Little Swan Bakery–Alhambra, CA

Little Swan Bakery Cafe
1024 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA
Cuisine: Bakery
 

Sometime I not only get tips from my friends about very good places to eat but I also get samples, and this was the case with Little Swan Bakery. In this case the samples were sent by Priority Mail in a larger package of other items, and were sent this way because the bakery items do have a limited shelf life. Fortunately they last several days before they have a noticeable deterioration of quality.

Little Swan Bakery Cafe has two locations–on in Alhambra, California (in the Los Angeles area) and one in the San Francisco area. They do not serve meals in the store, but apparently have water or coffee to go with your pastries if you want to eat on site. The bakery is Chinese style, and I assume that it is Cantonese. They serve a wide variety of pastries including crepes, buns, bread, croissants, etc. Egg tarts are a popular item.

I know from my samples and from other experiences that Chinese pastries are not as sweet as American ones, and I am told by some this is done on purpose “so you can eat more” (they like to have desserts more often rather than having less frequent treats that are over the top in sweetness). From the flavor of the samples I tried I would say you are not missing out on anything by having the less sweet Chinese pastries. In fact, I think they have a great flavor and are special treats when I have had them.

I should mention that there is a plethora of Chinese bakeries in the Los Angeles area, and my friends mentioned that this was one of their favorites (worthy of sending a “care package” to those who do not have regular access to the authentic Chinese baked goods).

Wife Cakes

Wife cake package

Wife cakes are sold by the box

The Wife Cake is one of the best sellers at the bakery, and I think Little Swan is known as one of the best places to buy them. These have a flaky crust, a sweet filling, and are topped with white sesame seeds. The filling is winter melon, and it has a slightly crunchy texture as well as a moderately sweet flavor.

Wife cakes

A few wife cakes left in the box

A dozen come in a box, and I would say the size of each “cake” is similar to many of the Mexican style pan dulce items. The terms “bread” and “cake” do not mean the same at Chinese bakeries as they mean in English–the bread is usually more sweet than is normal for Americans while the cake varies from a barely perceptible sweetness to one that I would consider as about medium (I would say the wife cake is the latter).

A serving of wife cake

A serving of wife cake

A single wife cake makes a satisfying dessert, but you could eat more and not go over the safe sugar intake level.

Happy Everyday

Happy Everyday jar

Happy Everyday jar

The second item I tried is considered a snack rather than a dessert. It was just barely sweet, but enough so that it would be equivalent to the American “sweet” snacks rather than the “salty” ones.

Happy Everyday

Happy Everyday

I was told that the actual Chinese name for this is “Chicken And,” which I would probably say should be something like “Chicken Plus.” In other words, it has chicken plus whatever makes it sweet. Like the wife cake, it also had sesame seeds on top.

My friend thinks it may actually be pork rather than chicken, but I could not tell. All I know is that it makes a good snack, and is apparently devoid of the products that American manufacturers love to include that you cannot pronounce and which have little to no nutritional value.

If you go to the bakery there are many more items that are fairly perishable, but these are two that are able to be shipped and maintain their freshness for a while.


RATING: *

Cuisine: Bakery
Cost: $

Most Recent Visit: *

Number of Visits: *

Best Items: Wife Cake, Happy Everyday

Special Ratings

star 5 Wife Cake
star 5 Happy Everyday

Chope’s–La Mesa, NM

Chopes Bar & Cafe
16165 S. Hwy 28
La Mesa, NM
(575) 233-3420
Chope's in La Mesa, NM

Chope’s in La Mesa, NM south of Las Cruces

When you approach La Mesa, about 15 miles south of Mesilla on State Highway 28, you get more of a feeling that you are approaching a religious shrine than a small farming village in southern New Mexico. The “holy ground” you are entering is for possibly the best chile relleno anywhere (for once the reality lives up to the hype). It is much like going to Mamou, Louisiana to experience the very best Cajun music, except in La Mesa pilgrims are given a gustatory reward (unless by some very bad karma or extremely unkind trick of fate they end up in La Mesa on a Sunday or Monday when Chope’s is closed).

