.  Nevermind that it had the same name as a similar joint a few miles away where the rival owner was undoubtedly plotting a nasty fate for our suspect.

Chapter 2: Uneasy
We exited the vehicle and walked through the summer heat and into the building.  The only other patrons were an innocent couple sitting in the booth closest to the door, obviously planted there to make the place look busier than it actually was.  I knew we'd better watch our backs now.
We looked around.  Clean, well-set tables, festive streamers, even a couple untouched pinatas hanging from the ceiling, waiting for some poor, blindfolded kid to take a whack at them.  Something wasn't right…

Chapter 3: The Heat is On
Out of nowhere, a waitress appeared.  Startled by her sudden presence, I reached for my phone, ready to call in for backup.  But Partner "A" nodded to me, which signaled that this was the nice lady she'd gathered intel on earlier that day.  A waitstaff veteran - 3 kids, a husband that made an honest living, and a pet dog named "Sparkito".  No need for alarm here.

Our waitress brought us our menus, water, a warm basket of chips, and 3 kinds of salsa.  Things were definitely shaping up.  As we dug in and started munching like squirrells discovering their stash of nuts in the dead of winter, I looked over at "A" and watched her smile turn to alarm.  I could tell the heat was getting to her.  Someone had obviously spiked the salsa with some serious peppers and was probably in a corner somewhere, laughing, knowing they got the drop on these all-American public servants.  That was nothing compared to what we were about to discover…

Chapter 4: A Stale Motive
Ah ha!  They couldn't hide it any longer.  The chips!  Something was very wrong.  The warmth coming from the basket of chips was nothing but a decoy.  Usually a warm basket of chips indicates crispy, fresh, deep fried tortillas.  Not this time.  Some chips were crispy, but most were stale.  I was baffled.  I'd never seen anything like this before.  Warm, stale chips?  Partner "N" and I nodded to each other knowingly.

Chapter 5: That's Nacho Average Plate of Food!  Or is it?
After the shocking incident with the chips I held out hope that since the plate of nachos I ordered would be cooked, there wouldn't be any chance of stale chips sneaking their way in there.
Was I ever wrong.
We're talking about some devious criminal minds here.  Beneath the tender, decently flavored chicken, the generous dollop of guacamole, and the pile of sour cream and cheese, I found more of those devious, ironically stale chips.  They'd obviously been through the oven, but they somehow managed to disobey the laws of culinary physics.  I doubt that even if they were convicted for this disobedience and put out on the chain gang in the hot sun that they'd crisp up.
Chapter 6: The Long Ride Home

We never did find the sick mind behind those chips and the waitress didn't give us any more information.  We'd hit a wall.  The only comfort we could take was in knowing that there are a thousand other taquerias in this town of culinary criminals and we'd never have to return to this place and risk broken teeth from stale chips again.  As we rode off into the warm afternoon sun, I could see the disappointment on A's and N's faces, but I took comfort in knowing we'd lived to eat another plate of nachos next week…

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes: Just the facts, ma'am.
Map to Location: http://mapq.st/Mg4GaZ

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