Griggs Restaurant–El Paso, TX

Griggs Restaurant (Closed)
5800 Doniphan Dr.
El Paso, TX
Griggs Restaurant on Doniphan

Griggs Restaurant on Doniphan


Griggs Restaurant is probably my all time favorite restaurant in El Paso, but I say this with qualifications.  Today I do not eat as much Mexican food as before, so I would regard it as more of a “special treat” restaurant.  Another qualification is that the quality was not consistent.  I could always count on Mr. and Mrs. Griggs producing top notch food, but when they retired the restaurant closed and then reopened with the younger generation managing it.  Also there was another Griggs Restaurant in East El Paso that was sold to another owner.  The end result is that I have the best memories of the original restaurant on Doniphan.  The others were good as well, and occasionally as good as the original.

I know that there is a somewhat sizeable group of people who remember the restaurant fondly and miss it, but what I want to do here is explain the food rather than just do an article on El Paso nostalgia.  I have a copy of the Griggs family cookbook with recipes used in the restaurant, but rather than try to post the recipes I will include a link to a blog that has already done so: Won’t Read Directions

Mrs. Griggs cookbook

Mrs. Griggs cookbook published in 1968

One thing to understand is that Mr. Griggs grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and the restaurant served New Mexico style Mexican food.  More specifically, it came from the recipes developed by his mother Josephine Griggs.  Her children operated some very well known New Mexican restaurants in 1968 when the cookbook was published–Griggs Restaurant in El Paso (Edgar), La Posta in Mesilla, NM (operated by Katherine and her family but founded by Katy’s uncle, George Griggs), and El Pinto in Albuquerque (operated by Consuelo, another daughter, along with her husband and six children).  The other daughter operated a restaurant in Rancho Cordova, California named La Posta de Rancho Cordova.

I have come to the following conclusions about the Griggs family recipes and this restaurant “empire”: (1) each of these restaurants developed its own modifications to these recipes, (2) most people who try to cook these recipes find that they are very hard to cook without making some modifications, and (3) if you follow the recipes the food does not taste the same as the food served in any of these restaurants.  I do not know why this is the case, but it really does not matter to me–I had no intention of actually trying to cook the dishes, I only wanted to enjoy the food at the various restaurants.

I have always thought that Griggs Restaurant was more “authentic” New Mexican than either La Posta or El Pinto (and I have been to both of these restaurants multiple times).  One reason I say this is that Griggs used fairly spicy chiles while La Posta is very much on the tame side (I have heard that El Pinto has some very spicy chile but that you have to get this by special request).

The “original” Griggs Restaurant (operated by Edgar and Rita) closed before I started writing reviews, so I do not have a review of the restaurant to include in this article.  Instead, I have various write-ups and bits of information that I can piece together to give a picture of the original Griggs Restaurant (in west El Paso) and the east side Griggs.


Review of the original Griggs Restaurant written 2005 (my last visit to the restaurant was in 2003)

The Griggs family reopened this restaurant with the original recipes, and it has the best New Mexico style food in town. I like the red and green enchiladas, chiles rellenos, and stuffed sopaipillas (I order them with the red chile used on enchiladas). The Griggs extended family originated La Posta in Mesilla and El Pinto in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For some reason, though, only this restaurant seems to provide the rich flavors and spiciness that I think accurately represent the original family recipes. Salsa is the one example of food here that is not very spicy, and probably out of the mainstream of New Mexico style food preparation. This is a minor detail, though, compared to the overall excellent meals that are served.


Review of the East Side Griggs (after my last visit on Nov. 30, 2006)

A restaurant that has been around as long as Griggs runs the risk of falling off the radar screen, especially when it is set back from Montana Avenue and only a non-lighted sign is visible from the street. It has also been through quite a few bumps with the closing of its Mesa Hills location and the on-again, off-again saga of the original Doniphan location (the original restaurant closed, then the children of the owners opened it as Griggs Family Restaurant, then it became became Dos Señoritas under different ownership, and finally a branch of Sombras del Pasado before it closed for good).

