Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Want a rise with that?

Posted on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge Las Mariposas Café: If the taco house is rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’.
  • Las Mariposas Café: If the taco house is rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’.
Release Date: 2008-02-27

Parked cars lined the street corner of Guadalupe and Trinity last Wednesday afternoon, while other drivers scoped out makeshift spots amid “No Parking” and “No Trespassing” signs posted in front of homes. The Pussycat Dolls’ “Buttons” was blasting when we entered the front door of Las Mariposas Café, and every person in the restaurant was looking at something out of our view. The end of the song was followed by raucous applause, and I tried to figure out what was going on.

After 10 minutes of waiting to be seated, our lunchtime group of two guys and three girls was waved toward a table that wasn’t big enough for us. I waited for the sound of a record scratching to a halt — all eyes in the place were on us as we made a beeline for the booth. Minus the scantily clad waitresses, we were the only girls in the joint. The all-male clientele knew why they were there, and made it clear they didn’t know why we were.

Two weeks ago, District 5 Councilwoman Lourdes Galvan held a press conference on the doorstep of the Westside eatery to address community complaints that sexually oriented acts were being conducted during business hours. Residents told City offices that waitresses were dancing provocatively for customers, but since there was no nudity the restaurant was found to be in compliance with all the proper permits. However, Galvan met with owner Miriam Luna to reach some compromises — largely because concerned individuals felt the establishment was polluting a family-friendly residential area.

“The offensiveness of dancing, laptop dancing `sic`, is not what the neighborhood is looking for,” said Galvan. “The neighborhood association has worked very hard to bring economic development to this corridor, and laptop dancing `sic` is not one of those.” Following the press conference, Galvan, Luna, and other community leaders resolved that Las Mariposas’ waitresses will no longer provide lap dances for customers, and will cease dancing of any kind, on the dining room floor or the stairwell balcony.

There was no laptop dancing to be found on our visit after the press conference, either on customers or on any ill-fated MacBooks. But after a round of J.T.’s “SexyBack,” a waitress dressed in a very short, thong-revealing black tube dress walked seductively up the stairwell to the small, lofty stage we missed earlier. She danced to a typical R&B slow jam, imitated masturbation techniques, and employed the same moves you’d find at any strip club in town, minus technical nudity. After the song, she walked down to cheers from the crowd and continued to serve food. I’m no stranger to $5 steak and fries, and I commend the restaurant for capitalizing on a niche opportunity. Even so, I found the nonchalant combination of dancer and waitress rather unsettling.

The food, sadly, was not as spicy as the entertainment. The menu offers basic Mexican fare; no extras like guacamole, sour cream, or cheese enhanced our dishes. A crispy-taco plate contained three tacos, rice, refrieds, and salad, but was bland and extremely greasy. The mini-taco plate of asada and el pastor was passable, but the meat wasn’t anywhere near tender and no substitute was offered for the missing side of borracho beans, which the kitchen had run out of. Our waitress was rather curt and the service was slower than a snail — we had to shout our drink orders as she walked away from us.

However, Las Mariposas’ business doesn’t seem to have suffered despite increased heat from community members and the imposed restrictions. The restaurant was packed for the duration of our lunch, and more patrons flooded through the door as we exited. We even noticed a few people ordering takeout through the back door. But what’s the point without the entertainment? Dine-in is definitely the draw for this clientele.

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