Fudge Factory–Clines Corners, NM

Fudge Factory
1 Yacht Club Dr.
Clines Corners, NM
Cuisine: Candy
 

I think the people at Clines Corners have a sense of humor. The “town” consists of one building (the travel center/ gas station) with an address of 1 Yacht Club Drive (you would try in vain to find the Yacht Club here). One of the attractions of Clines Corners is that it is so isolated, yet being on the old Route 66 and now Interstate 40 it never lacks customers at its one-stop gas station and travel center (which is open 24 hours).

The fudge factory is one of the more popular attractions at the Travel Center, selling its own brand of fudge for a devoted clientele (including my cousins who brought me a sample of the Clines Corners candy). The candy here is travel worthy, apparently being well able to withstand high temperatures and long distances without melting or losing its original flavor.

Butter pecan fudge

Butter pecan fudge

My idea of fudge did not include Butter Pecan, but I am always surprised what I can learn about food. This is a very rich candy that has the consistency of fudge but with the flavor of butter. For me it brought back memories of when I was in Wisconsin and first encountered the local butter which looked good enough that you could cut off a piece and eat it like a piece of cheese (and it was that good). The difference with the “fudge” version, of course, is that it is sweet and made for you to eat it as it is.

In any case, I was not only pleasantly surprised by the butter pecan, but I hope to try the regular fudge as well.


RATING: *

Cuisine: Candy
Cost: $

Most Recent Visit: *

Number of Visits: *

Best Items: Candy

Special Ratings

star 5 Butter Pecan Fudge

Monteleone’s–El Paso, TX

Monteleone’s Ristorante Italiano
3023 Gateway West
El Paso, TX
(915) 566-4320
Monteleone's

Monteleone’s


If you have driven along Interstate 10 near downtown El Paso and wondered how a Mack truck ended up in a neighborhood next to the freeway, it is actually part of the art work that gives Monteleone’s Ristorante Italiano its unique style. This applies not only to the décor, but I have found the food to be different from anything else served in the city.

Monteleone’s recipes come from the owner’s grandmother from the Calabria region of Italy (via Pittsburgh). Everything is handmade from scratch, and the quality shows. Unlike the “red sauce” Italian restaurants, Monteleone’s uses light and healthy oils with fresh tomatoes that are served in chunks rather than a puréed sauce. I do not have firsthand knowledge of authentic Italian food, but I suspect the food here comes pretty close.

The Mob Room

Beware of people watching you when you eat in the Mob Room

Inside the restaurant there is a gangster theme with several busts of Hollywood figures such as Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. With the restaurant being an old converted house, there are several small dining areas that used to be rooms in the house. The “Mob Room” looks like what used to be a small bedroom that now contains some of the more interesting art work as well as a real craps table and roulette wheel from Las Vegas that are now used as dining tables. I consider it a great honor to be able to eat in the Mob Room, as it is quite small with limited space. However, the food tastes just as good anywhere else within the restaurant or outside on the patio.

During the summer of 2007 the restaurant was serving what I think were Italian style hamburgers on the outdoor patio on Fridays and Saturdays (I have not tried the hamburgers, though). This is one of several promotions Monteleone’s has used to create a “fun” atmosphere, including entertainment on weekends when the restaurant first opened. I used to hear Frank Sinatra music played inside the restaurant but I do not know if this is still the practice. Anyway, I do not think Monteleone’s wants to be the type of Italian restaurant with dark lighting where you are paying for the atmosphere more than the food. Instead, it is a good place to enjoy yourself, talk to other patrons if you feel like it, and most of all to enjoy some very good Italian food.

The food seems to be enjoyable in its simplicity. I really do not know how difficult it is to prepare this type of food, but it seems to be just basic ingredients put together in a combination you would expect to find in Italian food. Judging from how few other restaurants match the flavor found at Monteleone’s, though, it must be more difficult to prepare this type of food than it seems. Everything tastes as if it is freshly prepared, with top quality cheese, vegetables, and other ingredients being used.

The restaurant has a small menu with limited vegetarian choices, and for a while this led me to make infrequent visits. However, Gary the owner says other dishes can be made with advanced notice (if you call him several hours ahead of time) such as spinach lasagna or chicken cacciatore. Chicken parmigiana, one of my favorite meat dishes, can also be prepared. I think it would probably be worth the effort to call ahead for one of your favorite dishes, although I have yet to have had the foresight to do so.

