El Rincon de Cortez (Sun Bowl)–El Paso, TX

El Rincon de Cortez
3415 Sun Bowl Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 544-2808
El Rincon de Cortez on Sun Bowl

El Rincon de Cortez on Sun Bowl


El Rincon de Cortez is a favorite lunch hangout in the UTEP area, located near the Sun Bowl on a street that is quite busy on game days and when classes are in session, but otherwise would not be called one of El Paso’s main drags. Instead, it seems that word of mouth brings consistent business to this modest restaurant.

With a second location now on the east side of El Paso, El Rincon de Cortez remains a favorite place to order Mexican steaks (in fact, I usually think of it as the place for Chihuahua style steaks). In the 1990’s I had the opportunity to visit the city of Chihuahua and go to one of the city’s most famous steak restaurants, so I have some point of reference for this type of cuisine. I do not think El Rincon de Cortez uses cuts of meat that are quite as good as I experienced in Chihuahua, but they are good nonetheless, and El Rincon offers so many good items to go with the steaks that it is a very worthwhile experience. The menu at El Rincon has a wide variety of items so that it is not exclusively a steak house, but I think the steaks are what set it apart from most other restaurants.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa are provided to each diner even before an order is made, and both are very good (but I think the salsa is particularly notable).

Steaks

Tampiqueña steak

Tampiqueña steak

Most of the most popular steaks at El Rincon de Cortez are rib-eyes with different Mexican style toppings. The Tampiqueña Steak is one of the best, with a tomato, pepper, onion, and Mexican style cheese topping that is hard to beat. The Guacamole that comes with it is the only aspect of the dinner that I think could use some help, but the rice and beans were delicious.

The Red Enchilada that came with the tampiqueña steak had a strong, earthy red chile flavor (as I have usually found it in northern Mexico), and was quite good.

I used to order the Chuleta Mexicana on a regular basis, and found the meat a little tough but the flavor delicious. This is a rib-eye steak topped with tomato, pepper, and onions, with guacamole on the side. I think they might add some extra seasonings to the meat to give it a different flavor from the tampiqueña–I thought it had a more distinct taste than simply omitting the cheese that is on the tampiqueña.

Flautas
I thought the Chicken Flautas were some of the best in El Paso, despite the fact that the guacamole was mediocre. The shell was cooked to just the right crispiness, and the white meat chicken chunks were very fresh. They are not stingy with the sour cream, as is the case at some restaurants. Even though El Rincon is famous for its steaks, it seemed that the chicken was even better in terms of meat quality.

Breakfast

Huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros

Huevos Rancheros come with very spicy green chile, a pool of queso, but no salsa other than the green chile. I think this is an excellent version, and one of the best in El Paso. The cheese sauce is what really separates it from others (I am not normally a big fan of cheese unless it is especially good, as I found the one here to be).

The Hash Browns were excellent. Unlike other refried beans I have had at this restaurant, these could have been better. My conclusion is that there is quite a bit of variation in the beans according to the cook, and possibly the time of day.

Other Menu Items
A good selection of tacos is available, and I imagine they are as good or better than the steaks. If you want vegetarian Mexican food, though, I think you are out of luck at El Rincon de Cortez (the cheese enchiladas do not have meat, but I would not be surprised if they are made with lard). My comment about the lard would apply to the beans as well (the non-meat breakfast items come with beans).

Drinks
The Horchata was possibly the best in El Paso. It had a creamy texture, was well flavored with cinammon, and was not too sweet. It would really be worth ordering just to get an idea of how a good horchata is supposed to taste.

Additional Comments
Prices are moderate, and I do not believe they use bad cuts of meat but they are not the most expensive either. It certainly gives customers the type of experience they would have in a family style steak restaurant in northern Mexico. It also allows people to have a good steak without breaking the bank.

Breakfast is the only time I have seen the restaurant packed with people, and obviously this is a very popular time for people to come. Other than the good flavor, what I like about breakfast is that it is not too expensive and I do not get so much food that it is then hard to enjoy lunch.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily except Sun. Evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No
Special Features: Serves Breakfast

Most Recent Visit: Dec. 31, 2017
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Steak Tampiqueña, Flautas, Huevos Rancheros, Horchata

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Steak Tampiqueña
star 5 Flautas
star 5 Huevos Rancheros
star 4 Guacamole
star 5 Rice
star 4 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 5 Horchata

Los Mariachis–Las Cruces, NM

Los Mariachis
754 N. Motel Blvd.
Las Cruces, NM
(575) 523-7058
Los Mariachis

Los Mariachis


Los Mariachis in Las Cruces could also be called the Roving Mariachis, having moved from its original location in Mesilla to the west side of Las Cruces.  The distance moved was only two or three miles, but after eating at the new restaurant I suspected some other changes had occurred, such as changes to the menu. I decided it would be best to start over with a new review and appraisal of the food, although what I tried was influenced by what I liked best at the old restaurant.

The restaurant entrance

Los Mariachis entrance

Los Mariachis’ modern building is more spacious than at the old restaurant, and the large parking lot (contrasted to the very constrained parking at the old restaurant) probably explains the reason for the move. I think its popularity in Mesilla allowed the owners to open a larger restaurant, and its current popularity is evident by the reviews I read on the Internet.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The excellent chips and salsa are one feature that has been carried over from the old restaurant. I rate the Salsa as among the best in Las Cruces, and the Chips equally (although this is not as important as the salsa being good). The salsa had a good flavor and a good spice (“good” being defined as definitely there but not so overwhelming that it numbed my tongue so that I could not taste the flavors).

