Su Casa–El Paso, TX

Su Casa Restaurant
2030 E. Yandell Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 544-5136
Su Casa

Su Casa Restaurant


Any list of classic El Paso restaurants would have to include Su Casa, a neighborhood hangout that has been operating at the same place for longer than I can remember. A friend reminded me that Arnold’s, another classic El Paso eatery, was at this location before Su Casa opened. While Arnold’s may have already established the popularity of the location, Su Casa has kept people coming back even if their residences or jobs have since moved out of the neighborhood. Having a central meeting place is part of the reason, but people have a hard time finding the same food anywhere else.

Su Casa seems to have escaped the notice of most tourists, but the restaurant is already so crowded for lunch I doubt that one of the priorities of the owners is to advertise in the local travel guides to attract new customers. Instead, word of mouth seems to bring most people who are not already regular customers. I have a hard time choosing any one Mexican restaurant that I would advise out of town travelers to visit if they have only one meal in El Paso, but Su Casa is certainly one that would be on the short list. The food here typifies the classic El Paso style of Mexican food, and is of consistently good quality no matter what you order from the menu. The combination plates are good at Su Casa, as are many of the single item plates.

Mexican Dishes

Red enchiladas

Red enchiladas

For me one of the best tests of El Paso style Mexican food is the Red Enchilada, and the one at Su Casa is certainly one of the best (this is the opinion of myself as well as several of my friends). The one here has a good spiciness, and the cheese provides quite a good flavor. It can sometimes be skimpy on the sauce, but if you need more sauce you can ask for it. These are an El Paso variation of the New Mexico style enchiladas, which are generally slightly more spicy than their borderland cousins.

Beef Tacos are among the most enjoyable anywhere, made with ground beef and topped with Mexican cheese.

The Tortilla Soup is well spiced with excellent cheese. If this were going to be the main part of the meal, though, I would prefer the caldo tlalpeño at Café Mayapán that also contains avocado and a whole chipotle chile. Su Casa serves the soup in either a whole order, which would constitute a pretty substantial meal, or a half order.

The Refried Beans, topped with a generous amount of cheese, are delicious when eaten on chips. Traditional wisdom seems to be that beans made with lard have a better flavor, but the ones at Su Casa made with vegetable oil seem to disprove this theory.

Middle Eastern Food

Spinach pies

Spinach pies

I think Su Casa should be known as much for its Middle Eastern food as for the Mexican menu. The Spinach Pies, made from scratch in the owner’s home, have the best flavor I have tasted anywhere, but suffer from the fact that they are kept frozen and then microwaved when you order them. The ones here are probably not like you would find in Lebanon, but they are better than the ones I have tried in the city’s Middle Eastern restaurants. Even though the crust shows some signs of being microwaved, the inside filling is fresh and moist, with a rich Middle Eastern flavor. For me, this is the best lunch plate served at Su Casa.

Tabouli

Tabouli

The Tabouli is made fresh, and has a well deserved reputation as one of Su Casa’s most popular dishes. The light sauce brings out the true flavor of the vegetables that I find typical of good quality Middle Eastern food. My respect for the tabouli at Su Casa has increased over the years as I have tried other versions in El Paso and other cities that seemed too have to much or too little of certain ingredients, while the one at Su Casa has just the right balance of its various components. Lebanese food is a real passion of the owners, and it definitely shows in the tabouli and other dishes that are served.

Several other Lebanese dishes are offered including kebby, Middle Eastern style chicken, and shish-kabob.

Before and After the Main Meal

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The Salsa is not the spiciest in El Paso, but may have the freshest ingredients. The owners’ Middle Eastern heritage comes through a little bit in the mixture of ingredients that come together to provide one of the most complex flavors of any salsa in the city.

Sopaipilla

Sopaipilla

Complimentary Sopaipillas are served after every meal, and are some of the tastiest around. This one, like many served in El Paso, are thinner than the New Mexico version.

Things to Know
One feature I really like is that just about every plate is available in a half order, and many times the half order is large enough for a meal (although a half order of the soups or salads would not fill me up). Several of the combination plates come in half orders with fewer main dishes, but you still get the beans, rice, and sopaipillas. My favorite at night is the “dinner special,” that comes with one taco, one enchilada, rice, and beans (and can also be served with two enchiladas or two tacos). However, Su Casa has cut back its hours to the point that Friday is the only evening it is open, and only until 7:00 p.m.

