Lupita's: Faith, family and Mexican food (w/video)
March 11, 2014 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated March 10, 2014 at 10:11 p.m.
Guadalupe Yzaguirre perfected her craft from inside her tiny little Mexican restaurant on South Laurent Street.
Yzaguirre, a short, matronly grandmother-type strong in her faith, owns Lupita's.
She knows the secret to her success.
"The real secret is you have to treat people right, be friendly and smile to them no matter what goes in your life," Yzaguirre said. "Don't bring your problems to work; it's an old saying but true."
Success must resonate with Lupita's, which has been a mainstay on South Laurent Street for almost 30 years while dozens of other Mexican food restaurants have come into Victoria with fanfare but exited stage left with shuttered buildings in their wake.
A glimpse inside her restaurant reveals bits of what makes Yzaguirre tick: family, faith and her customers.
On her family: a husband, five children and 12 (soon to be 13) grandchildren: "I've been blessed. My children have been blessed."
On her faith: "I wouldn't be here without it. I've tried other things, and they didn't work."
On her customers: "My customers like me. They go and try the new (Mexican restaurants), but they come back."
Yzaguirre recently sat down with the Advocate for a question-and-answer session.
What is your favorite food to cook?
Mexican, because I can use a lot of mother's recipes.
What is your favorite Mexican dish to cook?
I like calabaza con pollo, chicken and rice, enchiladas, gorditas, carne guisada. I can cook almost anything, but I limit it to what the people want.
Do you follow recipes?
I just know what are the best spices it takes to give the taste that goes with a plate. I just know what to use. I never use recipes.
How many tortillas do you make in a day?
About 100. I don't use them all, maybe 80 or 70. The rest I give to my family.
How did you perfect your tortillas?
I didn't know I had a recipe for tortillas. I just saw how they made them. I did everything else - biscuits, breads - but I never did tortillas. The secret is the temperature of the water (about 95 degrees). Even if you don't have the right ingredients, the secret is the water. I learned that was the secret. I learned that people who make it with cold water, it doesn't come out as good. It breaks, the tortillas are hard to handle, they're tough, chewy. A tortilla doesn't have to be like that. The Hispanic people, they use tortillas like a spoon and eat it with the food.
Is it hard being open six days a week?
I really don't feel that six days a week is a lot. I have fun. I see my business not as a business, but like I get to serve my friends, my relatives, my family. When they don't come, I miss them.
How do you classify your type of Mexican cooking?
They tell me they like my Mexican food because, like enchiladas, I don't make them like Mexico, where they're spicy, hard, crunchy. Texas people don't like that type of Mexican food. I think that my Mexican food is called Tex-Mex. I learned it from South Texas. Like menudo, I make it like the way I learned in the South. In Mexico, they don't cook like I do.
What's your busiest time of day?
Breakfast. My lunchtime right now is kind of low. I need to promote more lunch specials.
What do most people order from your breakfast menu?
Huevos rancheros, tacos, potato and eggs, bacon. I make whatever the people want. They don't have to follow my menu. They can always tell me what they want, and I'll fix it. I think that's been working out for me and for them. I have some who are looking for pancakes. If they want pancakes, I'll make them pancakes.
What's your secret to success?
I've been here by the grace of God, I guess. My customers like me. They go and try the new (Mexican restaurants), they come back. They bring me input: 'Lupita, nobody cooks like you. Nobody makes tortillas like you.' And they go and come. Some of them (loyal customers) have passed away, but the Lord always sends someone new. You have to treat people with dignity, respect. The people who come here always can't afford to eat what they want to eat, but I say 'Don't worry about it, just order what you want.' If they don't come back and pay me, that's all right. God will send somebody with money.