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Chalupa Charlie's bowling over taste buds

The masterminds behind the new Mexican cantina are Lori Lea Crep, granddaughter Rachel Ulvin, daughter of Tim and Shelli, and Rich Ulvin. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Longing for a burrito, enchilada or margarita?

Head "south of the border" (south of Highway 34) to Lori Lea Lanes, the chefs now serving a cosmopolitan blend of pizza at the Ranch and Mexican pizzazz.

Chalupa Charlie's Mexi Cantina's founders Rich Ulvin and mom Lori Lea Crep bring more than a decade of training and experience in Mexican cooking to the table.

And they were aided in their quest for authenticity by a friend from California who provided genuine Mexicali food to "dissect."

Combined, the menus offer more variety than any other restaurant in the area, Crep said of the "family-oriented restaurants."

Six employees have joined the staff. New and classic video games entertain in the family-friendly dining area. The kitchen itself holds center stage, the open cooking area offering an opportunity for patrons to customize orders.

Currently, the food is served from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with take-outs available. Plans call for the cantina to be open over the noon hour, with an outdoor patio in the spring.

Crep has been a local business owner since 1982 when she became proprietor of the bowling alley. The Pizza Ranch opened in 1996 and now Chalupa Charlie's is welcoming clientele.

"I like to serve people," Crep said. "My customers are better than the best."

The names are originals, Crep waking from a "dead sleep" with Chalupa Charlie's.

Many of the menu items are named for family members - Lita's fajitas, Timmy's chimmys (chimichangas), for example. And whimsy is thrown in for good measure - "Just in Quesadilla" among the appetizer choices.

Many of the sauces, ranging from mild to spicy, are homemade.

The expansive dining area, seating 150 people, welcomes large groups. A full bar features margaritas and a variety of Mexican beer.

Chalupa Charlie's has daily food and drink specials.

The cantina may be reached at 732-4229.