Thursday, August 25, 2011

Feeling a Little Lupie

After six months in Charlotte, LA and I still claim to be newcomers. We are still figuring out where the locals go and where we can go that won’t break the bank. I planned to meet my friend, Shelby, for lunch and asked where we should meet. She asked me if I knew where Lupie’s Café is. Sure, I do, but I assumed it was a biker bar. LA thought it must be Mexican food. Shelby said we should meet there.

As we walked in to Lupie’s Café, I was struck by the décor: wooden booths, bare wood ceiling and walls, a surf shack vibe to the place. What’s that music they’re playing? Depending on who’s in charge of the music, it may be Johnny Cash, James Brown, or Jefferson Airplane. I’ve heard just about everything there. I actually finally asked and was told that there’s a house iPod, but the staff can also plug in their iPod and share their taste in music with the masses.

Minus the pink Port-o-let

Shelby and I met on a Thursday, which meant the daily special was chicken ‘n’ dumplings. Do I have to mention how much I love chicken ‘n’ dumplings? I didn’t think so. I was not disappointed. Meaty chunks of chicken, swimming in thick gravy, studded with dumplings that were dense but not at all doughy. The green beans were and long-simmered and well-seasoned (although a little saltier than I should be eating them). I know that the popular belief is that green beans should be cooked just until “crisp-tender”. I don’t subscribe to that popular belief. I love long-cooked green beans. They’re soft and juicy, with the same green color as the Pinto my mom drove when I was 7. Lupie’s mac ‘n’ cheese is creamy (rather than custardy, which I’m not crazy about) and yummy, but it has a thick layer of dark brown cheese on top. I’m not usually one to complain about baked cheese, but it never seems to work for me on Lupie’s mac ‘n’ cheese. I eat the mac and leave the cheese.

I’ve since taken LA and have gone back on a number of occasions. LA declared their burger to be the best he’s ever had. It is a good burger, but not the best I’ve ever had. Maybe it’s because I forgot to tell them that I didn’t want ketchup on it. LA’s personal favorite is the Big Dog with Cincinnati chili and cole slaw. The Cincinnati is a little sweet, but full of flavor and not hot. It’s a good match for the hot dog.

Lupie’s Café has the same menu all day, with specials for each day of the week. Thursday is my obvious favorite. Monday has meatloaf, which I had once and wasn’t overly impressed with. Monday is also the only day of the week on which mashed potatoes are available. The gravy is a white cream gravy with a mushroom flavor to it. The first time I had it, the waiter warned me about the mushroom gravy. I was expecting loads of mushrooms for me to pick out, but I was mistaken. Skip the meatloaf and order the 3- or 4-vegetable plate if you really want the potatoes. Two quiches are available every day of the week; typically one with a meat (often crab or turkey sausage) and the other vegetarian. The quiches come with salad and a side of fruit. The quiches are tall and light, with a higher filling per egg ratio than you normally see.

The downstairs bar area
During the day, Lupie’s Café attracts a business crowd, but the dinner crowd is younger and more “liberal”. Lupie works the cash register and is a delight. She’s very friendly and will treat you like a regular in no time. LA’s #1 reason for returning to Lupie’s Café is Jason, his favorite waiter. I like Jason too, but I find the majority of the waitstaff to be friendly, efficient, and very knowledgeable. You can tell they like their jobs. How often can you really say that about your server?

I think it goes without saying that Lupie’s Café is one of our “places”. We’re recognized when we go there, and you know how much LA and I love that. Go to Lupie’s Café. Unless you’re Grant Luckey, you’ll want to become a regular too.

Note: Three notes, actually. 1) Grant Luckey likes “going new places and trying new things”, but he refused to go to Lupie’s with us because he looked at the menu and decided that “they don’t have new things.” 2) On our last visit to Lupie’s, we were forced to sit by ourselves in the lower level to make room for Time Out Youth, a local organization that helps gay teens and young adults handle issues that result from them coming out. Yay Lupie’s, for being gay friendly! 3) Also on our last visit, our server, Nannette, played matchmaker for LA by giving him the name and number of a single friend of hers.

Lupie's Cafe is located at 2718 Monroe Road in Charlotte (there's currently a pink Port-O-Let out front, so you can't miss it).  A second location is at 101-A Old Statesville Rd in Huntersville.

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