Chope's kitchen

The kitchen is adjacent to the main dining room

At Chope’s you enter the realm of world-class roadfood (not the gourmet kind of Mexican food found at Rick Bayless’ restaurants in Chicago). It is no longer a question at Chope’s of whether certain items are good, it becomes a matter of whether they are the best. I get discouraged sometimes because the salsa at Chope’s may not be as good as at some restaurants in Las Cruces, the green chile may not be as fresh some times of the year as at harvest season, or some of the dishes may not live up to what I consider the signature dishes: the chile relleno and the enchiladas (both made with locally grown chiles). At other restaurants, however, I would hope to find just one outstanding dish, while Chope’s in my opinion the chile relleno is uncontested, the sopapilla is one of the best anywhere, and the enchiladas are certainly noteworthy examples of New Mexico cuisine.

Around 2007 the daughters of Lupe and Chope took over management of the restaurant, and I initially thought they had made changes to the food because I found red chile that was less spicy than before (and I did not have enough samples of the green chile to really tell about the spiciness). On a recent visit, though, I was served red enchiladas that were reminiscent of the old ones in their spiciness. When I asked the employees about it they said that was just the way that particular harvest turned out. Thus this is one case where a change in management of a long-running restaurant did not result in an appreciable change in the food (and the more visits I made the more I found this to be true).

Chile Relleno

Chile relleno

Chope’s chile relleno without sauce on top

If Chope’s is known for anything it is the Chile Relleno that somehow seems different from those served anywhere else. Of course the freshness comes from its local source in the Mesilla Valley. While the Hatch chiles, grown north of Las Cruces, have become famous worldwide, there is actually quite a large variety of chiles grown in both the Hatch and Mesilla Valleys that include the milder Anaheims that are largely exported and the more spicy varieties that are popular locally.

Chope’s serves a somewhat flat shaped chile that is quite spicy compared to many of the long skinny ones that are more common throughout the country. While being more spicy does not necessarily make a chile better quality, I do think this is an important criterion for a New Mexico style restaurant. It is also important for the chile to be roasted and prepared properly, as are the ones served at Chope’s. I have always been impressed that Chope’s does not put a sauce on top. The relleno really does not need to have any type of sauce, since the chile, the cheese inside, and the perfectly cooked batter stand by themselves and provide all the flavor needed for an excellent chile relleno.

Green Enchiladas

Green enchiladas

Chope’s green enchiladas made with fresh green chiles

The Green Enchiladas are some of the best found anywhere. While many restaurants use a puréed green chile to pour on top of the tortillas, Chope’s uses large chunks of fresh chiles that demonstrate the texture and flavor of the green chiles that are used. A white cheese is used that is perfectly melted (and it looks as if some yellow cheese is also mixed in). Chiles come locally from the Mesilla Valley (from the Provencio Farm near Anthony), and are at their freshest around harvest season.

Around the beginning of August postings appear on the Internet asking about the availability of freshly harvested Hatch chiles in various cities around the United States. Over the years I have noticed a fresher flavor to the green enchiladas around harvest time, and other sources have confirmed this as well. I asked the owner when the exact dates would be for this, and she stated that around September and October would be when they would have the freshly harvested green chile. Thus this is the time I would especially recommend for people to try the green enchiladas at Chope’s if they can (for me this has been a very special experience that I have not found at any other restaurant).

Many other places seem to either use too many additives, purée the chile too much, or use chiles of lesser quality that do not yield the same results as at Chope’s. This is why I think both the green and red enchiladas are better than at most other restaurants.

I also think the way the chiles are grown, harvested, and dried makes a difference, although I do not have specific details about the ones at Chope’s.

Red Enchiladas

Red enchiladas and chile relleno

Red enchiladas served flat with an egg on top, and chile relleno to the side

For about ten months out of the year (November to August) the Red Enchiladas are my preference at Chope’s, and only lose this status during harvest season because the green ones are exceptionally good here. Generally the red chile is the only one I eat in New Mexico and El Paso, so this is in no way a knock on Chope’s green chile.

Over the years I had noted that the red and green enchiladas were both very spicy, but the red ones were a little milder (my Previous Review on Steve’s Gastronomic Home Page reflects this fact). My current understanding, though, is that it all depends on the chile harvest, and the only way to know which type of chile is spicier is to ask the people working at the restaurant.

Regardless of the spiciness, the red chile at Chope’s always has a very good flavor. I am especially happy, though, when it also comes from one of the spicier harvests.

