What do Mexico city, Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, and Cleveland all have in common? Lopez, a southwestern-style restaurant (Figure 1)! Lopez is conveniently located on Lee Road, the road of local eateries near our house. I found this restaurant soon after my first house-hunting visit to Cleveland, and we have been back several times since to enjoy the margaritas and assorted tacos.
Lopez isn’t what I would consider an authentic Mexican restaurant, but it does have solid roots in Mexican and general southwestern-style cooking. Lopez, in fact, opened way back in 1979 with Rick Bayless as chef in the kitchen. My Mom has several of Rick’s cookbooks, and we have watched his shows on PBS and other channels making and/or eating mouth-watering Mexican meals (the recent carnitas episode is an excellent example). The tacos at Lopez have evolved from the basics to the more modern such as butter poached lobster and wild mushroom. The taco bar is a two-taco minimum experience, so have fun and mix and match like we do.
For me what makes Lopez stand-out locally is the tequila selection. Do your homework before ordering the margarita! I typically order mine with a tequila reposado (aged less than a year) or, if I am feeling more mellow, añejo (aged one year). Margaritas at Lopez are made with fresh ingredients (no mixes here!) and in different sizes. I have had the large size, and since then I have learned that I should probably stick to the glass or short (Figure 2). For those that like their tequila sans other liquid, Lopez offers tasting flights. And, of course, Lopez has a fully stocked bar for other drinks (Figure 3).
Another great thing about Lopez is the outdoor patio. The enclosed restaurant is nice, but who wants to be inside when its finally in the 70s and sunny? I am sure we’ll have many a lab gathering here when we get the chance.
Update: After a 40-year run, Lopez permanently closed on December 31, 2019. Well, according to the owner, Lopez has evolved. Into what, you might ask? Small-plate, international-offering MOJO world eats & drinks. We could all use a little mojo right now.