Eating Around the World: In Your Own Backyard

Sometimes you just need a vacation.

Bracing against freezing 40-mph winds, dirt hits you from every side as you look around at the scene of brown, flat land and barren trees. Spring in Lubbock, what else would you expect? But suddenly, your mind is in another place: sitting on the sandy beaches of Cancun, collecting colorful beads on Bourbon Street, tasting authentic cuisines in Greece or Italy.

Unfortunately (and as much as we would all like to), it is probably not a viable option to drop all your responsibilities and travel the world.

For those who call Lubbock home but want a taste of cultures and cuisines from all over the world, hope is not lost. After speaking with local residents, analyzing Zomato and Yelp reviews, and eating far too much food, I have compiled a list of Lubbock’s hole-in-the-wall restaurants with the best and most authentic cuisines from all over the globe.

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Check out a story map of the different restaurants mentioned.


Mexican

One of the few Texan stereotypes that I almost always find to be true is our state’s passion for some good Tex-Mex; queso basically runs in our veins. Unfortunately, when it comes to the spicy cuisine, Lubbock pales in comparison to cities like Dallas and Austin, whose residents have dozens of Mexican restaurants to choose from.

Sure, Lubbock can offer a quick fix at Taco Villa or a trip to the pricey chain restaurant, Abuelo’s, but when it comes to Mexican food, you cannot beat genuine cooking at a locally-owned, hole-in-the-wall restaurant.IMG_1643

Picante’s Mexican Restaurant, at 3814 34th Street, is the perfect example of such an establishment. The small, brightly colored building sits alongside other locally owned businesses that 34th Street seems to attract. Picante’s menu offers breakfast, lunch and dinner plates that are inexpensive, straightforward and feature truly traditional Mexican-style cooking.

Setting itself apart from Lubbock’s other Mexican joints is its mouthwatering breakfast, including a breakfast burrito the size of a football for only $4. However, here is my personal favorite: a breakfast quesadilla with bacon and a large glass of iced horchata on the side.

Other hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants in the area are similar to Picante’s; they have a small, family-business feel with a menu of basic traditional Mexican dinner plates with enchiladas, tortas, tacos and more. Jalisco Taqueria, at 2211 Avenue Q, is just that, and also offers great deals on flavored margaritas.


Indian

India Palace, at 3021 34th Street, may be the last Indian food restaurant left in Lubbock.

“We’ve been coming here for years, like ten years maybe,” said Tina McIntire, a regular customer. “I think now it’s the only Indian food place left in Lubbock.”

IMG_1661As McIntire enjoyed dinner with her husband, Sean, and friend, Vy Nguyen, she said her favorite meal to get is the murg mirch masala, a very hot and spicy chicken curry sauteed with potatoes and chili peppers.

“There’s very pungent and flavorful spices in the food and he just does a really good job,” she said.

The three customers all spoke very highly of India Palace’s owner who acts as manager, cook and server all at once, and is very welcoming.

“He’s extremely nice and very respectful,” Nguyen said, “Everything he does is to put you at ease and make you feel like he’s honored to have you here.”


Spanish

In the heart of West Texas, you can find a little piece of Spain. La Diosa Cellars, located at 901 17th Street, serves traditional Spanish cuisine in the style of a tapas bar. Owner Sylvia McPherson described it as almost “family style” and said most customers order a few different small Spanish-style dishes, then share the plates.

“It’s a way of experiencing a lot of different food on one plate,” she said.

McPherson and her husband opened the restaurant 12 years ago after McPherson quit her longtime career as an interior designer. She said the inspiration for La Diosa came from her father and his side of the family, who originate from Spain.

The dishes, which include popular items like sardinas and tortilla espanola, are priced in the mid-to-high range. Everything is made fresh in-house, McPherson said.

“We really make an effort to serve quality food, and we are very consistent,” she said. “So I think that’s what keeps people coming back to our restaurant.”

La Diosa is also known for its unique and engaging atmosphere, McPherson said. Its live music and art gallery also set it apart from traditional restaurants.