Also of note is the fact that these enchiladas come with onions unless you specifically ask for them to be omitted. While I generally like enchiladas better without the onions, I get them here because they seem to be especially good (and are definitely mild enough that the flavor does not get in the way of enjoying the red chile).

I would also suggest having the enchiladas served flat (for both the red and the green). They come this way on the enchilada plates, but are rolled on the combination plates unless you request otherwise. The reason I like them flat is that they have more of a red chile flavor this way (I think they pour more chile on top, and it soaks into the tortilla better than when they are rolled).

Rice and Beans
For some reason the New Mexican restaurants in the southern part of the state prefer Refried Beans, such as the ones served at Chope’s, to the whole beans that are normally found in the north. I do not usually pay much attention to beans that are not northern style, but the ones at Chope’s are cooked so perfectly that I think they are almost as good as the whole beans.

The Rice has not only been excellent on recent visits, but it has impressed me as being one of Chope’s signature items. I do not think it has been as consistent over the years as other items at the restaurant, but it now seems to be some of the best I have found anywhere in El Paso or southern New Mexico.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The Chips are nondescript in the sense that they do not seem outwardly to be much different from any others. I just know that all the factors are there to always make them a part of the meal that I really enjoy.

The Salsa seems to have undergone a transformation since about 2007 when the daughters took over, and I think very much for the better. It used to be memorable for being so spicy it almost numbed the taste buds before you even got a chance to try any of the delicious main dishes. Now, though, I think it retains the freshness it had before, but with a heightened flavor that I enjoy a lot more. The spiciness is variable, and sometimes it almost gets to the point of numbing the mouth, but the excellent flavor is more noticeable than the heat. I do not know, though, if this was a conscious decision by the restaurant, or even if my observation is accurate, but it is my perception.

Sopapillas

Sopapillas

A basket of freshly cooked sopapillas going to a table of anxiously awaiting customers

Sopapillas are light and fluffy, and are a recommended enhancement to the food, either during or after the meal (I prefer them with the meal). The red and green chiles are not always spicy enough that I think eating a sopapilla with them would have much of an effect in ameliorating the heat, but it still would taste very good (you have to pay extra for the sopapillas). Of course they are also good for dessert. In the past the sopapillas have been rather greasy, but recently they have been perfect, and worth ordering even if you think your stomach cannot handle any more food. One item of note is that they give you a jar of honey with a squirt cap that does not make a mess all over your hands as would be the case at restaurants that provide the little packets that you have to open with your fingers.

The Bar

Chope's Bar

Chope’s Bar, located next door to Chope’s Cafe, serves the same food as the restaurant

What is now Chope’s Bar was the original restaurant, and is located next door to Chope’s Cafe (which was originally the Benavides family home). The bar serves the same food as the restaurant, and this can be a great help during the times that the restaurant is full and you have to get on a waiting list for a table. In fact, I think one of the major drawbacks of this place is having to drive for miles deep into the heart of the Mesilla Valley farm country and not knowing if you will face a long wait once you arrive (Chope’s does not take reservations, but at times the bar has had seating space when the restaurant did not).

The Restaurant

Part of the main dining room

Part of the main dining room

The restaurant itself is in an old house, and has what I would describe as a somewhat crowded dining arrangement. The main dining room is adjacent to the kitchen and is small, noisy, and busy, but also tends to be very friendly where it is easy to talk to the staff and other patrons. The larger dining room is quieter and provides slightly more space between tables, but they are still rather crowded.

A view inside to the waiting room

Patrons at Chope’s frequently spend time in the waiting room before a table opens up

The restaurant is open only until 1:30 p.m. for lunch, but the 8:30 p.m. closing time at dinner should give most diners enough time to reach La Mesa and wait for a table if necessary. I have discovered that they are pretty liberal on the closing time and lock the door about 1:35 to 1:40 at lunch time. They also keep the kitchen open past this time so that you can order items such as sopapillas.

The combination plates are becoming my preference here because I can get the enchiladas and chile relleno together at a good price. The enchiladas on these plates, though, are rolled instead of flat. They will serve the enchiladas flat on request, though.

A great tip that I found by accident is to go Thursdays during lunch hours when all of the combination plates are on special (at what I thought was a very good price).

Coming from El Paso, La Mesa can be reached from IH-10 by taking the Vado exit (NM 227) and going west to Vado. You then turn left on NM 478 and go south less than a quarter mile, where NM 227 again goes to the west (the direction signs can sometimes be easy to miss). From Vado you should follow NM 227, and keep going straight after it turns into NM 28. Once you are on Hwy 28 La Mesa is the next town.

