Google tells us that the huapango is a fast, rhythmic dance originating in Veracruz and performed by couples, often on a wooden platform. It’s also the namesake of a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves Mexican (as opposed to Tex-Mex) food to the masses in a small space with big flavors. Our research discovered that their barbacoa is of the lamb variety (barbacoa de borrego), and in keeping with what seems to be a lamb theme lately with our food outlets, we decided to give it a try.
Huapangoa is an unassuming place that welcomes visitors with a colorful mural painted on the exterior wall, as well as a handsome 6-foot-tall metal rooster that looms over the entrance like a kind of lucky totem, inviting visitors. guests to enter the small dining room. . Menu options include gorditas, sopes, tortas, burritos, and tacos, with quesadillas and combo plates served up for good measure. Protein choices are many and varied, including but not limited to barbacoa de borrego, alambre, lengua, tripa, al pastor, jamón, pollo, nopales, suadero, campechano, and chicharrón prensado. Basically, if he baas or growls or moos or swims, he’s available.
Instead of fries and salsa, diners get a small bowl of soup containing a savory chicken broth with macaroni and carrots, which helped tide us over as we perused the menu and made our decisions. We wanted one of everything, but opted for a sope, a quesadilla, a gordita, a few tacos, and a side of rice and beans. Everything we ordered was under $5 each, with most being closer to $3, so it was hard to narrow down to a few deals.
The sope barbacoa was piled with succulent braised lamb and topped with fresh lettuce, cheese and cream. It was extremely good and messy in the best possible way, the masa providing both function and flavor as well as the perfect contrast on the palate with the tender lamb, crisp lettuce and rich cream.
The alambre gordita was a lovely little thing, masa stuffed with well seasoned shredded beef and served with lettuce, tomatoes and cream on the side. Wikipedia tells me that gordita means “chubby” in Spanish, likely referring to the appearance of the stuffed masa, but it could also describe the eater of this delicious treat after eating six or seven at around $3 each.
Taco selections included chicharrón prensado (pork) and chicken. Both proteins were cooked beautifully, the chicken tender and the pork perfectly spiced and dense in complex flavor. The corn tortillas were not only a means of transportation, but also seemed to have been created with care and thought.
As a respite from the meat fest, we tried quesadillas with nopales. This came in a huge tortilla, maybe 10 inches in diameter, folded in half and stuffed with wonderfully sautéed nopales and cheese and a side of lettuce and tomato. It tasted scrumptious in both senses of that word. Again the tortilla was wonderful, delicious and perfectly charred on the grill.
A very successful outing, and we wish we had more time and bigger appetites for sampling their tortas, aguas frescas and various caldos, but let’s do a lively dance first, then maybe take a long nap, after what we will plan our return visit.
2971 Walnut Hill Lane, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday; 9am – 10pm Friday & Saturday