It used to be called Lopez Bar and Grill. And even before that it was Lopez y Gonzalez…

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This isn’t a new place for us. In fact this was the place that was our favorite restaurant when we were dating many moons ago. Since then it’s moved a few blocks south from their original location after a period of a few years where they unfortunately didn’t have a presence in Cleveland.

As an added bonus it was half-price tequila drink night — as it is every Tuesday and Thursday.

Lopez isn’t what I consider “Mexican” food. It’s more a gourmet Tex-Mex style cuisine. Of course they have many traditional Mexican dishes, but most have some variety of modern twist.

We parked across the street behind the Cedar-Lee Theatre since we didn’t want to do the valet thing. Walking in the hostess gave us a choice of sitting inside or outside on the patio. We chose outside and we were immediately seated. The patio has around 15 tables and most of them were full — which was to be expected given the wonderful weather!

We started off with a couple of margaritas: Ennie got the mango margarita and I opted for the traditional (lime, duh) one made with Don Julio Blanco. They both lived up to expectations with the tequila not geting overpowered by the lime at all. I wanted to get the un-aged tequila since I was in the mood to taste the agave flavor come though. It was a nice well-rounded drink with a nice balance of sweet and tart from the lime and syrup and the agave flavors blended in well. Ennie’s mango was a bit more up-front with the mango, but that’s what she was aiming for. There’s a very extensive list of tequilas that they have so check out the menu and try something new!

We started off the meal with one of our favorite appetizers: the overly decadent queso fundido. Nothing but melted cheese and chorizo topped with a rajas of onions, marinated tomatoes and bits of jalapeño peppers. It comes served with some warmed flour tortillas. The rajas came as a surprise since the last time we had this it didn’t have it. It was a good touch that added a bit of complexity with the acidity of the tomatoes cutting through some of the richness of the cheese and chorizo. The one complaint (fixed quickly) was they only brought out three tortillas. What’s with restaurants bringing out food in quantities of prime numbers anyway?

On to the main course we stayed close to what we knew since we’ve had these before. I ordered the Northern Style Quesadillas and En got the Chicken Fajitas al Carbon. The flavors of both were as good as we remembered them, but both of the dishes lost the rice that used to come with the entrée (they are now a-la carte). Both seemed a bit bigger than before, so I’m not complaining about the missing rice. The base of both was a tender grilled chicken that was nice and juicy. On the quesadillas there was a good amount of melted monterey jack cheese and more of the rajas. On the side was a nice guacamole sauce and some pickled sticks of some crunchy vegetable which I’m presuming is Jícama. It all came together quite well! The presentation wasn’t as polished as it had been in the past, but that’s a small quibble.

I didn’t taste Ennie’s fajitas, but she claimed it was as good as ever! A bit spicy, but not overly so. It came with three different sides: well-seasoned black beans, a spicy and tart green tomatillo sauce and a simple fresh salsa. With it came another set of tortillas as you would expect. (Random: you can get “skirt steak fajitas.” Isn’t that redundant?)

By this time I was ready for some more to drink so I moved on to a Patrón silver tequila-based margarita. It had a bit more agave than the first one. It’s fun how the same set of ingredients can come up with so many different end results. In many ways it’s like a nice scotch – same thing happens with that.

We only managed to eat about half of our main course since we wanted to leave some room for desert: some flan. The flan was more upscale than we had before. It came out with some whipped cream on the side, some grilled granny smith apple slices, a couple of raspberries, a drizzle of caramel sauce, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a sprig of mint. Creamy, egg custardy goodness! Like jello, there’s always room for some flan; sneaks into the cracks.

Service overall was quite good and we were never wondering where our waiter was.

Total damage: $75 for the the drinks, appetizer, two entrées and desert. It meets the expectation of what I would pay for the food and ser

Overall. it’s a great place to get some good gourmet Tex-Mex cuisine!

Lopez SouthWestern Food Kitchen
2196 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118

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