From Las Cruces or Mesilla it is easy to reach Chope’s– just take NM 28 south.

Chope's photo

A photo of “Chope,” for whom the restaurant was named

Lent Specials
Chope’s, like many other Mexican restaurants in the area, offers specials on Fridays during Lent that are appropriate for the season. Chope’s not only offers food that is not normally on the menu, but it comes at a very good price (and the special with a chile relleno offers the item I would most like to order anyway).

Lent special

Lent special with quesadillas, chile relleno, and lentils

The plate pictured includes Quesadillas that were made the traditional way I have experienced them in home style restaurants in the borderland. The Chile Relleno was as good as ever, but I do not know why it had a large amount of cheese sprinkled on top when this is normally not the case. The Lentils were excellent, with less salt and garlic than I usually find in the ones served in El Paso (and to me the ones at Chope’s are better).

Capirotada is also served with the Lent special but they were out when I went. Still, this was an excellent deal.

Things to Know

  • In chile harvest season the green enchiladas are especially good, and would be what I recommend (Chope’s serves freshly harvested chile from about the beginning of September to the end of October).
  • The chile relleno is the best I have found anywhere, and would always be a good choice here. The combination dinners have a choice of adding a chile relleno for two dollars extra, and I think it is well worth it to do so.
  • The bar is next door to the restaurant and serves the same food. It gives you faster service if the restaurant is full and there is a waiting line, but I am usually willing to wait for a table in the restaurant if necessary because it is quieter and I like the setting better.

 

Update May 2019:

I would like to point out a very interesting article on eater.com about Chope’s Restaurant. The article gives a detailed history of Chope’s, including the fact that it has been added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. It is one of the few restaurants in the United States to be so designated, largely because the qualifications for placement on the list are so rigorous. Chope’s has been run by the same family for over 100 years, and this is significant. One large factor for its designation, though, was Chope’s connection with the Braceros who worked on the nearby farms until the program ended in 1964. There are many reasons I recommend this article including the story of the Benavides family who owns Chope’s and insights about the food that they serve. Now the daughters of Jose (Chope) and Guadalupe (Lupe) Benavides operate the restaurant, and they have been faced with what is at times an onslaught of customers because of the publicity the restaurant has received on web sites and media. They also talk about the possible future direction of the restaurant.

Update Jul. 2019:

After visiting several New Mexican restaurants in 2018 and 2019 I just want to make a few comments about Chope’s. I consider this to be one of the three best I have tried. The others are Nellie’s in Las Cruces and Mary & Tito’s in Albuquerque. Each restaurant, though, is best for certain things. At Chope’s it is the chile relleno and the green enchilada in season (both the red and green enchilada are excellent all year but I hesitate to say they are absolutely the best in New Mexico). Probably my meal of choice at Chope’s is a chile relleno and red enchilada (change that to green enchilada in Sep-Oct each year).

At Nellie’s my favorite item is the sopapilla compuesta with red chile. I do not know if the actual red chile is better than at Chope’s, but I like the flavor of all the items together on the compuesta.

Mary & Tito’s has a very different style of red chile, which is to add a delicious meat to it that arguably makes it the best in New Mexico. I have only been to this restaurant once, but the quality definitely reminds me of what I find at Chope’s and Nellie’s.


RATING: 27

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Lunch 11:30 to 1:30; Dinner 5:30 to 8:30; Closed Sun. & Mon.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, Wine, Mixed Drinks

Most Recent Visit: Jul. 10, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Chiles Rellenos, Red Enchiladas, Green Enchiladas, Rice, Chips, Salsa, Sopapillas

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Special Ratings
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Beans
star 4 Rice
star 4 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 5 Sopapillas

 

Menu (Jul. 2019):


Peppe’s–Canutillo, TX

Peppe’s Restaurant & Cantina
6761 Doniphan Dr.
Canutillo, TX
(915) 877-2152
Peppe's Restaurant

Peppe’s Restaurant


Perhaps my favorite long time El Paso restaurant was Griggs Restaurant, located on Doniphan Drive about a mile north of Country Club Road. There were branches in Kern Place, a long-running one near the airport, and for a brief time on Mesa Hills. These all used the Griggs family recipes, but the Doniphan restaurant is the one that stayed in the family until shortly before its closing in 2003. I also thought the Doniphan restaurant stayed the most consistent to the family recipes, although for the most part the other restaurants served the same great food.

