Sanborn’s–Ciudad Juarez, Chih.

Sanborn’s
Paseo Triunfo de la Republica #3809
Ciudad Juarez, Chih.

Sanborn’s is a northern outpost of a restaurant chain located mostly in cities surrounding Mexico City. I always thought of it mostly as a coffee house– sort of a Mexican version of the Village Inn chain in the United States. The food of these two chains is not terribly similar except for the fact that breakfast is probably the most popular meal and maybe the best one served. Otherwise, though, the food at Sanborn’s has a large Mexican influence while Village Inn is mostly American. In a strange twist, though, I think the Mexican food at the Village Inn on Airway in El Paso is actually better than at Sanborn’s in Ciudad Juarez. At least I like the food better at this particular Village Inn.

My favorite dish at Sanborn’s, though, was not a breakfast item, but Enchiladas Suizas on the lunch and dinner menu. These are chicken enchiladas with green tomatillo and crema sauce. This is honestly one of the best Mexican dishes I have had anywhere, and is really the only thing I’ve had at Sanborn’s that stood out. I kept trying to order the same dish in El Paso but the great majority of restaurants did not know what I was talking about, and those who attempted it did not have a result that matched Sanborn’s. I discovered later that Sanborn’s actually invented the dish, and has a special way of making it (just about any Mexican restaurant can make green enchiladas with sour cream, but they do not necessarily come out as enchiladas suizas). The recipe for Sanborn’s version is on line: Enchiladas Suizas Recipe

Breakfast is certainly decent, although I don’t remember any dishes which stood out. I remember that the lunch menu started at about 11:00 A.M. I think breakfast is served all day, though.

The largest part of Sanborn’s is not the restaurant, but a gift shop type of store that actually carries a number of useful items. I found this to be my number one source of road maps for traveling in Mexico, but mostly it is a matter of looking around to see what they have.

The store carries a large variety of very good food items (mostly sweets) that were always a higher quality than items I could find in the supermarkets or from street vendors.

Sanborn’s has a pay parking lot with a guard gate. If you buy items at the store or eat at the restaurant they will waive the parking fee (I don’t remember the exact amount but it was well under the price of a meal).

From reading reviews I believe Sanborn’s is largely the same as when I ate there, but my experiences were a number of years ago.


RATING: N/R

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$

Most Recent Visit: Oct. 18, 1994
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Item: Enchiladas Suizas

Special Ratings
star 5 Enchiladas Suizas

Elmer’s–El Paso, TX

Elmer’s Family Restaurant
6305 Montana Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 778-5485
Elmer's Restaurant

Elmer’s Restaurant


Established in 1959, Elmer’s seems to have discovered a “time warp” whereby nothing inside the restaurant ever ages. It is still the same 1950’s era diner style family restaurant complete with leather booths, salad bar, juke box, and a pie display case. The waitresses are the only thing in the restaurant that do not look as if they are left over from the fifties. Customers are treated with the same friendliness that the ones among us who are nostalgic would have expected a half century ago.

Elmer's awards

Some of Elmer’s awards on display

The food is also a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s, when there was no such thing as “healthy” restaurant food and restaurants did not have cuisine that was as specialized as it is today. Elmer’s became popular by serving both Mexican and American food, and a wide variety of each, so each person in a family could get what they wanted. If desired a person may order a Mexican plate with a salad bar or an American dish served with chips and salsa.

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Even though Elmer’s serves just about every type of food, I have usually stuck with the specialties– red enchiladas, fried chicken, and breakfast dishes. This is probably not a great restaurant for American food– because of the fact that most things are fried this is not the type of food I would normally eat at home (but it is one of the few options for American food in El Paso). With the exception of enchiladas and a few other items it is probably not a great place for Mexican food either. It is a place, though, where both are served, and in this sense it is somewhat unique.

Mexican Food

Mexican plate

Taco, rice, chile relleno, red enchilada, beans

The Red Enchiladas served at Elmer’s are some of the best in El Paso. While there is nothing exceptional about them, it is rather strange that so many restaurants in the city fail to make enchiladas that match up with Elmer’s and the handful of other restaurants that set the standard for this dish. The red chile at Elmer’s is spicy but not overly so, and they have the deep red flavor and color that is almost New Mexico style. The cheese is Mexican style, and this is just a good all-around enchilada.

