Chapel Hill, N.C. — You may as well face it. Lucha Tigre, one of Chapel Hill's newest eateries, is cooler than you are. Mexican wrestlers, tigers, Asian/Latin fusion tapas, one of the largest tequila and sake lists in the Triangle – it all adds up to a pretty hip package. The only misstep was the music. Turn the lights down a bit, throw on some Smiths or Grizzly Bear on vinyl and it just might be the pinnacle of hipsterdom in the Triangle.
The location: Lucha Tigre is in the former of home of Chapel Hill's beloved Flying Burrito on Martin Luther King Blvd. A large patio and plenty of twinkle lights make this an excellent spot to grab a drink and bite to eat in the coming spring.
The drinks: As mentioned before, Lucha Tigre specializes in tequila and sake, but they also have a large selection of bottled Latin and Asian beers and a really interesting cocktail menu. We tried the Guava caipirinha and a pear/rosemary margarita. The pear/rosemary margarita basically tasted like drinking muddled fresh pear, I didn't pick up on the rosemary but it was excellent. Lucha's guava version of a caipirinha just tasted like a margarita. Guava is a subtle flavor that was overpowered by the lime. A stick of sugar cane was a nice touch.
The meal: Lucha Tigre offers a wide variety of small plates and a handful of relatively pricey entrees all in the $18 range. We opted for a variety of tapas.
We started off with the salsa sampler: four salsa varieties and three types of chips. The chips (wontons, sweet potato chips and classic corn tortilla) seemed house made, as did the salsas (chipotle, verde, habanero and pico). Incredibly addictive, all three chips paired nicely with the salsa options. The habanero salsa was the stand-out, bright with a tang of citrus, a punch of heat and a sweet fruitiness to it.
We also shared two tacos, an empanada, the ceviche and an order of pork buns. Our very friendly waiter recommended the mu shu pork and beef bulgogi tacos. Both were incredibly rich. The mu shu was drenched in hoisin sauce and the bulgogi was heavy on sweet soy sauce. We opted for a corn poblano empanada, which was a bit dry. The pork buns, similar to the kind David Chang sells by the hundreds, were good – that magical combo of steamed bread, cucumber, pork belly and hoisin almost always is.
The shrimp ceviche (also available with tofu) was my favorite dish of the night. A pretty classic take on ceviche, it was a large portion of diced shrimp, onions and avocado and came served with more chips and a Sriracha sauce.
The service: Our waiter was incredibly friendly and helpful. Our drinks took a while to arrive, but the food was really quick. Actually, I'd recommend staggering your order into shifts so that you don't have a table overflowing with small plates.
The bill: Including two cocktails, one Tiger beer, the salsa, tacos, empanada, ceviche and pork buns came to $52.
The verdict: If Lucha Tigre was a date, he'd be a fun guy to grab a beer with – but not I'm quite ready for a steady relationship.
Chris Rhyne Reid is a North Carolina native with a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A copywriter by day, she pursues her love of all things edible in her spare time. She writes for the Durham-based food blog Carpe Durham.