Salads and Appetizers

Salad

Salad

A fresh romaine lettuce Salad comes with the dinners, and is a welcome change from the ones at other restaurants that are made with iceberg lettuce. Italian dressing is not made in the restaurant, but I was told it was “special ordered.” In quality I thought it was equal to any I have tried in El Paso.

Italian wedding soup

Italian wedding soup

Italian Wedding Soup is another appetizer option, and this was good as well. I thought the soup was a little salty, but it tasted home made.

Pasta Dishes

Tortiglioni

Tortiglioni with zucchini

Tortiglioni with Zucchini, the only vegetarian entrée on the menu, is definitely something that has not been disappointing. This penne pasta dish has a light sauce with fresh tomatoes, as opposed to a puréed tomato sauce found in the “red sauce” restaurants. The cheese has been excellent, and I have enjoyed everything about it except that it is the only vegetarian dish on the menu. I do like meat dishes, but it is so hard to find vegetarian meals of the quality served at Monteleone’s that I like to take advantage of the opportunity whenever possible. The tortiglioni even passed my “refrigerator” test when I took home some leftovers and they did not smell up the refrigerator with a garlic odor. I would have to say that not overwhelming the dish with garlic is probably one of its secrets.

Fresh rolls used to be served with olive oil, but now come with butter. They are still good, though.

Pizza
The Pizza is a great bargain– it contains very fresh ingredients on a thin crust, and is more than enough for two people. I did not think it was as flavorful as the one at Hello Pizza, but its freshness was a definite plus.

Dessert

Spumoni

Spumoni

The Spumoni surprised me because it was as good as the one I remember from Sorrento’s (which I have not had in a long time but I assume it is still available). To me this is another sign of the overall excellence of Monteleone’s

A Summary
The hours have changed over time but currently the restaurant is closed Sun., Mon., and Tue. (lunch is not served on Sat.). It is now open later than it used to be, but with this type of small restaurant I suspect the hours will ultimately depend on what time customers want to come.

You do have the option of calling ahead for special orders, and this somewhat offsets the problem of the small menu. I do not mind, though, because the quality is excellent to the point that I wish I could find restaurants like this in other cities.

Prices used to be insanely cheap compared to other Italian restaurants, and now I just consider it to be competitive (especially when considering the type of ingredients they use). I do not know where they get vegetables that are fresh enough to make the food taste the way it does, since I usually do not find the same quality food in the local grocery stores.

The rear entrance

The rear entrance is located off the alley

The best bet for finding parking is in back of the building off of the alley, but there is additional parking on nearby San Marcial Street. A handicapped space is located behind the building in the alley. The front door is on Gateway West, the frontage road for Interstate 10, located two blocks east of the Piedras exit.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Italian
Cost: $$
Hours: Wed.-Sat. only
Accessible: Yes (parking is in back off of the alley)
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Wine

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 11, 2018
Number of Visits: 7
Best Items: Tortiglioni, Salad, Spumoni

Special Ratings
star 5 Tortiglioni with Zucchini
star 4 Pizza
star 5 Salad
star 4 Italian Wedding Soup
star 5 Spumoni

Delicious–El Paso, TX

Delicious Mexican Eatery
11335 Montwood Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 857-1396
Delicious Mexican Eatery

Delicious Mexican Eatery on the east side


I count Delicious Mexican Eatery as one of the restaurants where everything is good, and you really can’t go wrong with anything you order. Having said that, though, I thought the enchilada was the best item on the combination plate I ordered, with everything else serving as a very good compliment to it.

For years I have thought of Delicious as being on Fort Boulevard in central El Paso (where it is still operating). It turns out that for a while they had a branch on the west side which is now closed, along with another branch in east El Paso which is still open (and is the subject of this review). From my experiences at the Fort Boulevard restaurant I always thought of Delicious as being a taco and meat item restaurant, but I have now discovered that there is a larger choice of items that are their specialties (which I like and my friends recommend as well).