Almost everyone who is a regular will say that one of the attractions is the excellent service. Su Casa is a neighborhood, family style restaurant, and once you go you will likely be remembered from then on. There is a higher likelihood of running into my friends here than at any other restaurant in the city. Everything seems to come together to make it feel like “your home” (su casa).


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican & Lebanese
Cost: $
Hours: Lunch only Mon.-Sat. (open until 7 pm on Fri.); closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, wine, Sangria

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 27, 2010
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Spinach Pie, Tacos, Tabouli, Sopaipillas, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Spinach Pies
star 5 Tabouli
star 5 Tacos
star 4 Tortilla Soup
star 5 Refried Beans
star 5 Rice
star 4 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Amigos–El Paso, TX

Amigos Restaurant
2000 Montana Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 533-0155
Amigos Restaurantd

Amigos Restaurant


For years the “amigos” worked at La Hacienda restaurant until they opened their own place on Montana Avenue and brought the food from La Hacienda with them. Today you can still order the same lunch specials that used to be found at La Hacienda, and you still get the same attentive service by professional waiters that is becoming a lost art.

I was surprised to find out that the cook at Amigos is the same person who used to cook at La Hacienda, since it is quite rare to find the exact same food we used to experience in the “old days” with no changes or updating (which usually means a diminishment in quality). I believe he only cooks in the evening and another cook takes the morning shift, but if this is not the right information then I stand corrected. I do know that dinner is the time I have enjoyed Amigos the most, especially since this is when I have been able to try special dishes (including some authentic dishes from the Mexican interior).

I have heard the recipes at Amigos originated from the owner’s mother, who came from New Mexico. When she came to El Paso she thought most of the restaurants were not spicy enough, thus Amigos serves chile at the same spice level as is common in the Land of Enchantment. I have given the restaurant five chiles in my spiciness rating, but it is actually only the enchiladas and certain other dishes that are this spicy.

Lunch Specials
Lunch is the most popular time at Amigos, with the restaurant being known for its lunch specials. Certain specials are served on particular days (such as the Spaghetti Plate on Monday), and I believe the combination plate is available every day. I used to get the spaghetti because they could make a vegetarian version, but I believe this is not one of the best items at Amigos except for the “extras.” The extras come with all lunches, and are the same elements that used to make La Hacienda a special treat that stood above all the city’s other very good Mexican restaurants.

Home made soup and a fresh salad begin the full course lunch, although portions are relatively small. Rolls used to come from La Ideal Bakery, a few blocks away, and were so good I almost wanted to fill up on them instead of the chips. With La Ideal now being closed I assume they have found a suitable substitute, but if not I know that they are providing the best lunch items they can find.

Amigos’ salsa is so good, though, that I end up eating a substantial portion of chips as well. La Hacienda used to serve a small dessert and I believe Amigos follows the same practice, although there has been nothing that has stood out in my mind the way the soup, salad, and bread do.

Enchiladas

Combination plate

Combination plate

The Red Enchiladas were a source of disappointment at the old La Hacienda, with the chile being spicier than I thought was the norm even in New Mexico. They have been equally spicy at Amigos, but it seems more flavorful. I would probably suggest ordering a combination plate rather than an whole plate of enchiladas, but I would definitely recommend getting an enchilada if possible (I do not remember how the green chile tastes– I have only the red recently).

Chile Relleno
Amigos has a rather unusual Spanish sauce topping for the Chile Relleno that is made with celery and cinnamon. This is non-spicy with a sweet flavor (although the chile itself is medium spicy). Like the enchilada this was not one of my favorite dishes at La Hacienda, but it has been excellent when I have tried it at Amigos. I think my problem with it in the past was its greasiness, but I do not find that to be the case at present.

Tacos
The Beef Taco seems more El Paso style to me than New Mexican, using a potato filler that I first experienced at Ben’s Tacos in South El Paso. I think the ones at Amigos are better than any of the other similar tacos I have had recently, though.