The east side Griggs Restaurant dining room

Griggs’ dining rooms greet visitors with several pianos and antique furniture

I have felt that the food quality has also been on a roller-coaster ride with the different owners, managers, and cooks. Anyone who knew the Griggs family cannot help associate the friendly smiles they would get and the home cooked style food that was served with the restaurants bearing their name. Of late, though, this has seemed a distant memory as the food seems to get more anglosized, or tourist oriented (as I feel that it always has been) but without the special touches I thought the food always demonstrated when the Griggs family was in charge of the kitchen. A chilehead could overlook the wimpy salsa and mild chiles because of the quality of the food, but it does not seem to have the same quality at the Montana location.

Green enchilada, rolled taco, chile relleno, chile con carne

From front to back: Green enchilada, rolled taco, chile relleno, and chile con carne

Certain items at the Montana location (and at the other locations when they were open) always seem to hit the spot regardless of the cooks that are in the kitchen. One is the New Mexico style Chile Relleno, a Mesilla Valley chile surrounded by an egg batter, with no sauce on top. At times the relleno has been beyond greasy (this has been rare, though). It has only been less than enjoyable, though, when the cheese inside the relleno failed to melt (this has been quite rare indeed). I normally order combination dinners at Griggs, but with any dinner ordered I would recommend the inclusion of a relleno.

Green Enchiladas are another standout item, and are rarely less than perfect. Of course, perfection depends on the standard being used. The green chile used is not the spicy variety served at Chope’s in La Mesa, New Mexico, or a number of other New Mexican style restaurants. The one at Griggs is a mild version that even people not used to eating any kind of chiles would enjoy, yet I think the flavor rivals just about any enchilada served in the Land of Enchantment.

The Red Enchiladas have never been one of the outstanding items at Griggs. They were excellent at the Doniphan location, however.

Chile colorado, known as Chile con Carne at Griggs had a superior New Mexico style chile at the original Griggs on Doniphan. The one served at the Montana location, though, seems to lack the flavor that made the other one so good. Likewise the roast pork does not taste like anything special, while the meat at the original Griggs seemed to embody the essence of New Mexico style pork that made eating this dish seem like a special experience.

The slaw is outstanding, and I like the fact that whole beans are served rather than refried.

I do not know whether Griggs’ tortillas are home made, but they certainly taste as if they are. I always found this to be a much more pleasant way to fill up on carbohydrates than trying to down the usually stale chips with the practically chile-less salsa.

The food at Griggs may be familiar to those who have eaten at La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico or El Pinto in Albuquerque. The Griggs family were early settlers in Mesilla, and various family members founded these three restaurants (all of which are still in business, but with different owners). While the current owners of the New Mexico restaurants have made them “touristy” on purpose, Griggs in El Paso has retained the original Griggs family recipes fairly well (they used to publish a recipe book that has some fairly authentic dishes). I cannot say the Griggs Restaurant serves totally authentic New Mexican cuisine, but it is one of the closest experiences El Pasoans can find to the type of food that would be served in Las Cruces or Albuquerque.


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

The latest development in the Griggs Restaurant saga is the opening of Peppe’s Restaurant in Canutillo, Texas by a former cook at the original Griggs Restaurant.  I have enjoyed the food here very much, although I think the menu is a little abbreviated from the original Griggs menu.  I have heard that the owners of Peppe’s would like to publish their own version of the Griggs recipes that will be closer to the food served in the restaurant.  I don’t know the progress on this, but maybe if there is a large demand for it, it will happen.  In any case, if you liked Griggs Restaurant, go to Peppe’s (my sentiments are the same as many of the Yelp reviewers on this point).

I do want to stress to readers that the Griggs food is still available at Peppe’s, and for my taste it is still much better than La Posta or El Pinto in New Mexico.  I would probably like Peppe’s to expand its menu, but as long as I can get the green enchiladas, chile relleno, and chile con carne I think I will be pretty happy.


Information for Griggs Restaurant on Doniphan:

RATING: 24

(today I would probably give it 25, but 24 is what I gave it at the time)

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Alcohol: Home of the “Juan and Only” Margarita

Chile Index: chile 4

Most Recent Visit
2003

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Green Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Chicken Sopa, Slaw, Chile con Carne, Tostada Compuesta

Special Ratings

star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Tostada Compuesta
star 5 Slaw

La Paloma–El Paso, TX

La Paloma (Closed)
9225 Dyer St.
El Paso, TX
La Paloma on Dyer St.