“The atmosphere is so unlike anything you can find in West Texas,” she said. “It transports one to another land or place, if you will.”


Cajun

For a taste of New Orleans in the middle of West Texas, there is only one place to go: Jazz, A Lousiana Kitchen, located near Texas Tech University’s campus at 3703 19th Street.

IMG_1641Jazz started in Lubbock in 1986 and has since opened six more locations in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Nevada. The authentic cajun/creole cafe brings the taste and fun-loving atmosphere of the French Quarter with a menu that features po’boys, seafood, boudin, beignets and more.

Just like its name suggests, the Louisiana kitchen often has live jazz music performances, making it one of (if not the only) place to catch some live jazz in Lubbock.


Italian

Theory: pizza is Italian food; therefore, Italian food wins everything. While my theory has no scientific proof or validity to it, I think most of us can agree that Italian food is one of the more popular and mainstream cuisines in the United States. Those fantastic people from the country shaped like a boot gave us pizza, lasagna, pasta, garlic bread… well, actually, they mostly just gave us a lot of carbs, but who is complaining? Certainly not Lubbock locals.

Orlando’s Italian Restaurant is a go-to for anyone with an Italian-food craving. There are two locations in town, at 6951 Indiana Avenue and 2402 Avenue Q, which is the original location and the oldest full-service restaurant in the city. Their menu is extensive, with a diverse selection including traditional chicken and pasta plates as well as some original “Tex-Italian” concoctions, such as the popular green chile chicken linguine.photo-1

A major perk of dining at Orlando’s is that you do not even need to leave your own living room. The restaurant’s delivery service will bring you almost anything from the menu, as long you live in the designated delivery areas.

For classic Italian entrees with no fuss,  One Guy from Italy is a great choice. This is another family-owned restaurant, with two locations at 1101 University Avenue and 4320 50th Street, which has been feeding the people of Lubbock for more than 40 years. One Guy is best known for its famous calzones, but also serves up delicious pizza and classic Italian meals at a good price. Note: the University location serves pizza and calzones exclusively.


Asian (Chinese, Thai)

For some of Lubbock’s best authentic Chinese food, look no further than right across the street from Tech’s campus. Little Panda occupies a quaint space on the corner of University and 13th Street and offers a wide selection of classic Chinese entrees for a low price.

Susan Zhu, an employee at the restaurant, said some of the most popular menu items are the orange chicken, sweet and sour chicken and lo mein.

Little Panda offers a lunch special during weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring options from 20 of the restaurant’s entree items for $6.25 each.

One of the most popular Asian food restaurants among Lubbock residents is Thai Pepper, located at 3702 20th St. Dean Reyes, an employee at Thai Pepper, said customers’ favorite entrees are the pad thai and

Dean Reyes, an employee at Thai Pepper, said customers’ favorite entrees are the pad thai and panang curry, beef or chicken in coconut milk and red curry sauce. However, his personal favorite meal is not on the menu: the kool special, which features beef, bell peppers, tomatoes, jalepenos and onions on a bed of steamed rice with a fried egg on top.

“A lot of Asian food, like Thai, is mildy influenced by Chinese food, but a lot of the flavors are different,” Reyes said.

He said everything is made to order and customers can choose from mild, medium, hot or no heat. But that is not the only unique aspect of the small business.

“The owners are actually the cooks so you know they’re here all day, every day,” Reyes said. “That’s why our food is pretty consistent.”


Mediterranean

Lite Bite, a small family business owned by Farah Shoujaa and her husband, has been around for almost a quarter century. The Greek restaurant, located at 3624 50th Street, offers a unique menu and the atmosphere of a tight-knit community.FullSizeRender

“Our customers are regular customers,” Shoujaa said. “We know most of them by name, and they know us by name, and we know what they want to eat.”

The menu includes Mediterranean classics, such as gyros, hummus and falafels, along with interesting dishes such as Greek-style pizzas and calzones.

“Most of our food is unusual that you can’t find somewhere else, especially in Lubbock,” Shoujaa said.


About Nicole Crites

Entertainment Director - Senior journalism major from Fort Worth, TX

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