The Chicken Taco is also very good, with fresh and good quality meat topped with white cheese and ripe tomatoes.

Dinner Menu
The dinner menu is considerably more expensive than the lunch specials, but this is where I have found the best entrées. The Chicken Tampiqueña is an example of a dish that is well beyond the normal quality found in Mexican restaurants. Served on a chicken breast, the green chile strips are not only spicier than the ones normally found, but fresher and more flavorful. A whole peeled avocado garnishes the top, but unlike the ones in most restaurants, it is ripe without being beyond its prime. The red enchilada served on the side serves as a perfect complement, and the whole pinto beans are very enjoyable. This is a meal I like to eat slowly to enjoy every bite– it is an example of the type of food that used to be more common in El Paso that delivered quality rather than a huge quantity of substandard food.

The Pescado al Mojo de Ajo is a classic presentation of this type of fish fillet topped with garlic. The cod used in the fillet is better than the fish found at many restaurants that specialize in Mexican seafood, and I would not hesitate to recommend the one at Amigos. The one here does not come with mashed or baked potatoes on the side as is traditional, but it is not such a bad thing to have less starch in the meal.

I have heard from a friend that the Carne Adovada is the best dish at the restaurant, but I have not yet been able to try it.

Dinner salad

Dinner salad

The same Dinner Salad served with the lunch specials comes in a larger portion with the dinner combination plates. I did not really realize how good this salad was until I got the large dinner serving (pictured above). Patrons will never find a wilted or over-ripe piece of lettuce, and the toppings are light and delicious. This is not a Mi Piaci quality salad, but it is about as good as you can get in any of El Paso’s Mexican restaurants.

Specials
For a while the restaurant was offering “seasonal specials” with dishes from the interior of Mexico. These have now been discontinued because not enough people ordered them, giving great insight as to why El Paso does not have many choices other than the standard border dishes. I have to give the chef credit, though, for not giving up in trying to serve good food but in maintaining a very high quality for the regular menu.

Amigos may have the best Tortilla Soup in town, but unfortunately it is almost never served. I was told they only make it “once every two weeks.” This is part of a rotation of specials that I believe are still being served.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The chips and salsa may not be my absolute favorite in El Paso, but they are close. Amigos is not afraid to make certain dishes “New Mexico spicy,” and the salsa is no exception.

Additional Notes
Amigos is casual but comfortable, giving the kind of service that is seldom delivered in El Paso. Lunch is usually very busy, but at dinner they seem to make a special effort to create a place where you can relax. Amigos is nicely decorated, quiet, with tasteful music, and with professional waiters that I think are more appreciated when you have more time for a leisurely meal. They also make it a point, though, to get you served quickly at the lunch hour.

Everything is quite clean– this and the service would probably bring me back even if the food wasn’t as good as it is.

Prices are moderate– not the cheapest in El Paso nor the most expensive. They do charge for refills on sodas, though.

The posted closing time is 8:00 p.m., but this is one of the few restaurants in El Paso that will stay open later if there is a lot of business (usually on weekends), and will not make you feel that you are being rushed if you go late.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, drinks

Most Recent Visit: May 11, 2010
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Chicken Tampiqueña, Red Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Salad, Tortilla Soup, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 5
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Chicken Tampiqueña
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Beef Taco
star 5 Chicken Taco
star 5 Pescado al Mojo de Ajo
star 4 Chicken Tostada
star 4 Spaghetti Plate
star 5 Salad
star 5 Rice
star 5 Beans
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Barrigas–El Paso, TX

Barrigas Restaurant
664 Sunland Park Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 845-1627
Barrigas on Sunland Park

Barrigas on Sunland Park


This upscale Ciudad Juarez restaurant has recently branched out into El Paso, and provides some of the most authentic Mexican food around. Probably the best feature of Barrigas is the varied menu, with many items not traditionally found in the U.S. Mexican restaurants (although this type of menu variety is increasingly found in El Paso restaurants).

Barrigas seems to specialize in meat items, particularly in finding flavorful ways to combine meat, cheese, and other ingredients. It is also a good place to go if you like a variety of salads, appetizers (such as queso fundido), desserts, and shrimp. Margaritas and other drinks are served.