La Paloma on Dyer St.

Date of Review
Apr. 2008


Update Mar. 2016:  La Paloma was one of my favorite restaurants in El Paso, but when I moved away from the neighborhood I did not make it there very frequently.  The “No. 1” La Paloma was in the area of town known as South El Paso, where you generally find the most authentic border style Mexican food (but it’s usually very inexpensive and not what you would call “gourmet”).  Still, the restaurant had several very good dishes, and was known for its flour tortillas.

The second location, on Dyer Street in northeast El Paso, charged higher prices but I think they increased the quality of the food.  The first restaurant on Dyer was a small place that I remember from the 1970’s (or possibly before), and the building shown in the photo was the “new” restaurant (which was definitely much nicer).

The La Paloma Special was my favorite dish in the early days, mostly because they had one of the best versions of chile con queso in the city.  Later the Chicken Mole because my favorite dish, and I never could really believe it was made from a mix even though the owner told me this was the case.

Looking back, I could make a good case for giving it a higher rating than is shown in the review.  Although not many dishes here were among the best in the city, La Paloma’s standouts were among my favorites of all time, and these might have been given more weight in figuring an overall score.


La Paloma No. 1 was a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in South El Paso known for its chile con queso hamburger steak (La Paloma Special) and greasy french fries. Some family members went out Dyer Street to what was then the edge of town to open No. 2 with just about the same food and the same 1950’s-era diner decor. No. 2, though, improved on the food and charged higher prices, being in “prosperous” Northeast El Paso.

Today La Paloma No. 1 is closed and No. 2 has built a much larger and more modern facility. The food is just as good as ever, and I think it is actually better. The La Paloma Special has always been one of the specialties of the house. The hamburger steak is about the same as the ones found at any restaurant, but the chile con queso poured on top is one of the best I’ve experienced.

Although La Paloma has never claimed that their Chicken Mole is a specialty, I have always thought it is one of the best. I do not think it is authentic, and the owner admits it is made from a mix, but it has a good strong flavor and texture that I like. The chicken is not exclusively white meat, but there are substantial chunks of it.

The Red Enchiladas are quite good–with a deep red chile that is similar to New Mexico style, they are some of my favorites in El Paso. Although the heat index overall is about standard for El Paso, the red enchiladas are close to a 5.

The real standout item here is the complimentary Flour Tortilla served with every dinner–it goes great with refried beans and chicken mole.

The Pico de Gallo served with the chips is one of the best anywhere.

La Paloma was one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants when I lived in northeast El Paso, and it continues to be one of the best in the city.


RATING: 21

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $
Hours: Closed Sun.
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

Chile Index: chile 4

Most Recent Visit
Jul. 30, 2004

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Chicken Mole, Red Enchiladas, La Paloma Special

Special Ratings

star 5 Chicken Mole
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 4 Refried Beans
star 5 Pico de Gallo

Hacienda Mexicana–El Paso, TX

Hacienda Mexicana (Closed)
5800 Doniphan Dr.
El Paso, TX
Hacienda Mexicana

Hacienda Mexicana


Date of Review:
Mar. 2010


History:  Hacienda Mexicana opened in the building that used to be Griggs Restaurant, a long time El Paso institution.  Really nothing could replace Griggs, but Hacienda Mexicana served very high quality food (that unfortunately, few customers seemed to discover before the restaurant closed).

The photos in this article show the classic El Paso style Mexican food, and I think the rich colors of the food give a good indication of the rich flavors they contained.

In addition, though, the photo of the front of the restaurant is the best picture I have of the way the original Griggs Restaurant looked from the outside.


The old Griggs Restaurant on Doniphan Drive was such a special restaurant that I think it is only appropriate that another high quality Mexican restaurant take its place, and this is what has now happened with the opening of Hacienda Mexicana in 2010. The building resembles a hacienda, with several large dining rooms, outdoor gardens, and a peaceful setting away from other buildings. It is not located in the country as it was when Griggs opened, but it still seems that way.

