Lopez is a Southwestern restaurant in Cleveland's suburbs with an interesting back story. It originally was envisioned as a huge international chain. While multinational domination was not achieved by the restaurants, there are still locations in Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, Mexico City and Cleveland Heights. Rick Bayless, a chef you might have heard of at some point with his heralded restaurants, television appearances, cookbooks and grocery store foodstuffs, was the first executive chef in the Cleveland Heights kitchen almost 30 years ago.
Dishes run the gamut from Tex Mex and regional Mexican to those that reflect the American South. The bar has a nice selection of tequilas, beer and wine, and makes adequate margaritas that are a touch expensive outside of happy hour.
There are many vegetarian dishes on the menu. Seasonal items, like the Mexican corn cake with mushrooms and arugula in a balsamic reduction, also come in meatless versions.
The guacamole is excellent. The delicious house-made chips were served in adorable little paper bags.
The tacos are massive. With a side dish, two mushroom tacos are a complete meal. The jalepeño cheese grits are excellent, as was the cornbread pudding.
The restaurant decor is fun. One picture puts Cleveland more than one thousand miles from Mexico, though the kitchen makes it feel much closer. Service was friendly and capable with only a few minor pacing hiccups in serving a large party. The attention to vegetarian concerns was excellent.