Lupie’s is the sort of place locals love but outsiders seldom discover. Charlotte friends Jay and Susan told me that the ramshackle eat-place has been around since 1987, and although they might not give it a 100 score for fastidious housekeeping, the vegetables make everything worthwhile. 4-vegetable plates are 4-star fabulous, such combos as painfully tender discs of yellow squash with sweet onions, green beans (non-canned, well-cooked) saturated by tidal waves of pork flavor, large hunks of carrot sweetened with brown sugar, and super-cheesy mac & cheese.
I ordered a vegetable plate contingent on a trade agreement in which Susan agreed to share her bacon cheeseburger in exchange for some of my macaroni and cheese. It was a good deal. The cheeseburger is a sloppy, full-flavored stack of juicy beef, thick and salty bacon, really tasty slices of tomato, and a kaleidoscope of condiments – all but mustard, which Susan, strangely, abjures. Jay’s vegetarian chili was a rib-sticking pleasure, just a little bit spicy, heaped with shredded orange cheese and raw onions. The menu also lists Cincinnati chili and Texas chili.
Lupie’s has an unvarnished charm that is increasingly rare in a world of corporate restaurants with carefully plotted themes. Its theme, I would say, is square meals for honest dollars. Prices are in the mid-single-digit range. Beverages are served in Mason jars. Décor includes hagiographic images of Elvis as well as portraits of Lupie’s waitstaff from years past. When I extolled the macaroni and cheese at the cash register while paying the bill, the woman there beamed and said that next time, I should try her nachos, a plate of which I saw going past, crowned with the same scrumptious, half-melted cheese. I don’t know whether or not she was the Guadalupe who is the force behind this fine place, but the pride she evidenced in the restaurant’s good food was adorably proprietary.