Although I loved the food at Griggs, Hacienda Mexicana has made a change from Griggs’ menu and now serves a large variety of El Paso style Mexican food. I was impressed with the number of items on the menu that included such things as chicken mole (and other dishes that Griggs did not serve). I should point out that the former chef at Griggs has opened Peppe’s in Canutillo (6761 Doniphan Dr.) where the former Griggs recipes are now served. Griggs (and now Peppe’s) is New Mexico style food, while Hacienda Mexicana follows the tradition of high quality flavorful El Paso style food that I regularly experienced in the 1980’s but now I find in fewer and fewer restaurants.

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Although the chips and salsa are not the most important part of most meals, they can detract from it if they are not good. The Chips here, though, were the first sign that it was a good restaurant. These were thick and well toasted, as they should be.

The Red Salsa was thick with a strong chile flavor, made in a typical Mexican style. Of the two salsas this was my favorite.

The Green Salsa was more spicy, but more runny and hard to put on the chips. The fact that they served more than one salsa was a definite plus for the restaurant, allowing a variety of flavors.

Combination plate

Combo plate with rice, chicken taco, flautas, chile relleno, red enchilada, beans, and salad

When I asked for suggestions about what to order, the waiter suggested a combination plate. This reassured me because on my first visit to a Mexican restaurant I like to try as many items as possible. However, this was still not an easy choice because they serve about six different combo plates, and each can be modified through substitutions. Thus the one I got was more or less my choice for the items I would like to try.

The Chile Relleno turned out to be much like the one Griggs used to serve, with an excellent batter and no sauce on top. It was stuffed with Muenster cheese, and had a little cheese on top, but to me was the utlimate chile relleno in El Paso for its simplicity and goodness. I want to start a list of “best individual items” at restaurants, and I know of no chile relleno in El Paso that could top the one at Hacienda Mexicana (in fact, it rivals the one at Chope’s in New Mexico).

I probably could never pick the best Red Enchilada in El Paso, but the one at Hacienda Mexicana was close. This was made the classic El Paso style, with a flavorful red chile that was not too spicy. I do not like a lot of additives such as cumin, and this was one where the chile flavor was left to stand on its own with only a little help from additional ingredients (in other words, just right).

The Flautas were served in the style of the “Mexican flag” with red chile, white sour cream, and a green guacamole sauce for color (the guacamole was a thin, pureed sauce). Although I thought the sauce was good, the flautas themselves were somewhat thin and dry (but not unusual for El Paso).

The Chicken Taco had the same meat as the flautas, which I thought was rather unflavorful. I ordered the taco with a soft shell (normally it comes fried), but it seemed that the restaurant was really not expert at making flavorful soft tacos as some of the more authentic Mexican restaurants are. Probably when it comes to El Paso style Mexican food the crispy tacos are best (and probably beef should be ordered instead of chicken).

The Rice was very flavorful and not dry. It tasted fresh, and not as if it had been sitting around for a while.

The Beans pointed out the main problem I had with some of the food–they had a definite salty flavor. In fact, this one thing pointed out the main difference to me between Hacinda Mexicana being a very good El Paso style Mexican restaurant (which it is) and possibly being one of the best (such as Casa Jurado). I thought the chile relleno and possibly the red enchilada here were better than at Casa Jurado, and some of the other food could be equally good if they cut down on the amount of salt used.

Hacienda Mexicana serves home made Agua Fresca drinks, including horchata and canteloupe (melón), but they said the lemonade comes from a mix.

Overall it was a very good expeience. The price was very reasonable, and the service was good. The restaurant closes at 9 p.m., so I did not have to feel rushed in trying to get there early as I do at many restaurants. This was truly a worthy replacement for Griggs, especially since I feel they are serving the same chiles rellenos that Griggs used to have.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $$
Accessible: Yes
Cooking Oil: Vegetable
Alcohol: Applied for License

Chile Index: chile 4

Most Recent Visit
Mar. 30, 2010

Number of Visits: 1

Best Items
Chiles Rellenos, Red Enchiladas

Special Ratings

star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Chiles Rellenos
star 4 Chicken Taco
star 5 Flautas
star 5 Rice
star 4 Beans
star 4 Flour Tortillas
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 4 Melón