Taqueria to die for

Hidden in Gridley, Casa Lupe Market has tasty treats tucked in the back

Server/cook Maria, “La Famosa,” stands before the grill at the Casa Lupe Taquería.

Server/cook Maria, “La Famosa,” stands before the grill at the Casa Lupe Taquería.

Photo By Christine G.K. LaPado

Casa Lupe Taquería 130 Magnolia St., Gridley, inside the Casa Lupe Market 846-5943. Hours: daily, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Casa Lupe Taquería

130 Magnolia St.
Gridley, CA 95948

(530) 846-5943

While it has become a cliché to say that a restaurant is “worth the drive” or is “a hidden gem,” in the case of the Casa Lupe Taquería—tucked at the rear of the Casa Lupe Market in Gridley, approximately 30 miles south of Chico—neither could be more true.

Trips down Highway 99 to the Sacramento area and back become infinitely more pleasurable for me with the inclusion of a stop for the delicious food at the Casa Lupe Taquería (along with a shopping spree at the huge market, which has the biggest selection of Mexican grocery items, produce, butcher-shop meats, baked goods and other south-of-the-border items for miles around).

I made my way down to my favorite Butte County taqueria at lunchtime the other day with my brother and 9-year-old daughter in tow, as both jump at the chance to eat at Casa Lupe (located, incidentally, next door to Casa Lupe Restaurant).

The memory of the warm, crunchy delightfulness of the “tacos de papa” (two for $3)—mashed potatoes with cilantro, onion and a squeeze of limón cradled in slightly crispy, fresh corn tortillas—that I’d eaten on my previous visit still lingered. Very tempting, but I opted for something different this time—a carne asada sope ($2.50) and two tinga (a mixture of shredded beef and pork) tacos ($1.25 each).

My brother chose a beef burrito and my daughter a chicken burrito. One-meat burritos, which contain rice, beans and cheese, cost $4.49; two meats will run you $5.49. Sans meat: $3.49.

Other menu items include tortas (Mexican-style sandwiches), shrimp-and-octopus cocktail, tamales and quesadillas. Ingredients for some menu items, such as the platillos and the regular shrimp cocktail, are listed only in Spanish (so don’t be afraid to ask questions).

We paid at the register next to a glass-fronted, deli-style steam table in which the taqueria’s various meat offerings—from the familiar carne asada to the less common tinga, cabeza (beef cheek) and lengua (beef tongue)—are displayed, alongside the fresh, sweet churros ($.90) that I always try to save room for. Near the meats are individual portions of luscious tres leches cake ($2.99) and to-go containers of five different salsas, which range in price from $2 to $5.

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We took a seat at one of the six tables, with a good view of a large glass case loaded with freshly baked Mexican pastries and galletas, and near the various fruits, veggies and assorted fresh peppers piled high in the store’s produce section. I sipped on my jamaica (a drink made from hibiscus flowers—other aguas frescas such as guava and horchata are available) and listened to the Mexican music playing overhead while we waited for our food.

Accompanied by the requisite radish and lime slices, my sope (like a small, very thick corn tortilla piled with meat, lettuce, tomato, beans, onion, cilantro, queso cotija, sour cream and salsa) was refreshing. The crispness of the lettuce and of the sope’s fried-masa base, together with the tang of the cheese and the Mexican-style sour cream, were perfect for a hot summer day. And the meat in my tacos was juicy and seasoned just right. It’s amazing how much meat they can pack into a little corn tortilla!

My co-diners’ hefty, hearty burritos had just the right balance of ingredients; they were neither dry nor soggy, as is sometimes the case with taqueria fare.

If you have not tried the food at Casa Lupe Taquería, you must. Now you can no longer say—as so many people I have raved about the place to have said—“I didn’t even know it was there!”

And I’ll get to say, “I told you so.”