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Like most restaurants in the area, Delicious has fresh chips and salsa. I thought the salsa was notable for having a fresh green chile flavor and for being spicy enough but not overly so.

Combination Plate

Combination plate

Combination plate

Delicious lists several choices for combination plates on the menu, but this is just a starting point. You can substitute just about anything and build your own plate. The choice is made easier because all items are visible through a glass and they serve the food on your plate buffet style (although it is not all you can eat). With the quantity they give, though, it really is all that almost anybody can eat.

I thought the best thing about the combination plate was the variety, but the best single item was the Enchilada. This was a red enchilada as is the custom at most El Paso restaurants. The sauce was bright red and more flavorful than most (to me it looked to be cumin free, as the taste demonstrated as well).

The Chile Relleno had no sauce on top and was very good except for the fact that the cheese inside was really not memorable compared to some of the others.

The Beef Flauta was very good except for the fact that I rated the guacamole as four stars.

The Chile Verde was my least favorite main item, although I still put it as five stars (showing an overall consistency in flavor and quality of the food).

The Beans were some of the best anywhere.

Other Notes
Orders are placed at the counter, and because all the food is visible through the glass this makes for a very good build-your-own combination plate.

I did not find the iced tea to be the same quality as the food, which I think was just a fluke and they were having a bad day with the tea.

They have quite a few items which I did not try, and from the Fort Boulevard location I know that they are good on tacos and other meat items.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open daily except Sun. evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 9, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Enchilada, Beans

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Enchilada
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Flautas
star 5 Chile Verde
star 5 Beans
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Wicked Pho–El Paso, TX

Wicked Pho
12102 Montwood Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 303-5244
Wicked Pho

Wicked Pho


Out of a small number of Vietnamese restaurants in El Paso, it turns out that two of them (Wicked Pho and Viet) are in proximity to each other, leading to inevitable comparisons between the two. While Viet is run by Vietnamese people (I know because I met the owner), several reviews of Wicked Pho say it is not (I cannot confirm this because I did not meet the owner). The menu of Wicked Pho indicated to me that the food is Asian fusion, as some reviews also state.

The reviews of Wicked Pho are varied, ranging from five stars to very low assessments of the food. Having tried three of their items, I found the range to be about three stars to five (not the very low ratings that some had given it). It does depend on what you order, though, because some menu items are clearly not Vietnamese. Also I did not try the pho, which seemed to be the object of most of the bad reviews.

An obvious comparison with Viet Restaurant is that Wicked Pho has much fewer menu choices, particularly with Vietnamese items. Still, I liked what I ordered, and whether it is authentic or not I am glad I came.

Appetizers

Egg rolls

Egg rolls

The Egg Rolls were standard for Asian restaurants, although I believe this is Americanized Asian food. The sauce did not have a flavor that stood out to me.

For me a better appetizer was the Pan Seared Dumplings, which were similar to other very good ones I have had.

Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chop

Lemongrass grilled pork chop

Lemongrass grilled pork chop

I ordered the Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chop mainly because of having few options on the menu, but this was an excellent dish that so far is the best Vietnamese pork chop I have had in El Paso. The egg and garnishes were a definite enhancement, but the meat itself was quite good. I also loved the lemongrass flavor, and I definitely recommend this as an upscale Asian food item (pork chops at any Vietnamese restaurant will be one of the most expensive items on the menu).

Tea
I forgot to take notes about the tea and therefore do not have any information about it.

An Assessment
There is a small Vietnamese menu here, but the pork chop was excellent. In contrast, many of the reviews of the pho do not make me want to try it.

The pork chop here was actually better than ones I have tried at other restaurants (such as Saigon Taste on the west side), but the appetizers ranged from good to lackluster. This makes me think that the range of reviews from good to bad depends largely on what you order.

It is hard to give an overall assessment of the restaurant, but the pork chop was memorable to me for how good it was.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 8, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chop

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: N/A
MSG: N/A
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chop

Marina’s–El Paso, TX

Marina’s German Bakery
2033 Trawood Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 591-3737
Marina's

Marina’s German Bakery


Throughout the years Fort Bliss has had a partnership with the German Air Force to provide training and facilities for German military personnel, and this has led to better than average German food being available in El Paso. One establishment that may not be well known, though, is Marina’s German Bakery on Trawood Drive in east El Paso. The company’s web site says the bakery started out near the main entrance to Fort Bliss, but for a number of years I have known it at its present location. Marina’s produces a large amount of bread and pastries that are sold in such high volumes they sometimes run out of certain items, but everything is always fresh.

