For some people, dinner and drinks make a perfect combination to start off a long weekend—-or get through a rough mid-week. So when one of my good friends commented out of the blue that she wanted to have tacos and margaritas—and it was just the beginning of the work week—I suggested we drop in one Wednesday evening at El Chupacabra. This Mexican themed bar located in Poblacion, Makati, has gained a reputation for its potent drinks and cocktails, as well as being a readily accessible place for great Mexican cuisine. Since Mexican food ranks fairly high on my list of favourites, this place was a must-try.
At first it was difficult to find this place; had it not been for the crowded outside seating area I might have missed this establishment entirely. Fortunately the bar’s interior was relatively quiet so this was where we sat down. My friend ordered two of El Chupacabra’s signature street tacos: the carne asada (grilled steak) taco, and the San Francisco style lean pork sisig taco. I got the picadillo (ground beef) burrito filled with meat, beans, cheese and Mexican rice. We also decided to split an order of gringas (quesadillas) filled with garlic and cheese. For drinks, I simply had iced tea while my buddy had a glass of La Chupadita, the house signature drink.
Unlike other restaurants wherein the tacos are served folded and filled, El Chupacabra presents its street tacos flat, with the toppings heaped up. This allows the diner to eat the taco either like a pancake, or to fold it up according to one’s preference. On the other hand the burrito was served still wrapped in foil, but with a side of plain nachos and salsa. Both the tacos as well as the burrito were rich and heavy on the spices, and the burrito in particular was oozing with cheese. On the other hand the quesadillas were milder in flavour, with only a little zing provided by the dips. As for La Chupadita, it was just as strong as its reputation has it. Definitely this is a drink to be reckoned with.
One thing is for sure, El Chupacabra is not a place for those with delicate constitutions. The hearty flavours require a robust stomach to digest, while the drinks must be taken with caution unless one is foolhardy. This is definitely a stop in the Poblacion bar crawl, but definitely not for a quiet dinner out!
The Food Score: 4/5: As far as flavours go, this place does it well. El Chupacabra has been touted as a haven for Mexican food aficionados, and my visit here didn’t disappoint. However presentation and plating of the dishes may be improved, if only to add to the dining experience.
Ambiance/Service Score: 3.5/5. The service is fast and friendly, a plus given the many customers who are at this place at any given point. However the ambiance may be off-putting; the graffiti on the walls and the reddish lighting do not exactly make one feel cozy, and instead evoke a feel of crouching in one of those shadowy establishments so often seen in Hollywood films.
GERD Score: 2/5. Considering the place’s menu leans to Tex-Mex and for bar patrons, the cheese or the spicy heat from their different selections doesn’t give much room for anyone who has to deal with heartburn.
Epilepsy Score: 3.5/5: This place is primarily a bar, so non-alcoholic options are understandably limited. However the heavy spice content of the dishes may not sit well with some sensitive diners. Gluten free tortillas are not an option here either.
Team Glasses Score: 3/5. While El Chupacabra is certainly worth a stop for Mexican food afficionados or anyone doing a Poblacion pub crawl, it just isn’t as friendly for diners with dietary issues. Definitely not for the weak stomachs!