The background noise and music at Barrigas can sometimes be at such a high level it is hard to hold a conversation. When they have had live mariachi bands, though, the quality of the music has been such I have not minded the temporary inconvenience in trying to converse with others at the table.

Chips and Salsa
The Chips are somewhat greasy and the Salsa has sometimes been too spicy with jalapeno peppers, but the salsa seemed to improve a lot starting about 2006. In fact I would say it is now very close to the classic El Paso and Ciudad Juarez style salsa that is spicy and flavorful, and perhaps a little heavy on extra spices that are thrown in.

The Pico de Gallo that is sometimes served in addition to the salsa is quite good, but it is usually not offered.

Enchiladas
The Red Enchiladas are good, but they are not my favorite in El Paso and I prefer them on a combination plate with other items. While they are a good example of Ciudad Juarez style enchiladas, I prefer the New Mexico style chile that does not have as many spices that modify the flavor as the Mexican style red chile. These enchiladas may be more suitable than the New Mexico style, though, for people who do not like them extremely spicy.

Chicken enchiladas

Chicken enchiladas

Green Enchiladas are made with puréed green chile that is normally very easy to make too spicy and not very flavorful, but the ones at Barrigas are an exception. I find the green chile here to have a flavor that is very similar to the New Mexico style green chile, although milder. These enchiladas also use melted Mexican cheese on top of the chile as well as inside the enchilada, adding to the flavor and making them among the best green enchiladas in El Paso. The green enchiladas seem to taste better with chicken inside and a side order of sour cream to make Enchiladas Suizas, not on the menu as such but is one of the better versions of this dish.

Flautas
Flautas here are well above average using thick, flavorful chunks of chicken and a large quantity of guacamole in which to dip it.

Mole
Chicken Mole is served the traditional Ciudad Juarez style, with chicken mixed into the mole, and Barrigas is one of the best. The mole sauce is not too sweet and I think has a very smooth and delicious taste. Some say mole is an acquired taste, but the one here is a good place to start if you want a more authentic version.

Enmoladas

Enmoladas

Enmoladas, or mole enchiladas, are a way to enjoy the sauce without the chicken (enchiladas are served either with cheese or chicken). With a side order of flour tortillas I really like the mole sauce just as well as on the chicken dinner. To me, though, the enchiladas have a strong corn oil flavor that makes this a less desirable dish than the chicken mole dinner. I am tempted to go on a rant here about the less nutritious and less well balanced food customers frequently receive when they try to order vegetarian dinners, and this is a clear example. One alternative would be to order a mole burrito which is not fried (and would probably have little or no corn oil). In my opinion, though, the best flavor comes with the chicken mole dinner. Mexican food seems to be at its best when you order it with meat.

Chile Relleno
The Chiles Rellenos have been quite greasy at times but other times have been quite good. The yellow tomato sauce served on top of the relleno is flavorful. For the most part I would recommend against ordering it here–other restaurants have much better rellenos.

Puntas de Filete

Puntas de filete

Puntas de filete

Puntas de Filete is a dish of sirloin tips that is served with a choice of several sauces. I enjoyed it not only because of its flavor, but because it is something that is not served in a great number of restaurants. I suspect all the sauces are good, but if you have a hard time deciding I think the waiters will give their suggestions.

Side Dishes
Rice and beans are very good, and overall you should expect a good meal here. Barrigas does not take the time to make Mexican style agua fresca drinks, but I have been pretty happy with the food, and the prices are not bad.

More About the Restaurant
Barrigas is open late (10 p.m.) on weekdays, and later on weekends. The outdoor patio is an excellent idea to take advantage of the El Paso weather, but smoking is allowed making it unusable to me. Because of this, the usually cold air inside, and frequent loud noise, I would have to give low marks for the restaurant’s atmosphere. Still, though, it is one of the better places to get good Mexican food in an upscale setting.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, drinks

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 27, 2008
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Flautas, Chicken Mole, Green Enchiladas

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Green Enchiladas with chicken and sour cream
star 5 Flautas
star 5 Mole
star 4 Enmoladas
star 3 Chile Relleno
star 5 Puntas de Filete
star 4 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 4 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 3 Lemonade