I heard that the east side Griggs Restaurant closed sometime around 2008, and unfortunately it was related to the health of the owner. This led to an agreement between the owner and his long time employees Peppe and Lorena Morales that the latter could open their own restaurant using the Griggs family recipes. Thus Peppe’s Restaurant & Cantina has been open since 2009 in Canutillo, Texas, carrying on the Griggs tradition and using the same recipes that were used in the original restaurants.

Peppe’s dining room with much of the memorabilia from the old restaurants

The Griggs Restaurants on Doniphan and Montana were probably as famous for their antique furniture and artifacts as for the food, and both were in spacious buildings that resembled haciendas. In contrast Peppe’s Restaurant is rather small, with only a few of the antiques from Griggs Restaurant on display. Peppe likes it this way, though, allowing him to concentrate on the food which has been purposely copied from Griggs. The menu even looks the same as the old ones I remember.

Peppe's menu

Peppe’s menu modeled after the former Griggs Restaurant

With Peppe’s Restaurant being small and the owners present every time I go there, I think the food will keep the consistency I found at the old Doniphan location (Peppe worked as a chef at the Montana location and is very familiar with the Griggs family way of doing things).

In 1968 the Griggs family published a cookbook with Mrs. Josephine Griggs’ recipes, and copies were still being sold as late as about 2015 at El Pinto in Albuquerque. Mrs. Griggs’ children owned Griggs Restaurant in El Paso, La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico, La Posta in Rancho Cordova, California, and El Pinto (the Albuquerque restaurant). La Posta in California is closed, but it is apparent that the restaurants still operating do not cook the food in exactly the same way, and have done a lot of tweaking to the original recipes. Peppe says that Mrs. Griggs’ book was not complete in that it did not explain what type of pots and pans to use for cooking the food, where to source the ingredients used, etc. Presumably, though, this information was passed down to all the Griggs children and to anyone operating the family’s restaurants.

One of the unique features of Peppe’s (and Griggs before it) is the source of its chiles. These come from a farm in La Union, New Mexico (near the El Paso Upper Valley) and are fresh inasmuch as the growing season allows. Peppe takes further steps, though, to ensure a good quality and flavor of his chile (including the chiles rellenos). The chiles used at Peppe’s are all sun dried, which gives a mild flavor (many restaurants use machine dried chiles, which have a darker color and a more bitter taste). His chiles are not terribly spicy, and the Griggs family understanding of New Mexican chile was that it is not supposed to be as spicy as some of those from Mexico such as chile de arbol, habanero, etc. The Griggs recipes also make generous use of tomatoes which further tone down the food.

In my opinion La Posta and El Pinto are geared toward tourists in their chile spice level. El Pinto seems to start with milder chiles than Peppe’s, and by the time they tone them down with tomatoes and other ingredients, there is very little New Mexico chile heat left (although there is enough flavor that I do not totally dismiss La Posta’s food as being unauthentic, only that it is one of the mildest New Mexico style restaurants in the Las Cruces area).  I have not been to El Pinto in a while, but the review on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog indicates that it is very mild as I remember it.

At Peppe’s I think the the red chile has the highest spice level. It does not match the level of some restaurants in New Mexico, but it is definitely noticeable. The chile con queso is probably next on the spice level, with the green chile being the mildest (although it definitely seems to be more potent than the green chile served at La Posta).

In some ways the recipes at Peppe’s are a little non-traditional for New Mexican food, and offer a little bit of a different take on this cuisine than I normally find. Some examples are the following:

  • The green enchiladas are a solid choice here although I rarely care much for them anywhere else. The spice level is less than with most other New Mexico style green enchiladas, but they are hot enough that to me this is not an issue. The flavor, though, seems to be a perfect blend of chile, tomato, and spices (and few others have a flavor that I like this much).
  • The Griggs family recipe for the chile relleno is similar to the one at Chope’s in serving it plain with no sauce on top, and both Chope’s and Peppe’s use local chiles. Although Chope’s has what I think is the iconic New Mexico chile relleno, the one at Peppe’s is very good, and makes this one of the few restaurants where I go out of my way to order the chile relleno.
  • Peppe’s presentation of chile con carne is a little different than at most restaurants, and in addition to serving it plain also features it on a tostada compuesta with the beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese on top. Several restaurants use chile con carne in a sopapilla compuesta, but Peppe’s is one of the few I have found that serves it on a tostada.
  • The slaw at Peppe’s is quite unique and is my favorite side dish over the rice or beans (La Posta, though, has a similar slaw which is also made from Mrs. Griggs’ recipe).

