Mexican food has a special place in the hearts of Penn Staters.
Earlier this year, we were thrilled to learn that hidden-gem Lupita’s would be expanding into downtown State College. With its original location accessible only by car, it was difficult to taste what Lupita’s had to offer. Now with a location at 312 W. Beaver Ave. in the former home of John’s Shanghai, Lupita’s is accessible and ready to serve up some authentic Mexican food.
To see how its food stacks up to its location in the West College Ave. Uni-Mart, our hungriest staffers ventured to Lupita’s newest restaurant this week.
Annie Kubiak: Carnitas Tacos
Lupita’s was already one of my favorite places to get my Mexican food fix in State College, so imagine my excitement when it opened a location downtown. I got two carnitas tacos and a side of rice, and I enjoyed my food. Although the tacos don’t have a lot of toppings, they are packed full of flavor. My meal was also under $9, so that was a plus.
My only complaint is that the seating is a little cramped. However, despite needing to shimmy my way through some tables and chairs to get to the exit, I will be returning.
Anna Wiggins: Carne Molida Tacos
My Lupita’s experience was one for the books. First, I was enlightened to the fact that I either have the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap, or I simply don’t like cilantro. Second, I was delighted by my tacos. I got three carne molida (ground beef) tacos on a flour shell, which were topped with cilantro and onions galore. All in all, this was quite the scrumptious taco.
The meat was flavorful, and the lemon added a fresh ~zest~. I highly recommend trying the mystery sauces on the salsa cart. The sauce I got was delicious, but don’t ask me for the name of it because I genuinely do not know what it is.
My one gripe was the generous helping of cilantro. This may just be a “me” problem, but I found myself picking the cilantro off to minimize the soap taste. The late-night hours are certainly a plus, and I’m dreaming of the day I’ll happily wander into Lupita’s to down some gorditas at 1 a.m.
Colleen Nersten: Barbacoa Gorditas
Lupita’s is easily a top-five place to eat in State College, but I was nervous that the new location wouldn’t live up to the Uni-Mart location in terms of aesthetics and taste. Fortunately, it did.
I opted for two barbacoa gorditas, and they were everything I wanted and more. I spent less than $8 and was full after just one. The corn tortilla was soft and crispy at the same time, and they generously piled on the barbacoa. The pockets were packed with refried beans, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream, too. There’s plenty of seating, and the fact that Lupita’s is open late at night is a game-changer. Flautas at 1 a.m. is a dream come true.
Emma Kappel: Carnitas Tacos & Barbacoa Sopes
Hot take: I have never been a fan of Yallah. When I first started at Penn State, I knew the hype that surrounded the fast food joint but never could get myself to enjoy it. El Jefe’s is good, but I was longing for a traditional style street taco in State College.
My boyfriend and I went to Lupita’s this week, and man was it incredible. I got carnitas street tacos, and he tried the barbacoa sopes. The food came fast despite it being the dinner rush, and the staff was friendly. We paired our entrees with a side of homemade chips and beans. I’m still daydreaming about Lupita’s, and it is going to be dangerous for me only living a two-minute walk away.
Keeley Lamm: Chicken Empanadas
Lupita’s! Oh, how happy you make me. So, I guess I’m a fake Lupita’s fan because I’ve never been to the ~authentic~ gas station. However, I am now a true fan of everything the Beaver Ave. location has to offer after checking out the new spot downtown this weekend.
I rolled with three chicken empanadas and a side of rice. I was not disappointed! I wouldn’t normally go for an empanada (or three), but I was looking for something different and may have found a new favorite order. The little pockets of heavenly dough were cooked and fried just right, and the cotija on top was the perfect touch.
I loaded up on some assorted sauces from the sauce bar, and while I’m not sure what exactly they were, they were great additions to the empanadas.
In terms of the rice, Lupita’s somehow managed to make the simple dish a total game-changer in my meal. The rice was so good and I’m glad I opted for the a la carte option because it was a hefty portion (and I was really hungry).
I will absolutely be back to Lupita’s several times before the end of the semester. Maybe I’ll see some of you there at 2 a.m.
Mackenzie Cullen: Chicken Tacos
I know it might look underwhelming, but these tacos were delicious. Lupita’s has a section where you can add your own sauces and toppings, which I didn’t realize until after I began my meal. Although it isn’t featured, I got some kind of spicy sauce that was a little too much for my liking but was still really good. When I go back, I’ll definitely be adding more substance to my tacos.
As someone who lives on the west side of downtown, I feel like it’s hard to find many great restaurants on this end so, it’s nice to have a new addition closer to my place. Needless to say, I’ll be stopping here quite often — especially after a night out.