Just beyond the faux rock wall that separates the Acadian Perkins Plaza shopping center from a decidedly less fancy strip of businesses, Lily’s Restaurant and Grill serves genuine, homemade Mexican food.
Cactus plants line the windowsill of the small main dining room, which holds five mismatched tables. Another side room holds a few more. On two lunchtime visits, one thing became clear: This place is entirely too empty for the quality of the food it serves.
Lily’s opened a month or so ago, and it serves traditional Mexican and Central American dishes. Far from the overly cheesed, greasy mess that passes for “Mexican” food in some corners around town, this food is authentic, simple and tasty.
During the first visit, I tried tacos. Al pastor pork,marinated and cooked with pineapple, is a weakness. It was juicy, not overly spicy and served in corn tortillas (the uneven edges a dead giveaway that these are handmade by someone who’s made thousands upon thousands of tortillas in their time).
Each taco plate ($11.50) comes with three tacos, toppings, rice and a small portion of beans. Lily’s serves traditional Mexican options like tongue and tripe alongside more mainstream beef, pork and chicken.
While you wait, Lily’s serves complementary chips with two sauces. The thin green tomatillo salsa with avocado chunks isn’t spicy, but it’s sour, tart and good. I couldn’t resist the draw of horchata ($3.50), which was creamy and sweet, with just a touch of a warming spice.
We started with an appetizer of fried yuck ($6.99), huge chunks of yucca deep fried and served with a ramekin of a basic crema sauce. The yucca has the texture of a fluffy baked potato, but less starchy. As a starter it was fine, though saving room for a main dish is probably a better option.
The highlight of the meals came in the form of an unfamiliar entree called baleadas ($9.99), a traditional Honduran dish that will stick in your mind long after the end of your meal. A slightly thicker, homemade flour tortilla surrounds a thin layer of beans, avocado, eggs, queso fresco and your choice of meat. The carne asada is full of flavor and falling out of the wrap. This plate, which comes with four large pieces, is a steal.
The pupusas ($10-$15), savory corn pancakes stuffed with a variety of fillings, are served four to a plate, too. We had bean and cheese, and pork. The pupusas have a griddled outside that crumbles when it is cut open to reveal its cheesy insides, some of which pokes through, forming satisfyingly crispy bits that stud the exterior. The pork filling was pleasantly salty. The bean and cheese pupusas were simple but delicious.
It wasn’t hard for the friendly staff to convince us to finish the meal with a slice of tres leches cake ($3.50), made fresh and pulled from a deli case. The milk-softened cake was sweet, but we didn’t care.
One topic of conversation at Lily’s seems to be just how good all of the food is. A man at a nearby table explains to a server how “when the food’s good, you don’t say much, you just eat.” If you like simple, flavorful food that is well made, you’ll find a lot to like at Lily’s Restaurant.
LILY'S RESTAURANT & GRILL
WHERE: 3753 Perkins Road, Suite D, Baton Rouge
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday
INFO: lilisrestaurantandgrill.com or (225) 343-3464
PROS: Baleadas, pupusas, tacos; the food is an upgrade over the standard stuff that passes for Mexican around town.
CONS: Lily's is too good to be this empty; location.