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Felipe’s is Mexican minimalist, and it’s classic

What more could you want: Fish tacos, pico and salsa at Felipe’s. (T.M. Collins/For Journal North)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The Musician dropped by the other day and said he was looking for an acoustic guitar. “Hey, come help me find a guitar and I’ll buy you lunch,” he offered. Helluva deal, so off we went.

After a few hours of serious looking and playing, we scored The Musician a cool Art & Lutherie D-sized acoustic (great value guitars made by hand in Quebec, Canada). As we left, two guitar shop employees were enjoying their very good-looking lunch. We remarked. “Felipe’s Tacos. Shrimp burrito ($10.50) and a chicken burrito ($9.75). Fantastic!”

“Felipe’s Tacos,” enthused The Musician. “I forgot all about that place. I used to take my daughters there years ago when they were in high school. Now, if I can remember where it is … .”

Felipe’s is another great spot in the great tradition of great spots set in the clutter of a nondescript strip mall. In this case, it’s the clutter off St. Michael’s Dr. in the St. Michael’s Village shopping center at Llano St.

Felipe’s been there for a quarter of a century now, so The Musician did take his daughters there. Inside, classic Mexican taqueria, lots of natural light and ceiling fluorescents, red-and-white check plastic table coverings, lots of “Best of … ” awards on the wall. The only one they’re missing is “Best Taqueria Location All Time,” situated as it is on Llano St., in a direct line from Santa Fe High to the La Farge branch library and the new middle school. Cha-ching! Must be like having your own private slot machine.

Step right up to the counter, place your order – in this case, and speaking of daughters, to Felipe’s own daughter, the cutest ballet dancer on the planet. The hand-lettered sign behind her, and her tranquil, impassive padre, Felipe himself in green apron, says, “Mexican, onions and cilantro; or American, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese.”

We make our order, pay, sit, wait and admire the surrounding woodcarvings, religious art, Felipe’s T-shirts and tchotchkes for sale, wall-hung sombreros.

Soon, but not too soon – “This is NOT a fast-food joint,” observes The Musician – our orders are delivered.

For me, a Taco and Quesadilla Combinacion ($11.50), in this case, a chicken taco Mexican style (onions and cilantro) and a cheese quesadilla (flour tortilla), served with fresh salsa, rice, beans and salad, and nice dollop of guacamole.

The taco is Mexican minimalist, that is, a soft corn taco, steam-warmed NOT fried, tender, juicy chunks of chicken. Everything from salsa to salad is fresh and served on a styrofoam plate, plastic cutlery nearby. Talk about a slick operation.

The Musician orders up two Fish Tacos, Mexican style ($2.75, each), lightly grilled Tilapia with pico de gallo, red and green salsa. Again, classic Mexican minimalism and don’t forget to flavor with the fresh lime wedge on the side. Imperative. And with a Mexican Coca-Cola in a bottle – Perfecto!

You’re ready to play some guitar for hours.

There’s a reason Felipe’s has been winning all those “Best of” awards for 25 years, and the steady stream of customers this day, and no doubt every day, attests to fact. Great value, great location, and great tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tostadas and tortas. Classico and can’t be bettered.

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