For years Marina’s main “claim to fame” was that it supplied the delicious fresh bread served in Gunther’s Edelweiss German Restaurant (which closed in 2010). I know that I really appreciate good quality bread, and the hearty freshly baked bread at Gunther’s was some of the best I have ever had.

Some of the varieties sold include Roggenbrot (light rye), Bauernbrot (farmer’s bread), Schwarzbrot (heavy rye), Simonsbrot (whole grain), and others. Most of the choices reflect different proportions of rye and wheat, and are made to go with different types of meats and sandwiches. In my opinion this is the best sandwich bread in El Paso. When I go I usually buy whatever looks tempting and is available (they seem to cook the bread in smaller batches now than when they were supplying it to Gunther’s, so the best choice is probably found in the morning).

Lunch

Bratwurst

Bratwurst

Although Marina’s is not primarily a restaurant, it does serve Bratwurst at lunch along with side dishes (sauerkraut, potato salad, etc.). The Bratwurst served here is similar to the ones served years ago at Smit’s Deli in northeast El Paso, although they are made by a different company. A friend of mine who used to live in Germany states that Peter’s in west El Paso uses the same quality meat and cooks it in the correct method, so this would be the choice if you could go anywhere in El Paso. Personally I am willing to overlook this difference since the mustard and buns are very good at Marina’s, and to me are almost the most important part of the sandwich. The bratwurst at Marina’s is also available to take home where you can cook it yourself if you have a preferred way of preparing it, and in this case I think either Marina’s or Peter’s will provide you with bratwurst that is just as good.

My friend also does not care much for the sauerkraut or potato salad here (supposedly the spices are not right in the sauerkraut and the potatoes are undercooked in the salad). I have not tried them so I cannot comment (the photo above is of my friend’s lunch although I did get my own sandwich).

I have found, however, that lunch plates are not the primary mission of Marina’s. They are a nice plus, though, compared to the earlier situation where bratwurst was only available on Saturdays.

Bread

Schwarzbrot

Schwarzbrot

The bread here is as good as I have found anywhere for sandwiches or for eating with German food (I originally found out about Marina’s because their bread was served at the old Gunther’s Edelweiss Restaurant).

Perhaps my favorite bread is the Bauernbrot, one of the lighter ones sold. There were some rye breads served at Gunther’s that went extremely well with the meals, but the Bauernbrot is a good choice for take-home because it has a good flavor and also goes well with just about any sandwich.

When I tried the Schwarzbrot I found it to be very dense, and it is one of my least favorite breads here. It is still very good, though, with German meals (which unfortunately I do not know how to cook at my house).

Pastries

Display case of cookies

Display case of cookies

While the pastries are also very good, they differ from the bread in that I believe there are a number of other stores that sell ones of similar quality (while it is difficult to find bread that is in the same league as Marina’s). The above photo shows the variety of cookies that are sold, and I found that my favorites are the chocolate.

Display case of pastries

Display case of pastries

There is another display case for other types of pastries. Although El Paso is a city that seems to be filled with pastry shops, these are some of the few that have a European flavor (they are generally less sweet and rely on just a few ingredients such as the whipped cream that seems to be used in a number of items).

Apple Strudel

Apple strudel

One of my favorite pastries here is the Apple Strudel, which I found to be very flavorful.

Black forest and cookies

Black forest and cookies

The cookies are excellent, but at about 75 cents apiece I cannot afford to load up with them as I would like to do.

For Black Forest I prefer the one at Peter’s, mainly because of the cherry filling that has a very nice liqueur flavor at Peter’s. I still think the one here is good, though.

Drinks
This is not really a restaurant and does not serve beer (I do not think they even have iced tea). They do have soft drinks, though, along with water which you can have with a bratwurst or pastry.

Other Comments
When I went to Marina’s in 2018 I found that the management had changed (this is understandable since the store has been in operation since 1956). I do not think any of the items I tried were different than before. It did seem, though, that they now carry a smaller stock of bread and some of the varieties I would like to try were not available in the afternoon.