Stuffed Sopapillas

Stuffed sopapillas

Stuffed sopapillas

Stuffed Sopapillas are an item I frequently order in New Mexico because of the fact that it is almost non-existent in El Paso. Previously I had thought the ones here were some of the best in Las Cruces. After some additional experimentation I still feel this way, but with some qualifications.

The stuffed sopapillas shown in the above photo not only had different toppings but also different fillings (on the Stuffed Sopapillas plate you have several choices, and the two on the plate can be different as mine were).

The one in front had shredded beef with green chile on top. I ordered this because it was the waiter’s recommendation, and it turned out to be my favorite of the two. The most surprising thing about it was that the green chile replaced the red I had at the old restaurant as my favorite. In fact, this was easily one of the top green chiles I have had in New Mexico. The shredded beef was also excellent. The menu gives a choice of shreded beef, chicken, or ground beef, but they also allow you to make other choices (such as the beans I really liked in the stuffed sopapillas at the Mesilla restaurant).

The other sopapilla was topped with red chile with chile con carne inside (one of several choices suggested by the waiter although it is not listed on the menu). The chile con carne was spicy, though, and I really do not recommend getting something spicy inside when the chile on top is quite spicy in itself. It tasted good, but I cannot say I enjoyed it as much as the spicy green chile contrasted with the non-spicy shredded beef.

Another difference I noted, though, was in the chiles. Both were spicy, but the green chile had a fresh and crisp flavor while the red sauce seemed filled with too many other ingredients that did not make it taste like the red chile I have enjoyed over the years (or like the one I had at the Mesilla restaurant). In short, the red chile was not as good as before, while the green one was better. The sopapilla itself had the same excellent flavor as before, and I was completely satisfied with the green one (although the red was also pretty good).

Red Enchiladas
I reported on my previous review that I also really liked the red enchiladas, but now I would recommend the green.

Rice and Beans
The beans and rice were very good, very much like the ones in other restaurants. The important thing is that the beans are suitable to put inside the stuffed sopapilla if you want a vegetarian version.

Other Notes

The cashier

Specials are posted as you enter

They sometimes have specials, such as the albondigas posted on the board the day I went.

One of the keys of this restaurant is that they make substitutions to give you the food you want, and the waiter did a very good job of working with me to offer some good choices on the stuffed sopapillas. Whatever menu changes they have made are not terribly important because they will make your food the way you want whether it is on the menu or not.

I am not sure whether the red and green chiles have actually changed from their Mesilla location or whether my tastes have changed, but based on experiences at other restaurants I tend to think the former (the chiles at other restaurants still taste the same to me as before). I still like Los Marichias as much as before, but I have switched from being a red person to a green one (at least based on this one experience I have had).

I changed the chile index from “5 chiles” at the old restaurant to 4 here, and I think this is actually a good thing (there is still enough spice to really enjoy it). My stuffed sopapilla with chile con carne inside, though, was still at the 5 spice level.


RATING: 24

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

Most Recent Visit: Dec. 27, 2017
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Stuffed Sopapillas, Salsa

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable
Special Ratings
star 5 Stuffed Sopapilla
star 5 Beans
star 4 Rice
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Christmas in Southern New Mexico–Tularosa, NM

For those who might be in the Alamogordo or Ruidoso area at Christmas, one way to experience a traditional New Mexico Christmas is to see the luminarias at the Catholic Church in Tularosa, a historic town about ten miles north of Alamogordo.

Setting up luminarias

Setting up luminarias in Tularosa, NM

These photos were taken during the afternoon of Christmas Eve when it seems that practically the entire town participates in setting up luminarias. Hundreds of luminarias are set up outlining the church, lighting up the church grounds, and following the main street in town leading to the church. They are lit at nightfall in preparation for the the special Christmas Eve service which takes place at the church.

The Catholic Church in Tularosa

Saint Francis de Paula Church

The church in Tularosa has the typical Spanish style architecture that is found in New Mexico, and this one dates from 1869. Even without Christmas decorations the town is quite photogenic, and is worth a stop if you are in the area. With the Sacramento Mountains as the backdrop, the White Sands to the west, and extensive pistachio orchards to the south, this is one of the most scenic spots in New Mexico any time of the year. I will say from experience that usually the weather in this part of the state is agreeable enough to enjoy the celebration and possibly a few outdoor activities during the daytime.

The manger scene

The manger scene

The tradition of luminarias signifies lighting the way for Mary and Joseph to find their way to the stable where Jesus is about to come into the world. The tradition of lighting luminarias is found in towns throughout New Mexico, but I find the light show in Tularosa to be one of the most impressive I have seen.

Casa de Sueños

Casa de Sueños Restaurant in Tularosa

Of course most restaurants are closed late on Christmas eve and on Christmas day, but at other times visitors to Tularosa can enjoy traditional New Mexican cuisine at Casa de Sueños on the south edge of town. I particularly liked the red enchiladas with blue corn tortillas (the blue corn variety is not normally served in southern New Mexico). Casa de Sueños is not particularly spicy, but it is spicy enough to be what I would call “real” New Mexican food that is not dumbed down for tourists. Quite a few tourists stop here, though, because of its reputation for serving delicious New Mexican style food.

I also discovered another stop a few miles south of Tularosa on U.S. 54 and 70 where the McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch has its store and winery at 7320 US 54/70 (but don’t worry about the address, just look for the giant pistachio on the west side of the highway).

 

The giant pistachio at McGinn's

The giant pistachio marks the location of McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch

 

Of course one of the main items for sale is the pistachios grown on the McGinn Ranch, and these come in different sized bags according to how many you think you might need. They have a number of different flavored nuts, but after trying several of the free samples I decided to go with the plain ones.

Quite a number of other items are also available, including New Mexico salsas.

McGinn’s is open daily according to the newmexico.org web site, but of course there may be special hours around Christmas.