Salsa and Appetizers

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

After all these years it is still hard to beat Griggs’ Salsa, now served at Peppe’s along with with their excellent chips (and tortillas if you desire). In fact, I used to think that the Griggs salsa was a little wimpy, but I appreciated it a lot more after all the Griggs Restaurants closed and it was no longer available (and fortunately it was only a short wait until Peppe’s opened). It is true that this is not the spiciest salsa in El Paso or in New Mexican restaurants throughout the Southwest, but I appreciate the flavor and the fact that it is always fresh.

Radio salsa sampler

Radio FREE Salsa Sampler

The Radio FREE Salsa Sampler came as a promotion on the El Paso History radio program which airs Saturday mornings on KTSM-AM. Peppe’s is a sponsor of the show, and anybody who mentions the “Radio FREE Salsa Sampler” gets the above pictured salsa samples for free. The original purpose of it is so that you can try all of their sauces and find out which ones you like best in terms of the flavor and the spice level before you order a whole plate of it. It is also a good thing to order, though, if you simply want to try different things (you can ask for it whether you heard it on the radio program or not).

The Chile con Carne (at the top of the photo) is the same meat sauce used on the tostada compuesta, and it also comes on some of the combination plates such as the Combo #3. Peppe says this is also a sample of their red sauce used on the enchiladas, although this sauce comes without the meat.

The Green Sauce (at the bottom) is used on the green enchiladas, although I think it has a better flavor on the enchiladas because of the cheese that is added.

Peppe’s has one of the best examples of Chile con Queso I have found anywhere (shown on the left of the photo). The cheese at Peppe’s is a little thicker than is usually found, offering the reason people will either like it or dislike it (depending on their viewpoint), but I am glad it is more of a solid than a liquid. The green chiles are fresh and flavorful, but not of the ultra hot variety.

The salsa on the right is the regular one that all customers get with the chips.

Combination Plates

Combination Plate No. 3

Combination Plate No. 3 with green enchilada instead of red

Usually I like meals with a variety of items, the the combination plates offer a several choices for this (they will also make some substitutions). The Combo Plate #3 on the dinner menu is a good way to sample some of my favorite items. Although the red enchilada comes standard on the plate, I think the Green Enchilada is one of the best items at Peppe’s, and can be substituted for the red. To me the green enchilada offers a very flavorful blend of New Mexico chiles, cheese, tomato, and tortilla (but one which is not as spicy as most of the ones in Las Cruces).

There is no question in my mind that the Chile Relleno is another “best dish” at Peppe’s. Peppe’s serves the chile relleno New Mexico style, with no sauce on top. The chile, cheese, and batter are all much better than average, making it unnecessary to add a sauce (and in my mind it would be an adulteration of the dish to do so). The trick of the cheese is to cook it just right, and I have found that Peppe’s has this nailed (the menu says they stuff it with a mild cheddar). There is also the factor that the chile is local, and is sun dried.

Another notable item on the Combo #3 is the Chile con Carne, made with pork carnitas and red chile. This was one of the spicier items served, and I thought it went well with the other items. My favorite form of chile con carne, though, is when it is served on a tostada compuesta with beans, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Thus my choice is usually to get the Noonday Combination C that includes a tostada compuesta, and because of the substitutions that are allowed I usually get the other items I want as well.

The Rolled Taco is an item I often substitute because I am usually not a big fan of ground beef, but the one at Peppe’s was quite good. It tasted as if it were mixed with potato, and everything was simple but prepared well.

Green Enchiladas

Green enchiladas are New Mexico style

Green enchiladas are New Mexico style

An order of Green Chile Cheese Enchiladas comes with rolled enchiladas, but you can ask for them to be flat, as pictured. Stacked (flat) enchiladas seem to have more sauce, and I think this is the best way to enjoy one of the best versions of this dish I have tried in the El Paso area (in fact, I am gradually reaching the point that these are the only green enchiladas in El Paso that I really like).