The Chile Relleno is good by El Paso standards, but still a little greasy. It is topped with green chile that is flavorful but pretty generic. The main thing I did not like about it was the chile relleno itself– the topping neither detracted nor added much to the enjoyment of the dish.

The Beef Taco was plain and lightly spiced but good quality. It comes as part of the Mexican plate, which I would recommend as a way to try a variety of Mexican items.

Refried Beans were flavorful and not greasy. I would guess that they are cooked in vegetable oil. The Rice was not very flavorful, and could have been a lot better.

Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is the most famous dish here, and the menu proclaims it is the “best in the Southwest.” I might believe it is the best in El Paso, mainly for lack of competition, but I found it dry with a thick, greasy crust (a lighter crust might be better). The main disappointment came from the side dishes, though, since the whole point of eating fried chicken is to have a “fried chicken DINNER” (not just the chicken itself). It’s cheap, though, and well worth what you pay.

Additional Comments
Mexican breakfast dishes likewise are excellent and cheap– not the best in the city, but definitely better than average.

I have been going to Elmer’s for so many years I was afraid my past experiences might cause me to overlook some of its current shortcomings. The food I have eaten recently, though, has been pretty much like it always has been, so the shortcomings of Elmer’s have probably been there from the beginning. The good thing about Elmer’s is that you get exactly what you expect– a diner style restaurant that is better than the chain restaurants and less expensive.

Pie display

Elmer’s famous pie display greets customers upon entering

To go along with the mix of Mexican and American food, customers will likely want a slice of Elmer’s pie. The pie display located next to the front door creates a double temptation, both when entering the restaurant and before leaving. Several varieties beckon the diner, and few are able to resist.


RATING: 19

Cuisine: Mexican & American
Cost: $
Hours: Open Daily 6:00 am to 9:00 pm
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Serves breakfast

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 10, 2007
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Fried Chicken, Refried Beans

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 4 Chile Relleno
star 4 Beef Taco
star 4 Fried Chicken
star 5 Beans
star 3 Rice
star 3 Mashed Potatoes
star 3 Cole Slaw

620 Cafe–Round Rock, TX

620 Cafe & Bakery
910 Round Rock Ave.
Round Rock, TX
(512) 244-1009

When I lived in Austin one of my greatest passions as far as food was seeking out good chicken fried steak. By going to some of the popular restaurants I got the impression that good chicken fried steak was rather plentiful and ubiquitous (sort of something you would expect to find in the Austin area). I soon discovered, though, that this was not the case. Yes, CFS (as it is affectionately called) was plentiful, but not of uniform quality.

Worse still, though, was the fact that the quality seemed to diminish as I returned to Austin for visits in later years. Some of my favorite restaurants were no longer as good as before, and others had ceased to exist. After some disappointing experiences, I finally found one place that had chicken fried steak as I remembered it. This was the 620 Cafe & Bakery in Round Rock (located on FM 620 a short distance west of Interstate 35).

Many recent reviews of this restaurant have led me to believe that the chicken fried steak is still as good as I experienced it, so I thought I would include it in my list of reviews. My visit was in the 1990’s, but it appears that the 620 Cafe is pretty much the same now as it was then. It is an American style restaurant, and I am not sure that CFS is even their specialty. It is what I ordered, though, and I was quite happy with it.

The hours may have changed, since the information I have seen says that they are only open for breakfast and lunch (and I ate there in the evening). There were only a few customers when I was there, and I suppose it is even more impressive that I got such a good meal at a slow time of the day.

I have been somewhat disappointed by many versions of chicken fried steak I have gotten in other cities, and getting one in Austin is something I would really recommend. The 620 Cafe is one place where I have confidence it will be the classic Austin style.


RATING: N/R

Cuisine: American
Cost: $$
Hours: Open daily (breakfast & lunch only)

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 23, 1994
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Chicken Fried Steak

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Chicken Fried Steak