Lucha Tigre is a short drive down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. Khoa Dinh opened this self-described “Latin-Asian Fusion Cuisine” restaurant at the end of 2012. Sometimes I hear the word “fusion” when describing restaurants and cringe because more often than not, two dishes are blindly mashed together. Very rarely has a restaurant thought the dish out in its entirety to see if it will actually taste good and not just sound cool. This is not the case at Lucha Tigre.
Per my friend’s recommendation, we started off with the Crispy Green Beans ($5.00). These are nothing like the breaded, fried and greasy sticks you find at your typical neighborhood chain restaurant. These babies were crisp and smoky with the char flavor you can only get from a wok. Stir fried together with garlic, a bit of shredded cabbage and soy sauce…I could not get enough of these.
Next up was the Tiger Shrimp Ceviche ($8.99, vegan option available), featuring meaty tiger shrimp marinated with citrus, avocado, onion, cilantro and spices. The ceviche was spot-on, marinated just long enough so the shrimp was still tender and light, not tough. The name was obvious of a fusion between Asian ingredients in a Latin American preparation, but the way they served it was clever, too. The dipping vessels for the ceviche included both corn tortilla chips and crispy wonton skins.
We chose the Taquiza 3 Taco Plate with Chipotle Beans & Asian Salad ($11.99) filled with Braised Asian Pulled Pork. There are 9 taco filling options, including vegetarian and vegan options, too. The braised pork was slightly spiced with a bright pop of orange zest at the end. I found it to be mild, but I would probably consider it spicy for those who are not accustomed to any spice. The creamy slaw on top helped cool things down a bit, though. The side of black beans were seasoned well and the Asian Salad was finished with a slightly tangy ginger dressing.
I saw Pollo Saltado ($13.99) on the menu when we first came in and I knew I would be ordering it. This Peruvian Stir Fry dish consists of chicken, tomatoes, onion and cilantro served over crispy French fries. Lucha Tigre’s version was textbook; it was exactly the dish I remember growing up eating as a kid. I found this was more than enough to eat on its own, but the added rice was great to soak up any extra sauce from the tomatoes. The Asian Salad was the same as with the taco plate, but it was nice to have some fresh veggies alongside the rich stir fry.
The food and service at Lucha Tigre were spot on and I’m glad to see a restaurant like this is doing well in Chapel Hill. In addition to their inventive menu, Lucha Tigre boasts a bar with an extensive offering of sakes, tequilas and wines. Lucha Tigre executes Latin-Asian fusion on a level that should make any other fusion restaurants nervous. Their menu items are cohesive dishes prepared with great thought, a bit of fun and immense flavor.
Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @