6215 S Miro St
New Orleans, LA 70125
Napoleon's Rating - **/*****
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina ushered in a new wave of Mexican and Central American cooking to New Orleans with the arrival of taco trucks and authentic taquerias operated by newly arrived Latinos. Felipe's came along at about the same time, but it has quite a different story. It's the offshoot of a busy, late-night burrito shop in Cambridge, Mass., near the Harvard University campus, and the founders have some New Orleans family connections. They parlayed these ties into the first Felipe's ,which opened Uptown near Tulane University, followed later by a larger French Quarter location. Both serve a quick, cheap, convincingly authentic Mexican menu of burritos and tacos that provide a refreshing alternative to fast food and sandwiches when you want an easy meal out.
The first Felipe's location is a bit hidden, but if you've ever bought a keg from Elio's Wine Warehouse right next door you can find the place. It's a long, narrow building that can feel cramped but certainly works for what it is. There's a nice, though small, bar area to the side. The French Quarter location was formerly a Hooter's restaurant franchise, but it has been thoroughly redone with new décor and a large, attractive bar. This is a good place to keep in mind for a fast, cheap meal before hitting the French Quarter nightlife or a show at the nearby House of Blues.
Speed is the name of the game at Felipe's, and the service line has this priority firmly in mind. Customers queue up in front of the hot prep counter, read the menu hanging above and are expected -- by both the staff and the customers behind them -to be able to quickly recite their orders when called upon. Still, most of the food is arrayed along the line and visible, so you can point and ask questions about this or that when you get up to the front.
If you're ordering appetizers here, you're probably ordering too much food. In the manner of fast food combo meal deals, though, you can add a side of tortilla chips with guacamole or salsa and a drink for$2.50 more. To really go all out, or to spilt with a few people, the queso fundido is a gooey, hot-griddled patty of white cheese enriched by oily, spicy crumbs of chorizo, which you can gather up in corn tortillas or chips for a dangerously filling starter.
You order here by picking your tortilla delivery system - burrito, taco, quesadilla, tostada or a few other twists on the same idea -- and then your meat of vegetable option. The "plato," or plate, is another way to go, and pairs your meat choice with rice and beans and a pile of tortillas to basically roll your own tacos from the fillings. My top choice among the meats is the carnitas, a portion of pork chunks that tastes a bit like good barbecue chopped up and left without sauce. The pastor-style pork is also very good, and this time adds bits of pineapple and onion to the grilled mix. The chorizo is good and spicy, but beware that it is also very oily and tends to spill out of tacos before you can neatly eat them. It's better to try that tightly wrapped up in the quesadilla or burrito. All of this can be modified to taste with a few visits to the self-serve condiment bar of salsa and other fresh taco toppings. It's fun to fill up little paper cups with the different sauces and spicy pickled carrots or sweet onions or raw cilantro and see how it plays out on your meal.
Desserts are an afterthought here, but the cup of flan can make a nice, smooth, caramel-flavored finish to a spicy meal. Kids love the churros, which are fried dough sticks rolls in cinnamon.
Both locations have full bars and produce good margaritas on the rocks.
Felipe's is a bargain anyway you cut it. Most basic items are less than $5 and you can easily get a full meal here for under $10.
Felipe's doesn't have quite the diversity of dishes or enormous portions you can get at the less polished taquerias sprouting up around town. But it's a lot more accessible and comfortable and will be an easier sell for people who just aren't into tongue quesadillas or negotiating a menu's finer points in Spanish. The tasty food is prepared to your specifications before your eyes and it's priced right. That's a winning formula, and Felipe's has it down pat.