DEFCON Dining: La Guadalupana

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"Iguana Lupana!" shouted my daughter, Juliette, when asked where she wanted to eat breakfast on a recent Saturday afternoon. We're late risers, to a fault, when the weekend affords us the opportunity. Three O'Clock breakfasts are not out of the ordinary, and so we prize places that serve it all day. Lately, La Guadalupana has been the go-to destination, regardless of whether or not my five-year-old can pronounce it properly.

A meal at La Guadalupana usually begins with my kids (and, more often than not, my wife) ogling the pastry case at the front of the restaurant. It takes a bit of cajoling to get them to take their seats and figure out what they're eating. Nobody seems to mind, though, and the kids enjoy the window-shopping. Plus, they know that their selections depend on their behavior; quiet voices = cookies after the meal.

The meal usually consists of pastries, anyway. At least as far as my kids are concerned. They're obsessed with empanadas, particularly the calabaza variety. I can't blame them, really; the spiced pumpkin filling is delicious. I try to get them to order "actual food" instead of empanadas, and can occasionally convince my older daughter to get a breakfast torta or a croissant. More often than not, though, it's empanadas for both.

While I will surely steal a bite or two of their pastries, I'm usually after something more substantial. Lately, my go-to has been the enchiladas verdes. This was one of the first Mexican dishes I fell in love with when I moved to Houston 18 years ago. It fell out of favor a while back, but La Guadalupana's version has reignited my fervor.

Here, the dish earns its name. The plate is presented to you with a mound of freshly chopped lettuce strewn with a rubble of tangy white cheese. Underneath the greens are a trio of tortillas, rolled around lusciously juicy chicken with a deeply savory character, swathed in an intense green salsa. The sauce is bright with acid, just a bit of heat, and a sneaky undercurrent of funky epazote providing a medicinal counterpoint to all of the other flavors. Buttery avocado and the slight crunch from slivers of sweet white onion add their own charm.

This is, hands down, the best version of the dish I've ever had. Sided with perfectly respectable refried beans and rice, it's also a lot of food. Somehow, though, it manages to come across as a light meal. I imagine it's all the light, crisp lettuce and sparklingly tart salsa. Paired with an earthy-sweet and beautiful Vampiro (carrrot, beet, and orange juices delightfully layered together), it's one of my favorite meals right now.

The kids are almost always too enthralled with their pastries to do much aside from munch happily away, so La Guadalupana is also a great bet for almost any DEFCON level. Empanadas have amazing diplomatic skills. In fact, I'm thinking about getting some to go next time, for deployment during other DEFCON events.

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