Red Enchiladas

Red enchiladas with an egg on top

Red enchiladas with an egg on top

The Red Chile Cheese Enchiladas plate is also quite good, and is prepared New Mexico style (with more of the chile flavor coming through than in restaurants that serve the typical El Paso style enchiladas). These enchiladas are spicier than the green ones, but mild compared to ones found in Las Cruces or northern New Mexico. I recommend it with an egg on top (as shown in the photo).

The Rice is excellent, with a good mixture of flavors. Its moisture content indicated that it had not been sitting around for a long time.

Peppe’s serves whole beans by default. It is really hard to judge these compared to others, since preparing them is pretty straightforward. I prefer these, though, to just about any refried beans that are served in El Paso.

The Slaw is notable for being one of the best, although slaw is somewhat of a novelty in El Paso restaurants unless they are New Mexico style as Peppe’s is. One of the secrets of the slaw here is that it is made with apple cider vinegar (and Peppe says it has to be a certain kind of vinegar mixed just right with the other ingredients that are used).

Chile con Queso Dishes

Chicken breast with chile con queso

Chicken breast with chile con queso

I do not think there are any items with chile con queso available on the combination plates, so the best bet is probably to order one of several plates available from the menu. One of the best is the Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso (you can also get it Tampiqueña style). One reason I like this dish is the high quality of the chicken. Another one of my favorites from Griggs was the Grinder (chopped steak), but I have not yet had this at Peppe’s. Burritos are also available topped with chile con queso.

Noonday Combinations

Noonday Combination

Noonday Combination with items from both C and D

The Noonday Combination C is one of my “go to” choices at Peppe’s, although I usually substitute a green enchilada (an item from Combination D) for the folded taco (an item normally served on C). I think the reason I can make this substitution is that Combinations C and D are the same price (A and B are less expensive, and probably allow similar substitutions between them).

The above photo shows my preferred mix and match, resulting in slaw, tostada compuesta, chile relleno, and a green enchilada. It does not have rice and beans, but I do not really miss them since I have the slaw. Griggs Restaurant only served the Nooday Combination at lunch (hence the name), but Peppe’s lets you order it any time.

Desserts
Peppe’s charges extra for a Sopaipilla, as did Griggs Restaurant. You can get them plain or get the bite size version with cinnamon and sugar.

Other desserts are also available, such as Flan. I do not know if this is one of the items from the Griggs family recipes, but I was quite impressed with it.

Additional Comments
One of the little things that I particularly enjoy about Peppe’s, is the fresh Corn Tortillas that are served with the meal on request. The tortillas are made fresh daily at a nearby tortilla factory, and I think are excellent.

There is a full cantina (bar) here, but Peppe says he is keeping a family atmosphere (there are no TV’s or loud music playing).

I do need to mention that they have an additional charge if you use a credit card. It does not become official until you sign the receipt and they run it through, so if you decide you want to pay by cash after seeing this charge on the check, you can do so.

My usual meal here is the Noonday Combinations C, with an enchilada substituted for the folded taco. The Combination Plates have a larger number of items, and are also very good. For those who want smaller plates, though, the Noonday Combinations are available any time and not just at lunch.

For a one-item plate, though, my top choices would be enchiladas (green or red) or something with chile con queso. Be advised, though, that the green enchiladas are served rolled unless you specifically ask for them to be stacked (the red enchiladas come default as stacked).

So many of El Paso’s classic restaurants are now gone that I make a special effort to support the ones that are still around or that have been reincarnated with new names. What is especially good about Peppe’s is that it maintains the quality that Griggs had, and the food here is not exactly like anything I have had in El Paso or New Mexico. La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico gives a good presentation of the Griggs family recipes, but I think Peppe’s gives one that uses hotter chiles and has a better flavor.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun. evening & Mon.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 30, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Green Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Tostada Compuesta, Red Enchiladas, Grilled Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso, ICX (chopped steak with chile con queso), Slaw, Beans

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Tostada Compuesta
star 5 Rolled Taco
star 5 Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso
star 5 ICX (chopped steak with chile con queso)
star 5 Slaw
star 5 Rice
star 5 Beans
star 5 Chile con Queso
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 4 Flan
star 4 Sopaipilla

 

Menu (May 2019):