This has nothing to do with Marina’s, but I hope another full service German restaurant like Gunther’s will someday open up so that more people can experience Marina’s bread (which will hopefully be supplied as before) along with an excellent German meal.


RATING: N/R

Cuisine: Bakery
Cost: N/A
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 8, 2018
Number of Visits: N/A
Best Items: Bratwurst, Bauernbrot, Apple Strudel, Chocolate Cookies

Special Ratings
star 5 Bratwurst
star 5 Bauernbrot
star 5 Schwarzbrot
star 5 Apple Strudel
star 5 Chocolate Cookies
star 5 Black Forest

International Delights–Las Cruces, NM

International Delights (Closed)
1245 El Paseo Rd.
Las Cruces, NM
International Delights

International Delights


When I came to International Delights I was not particularly hungry, but with Middle Eastern food being one of my favorites I knew I could have a snack at the restaurant and take the rest home. This turned out to be fortunate, because as much as I liked the food for dinner it was even better the next day as leftovers.

The restaurant is somewhat international, but mostly Middle Eastern. The items I ordered are common in the Lebanese restaurants which I enjoy in Oklahoma, but I think they could be associated with a number of countries in the region. I do not remember the items that are from other regions of the world except for the gyros, but I do remember that some other regions were represented.

It was actually difficult to order because there is not a complete menu of all the items. Instead some items were listed on a board above the cash register while there was a smaller board near the entrance that seemed to include their specials and seasonal items. For many items I did not understand either what they were or whether it was a plate, sandwich, etc. I had to stand at the register to see the menu, and this was while other people were waiting in line.

Because of the awkwardness of ordering I probably got too much food, but it turned out to be enough to provide two excellent meals instead of one. Also for my readers, of course, it allows me to give descriptions of more items.

Salads and Appetizers
Salads here are included on dinner plates such as the one I ordered, as are some side dishes such as hummus that could also be considered as an appetizer. The salad was fresh and had a good flavored dressing.

The Hummus met my expectations in terms of flavor, and in texture was really one of the best I have found anywhere. I think this was because it was not ground into a paste as I find in many restaurants.

Soups

Lentil soup

Lentil soup

The Lentil Soup was excellent, and was better than any I have found in El Paso so far (and I assume it is also the best in Las Cruces). As the photo shows it is very thick, and possibly more filling than many others.

Chicken Shawarma

Chicken shawarma

Chicken shawarma

My first comment about the Chicken Shawarma is that the meat was excellent–it had the type of flavor I find in Halal meat although I do not know for sure that the meat here is Halal. This was combined with a very flavorful seasoning, and was one of the reasons I was very impressed with this restaurant.

The tahini sauce was one of the best I have ever tasted, and went well with the meat. They also give you some local style salsa that I did not eat with the chicken, but it was great with the chips I had at home for a snack.

Moroccan Tea

Moroccan tea

Moroccan tea

Although the Moroccan Tea was good, it was not like ones I have had in Oklahoma made with mint and sugar (thus this was what I would call a disappointment). In the future I would still order the tea, though, rather than another kind of drink.

Desserts

Lemon cake

Lemon cake

They also have a number of desserts available such as this Lemon Cake. Although it was good, I still had the memory of the wonderful desserts at Le Rendez-vous which are the ones I would really recommend if you are able to go there.

Other Comments
The Pita was as excellent as the other items, and I really do not know of another Middle Eastern restaurant in the Borderland which is as consistently good all around.

At first I thought the prices were a little high but this was before I knew how much I would enjoy the food. I still question, though, whether the cake and the Moroccan tea were worth what I paid.

I think the restaurant describes itself as Mediterranean (which covers a broad range of cuisines), but really I thought the Middle Eastern dishes were a standout here. I do not know about their gyros, etc., but for anyone who loves Middle Eastern food I think this is a must try.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Mediterranean
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily (breakfast Fri.-Sun.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 5, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Chicken Shawarma, Hummus, Lentil Soup

Special Ratings
star 5 Chicken Shawarma
star 5 Hummus
star 5 Lentil Soup
star 4 Moroccan Tea
star 5 Pita
star 5 Lemon Cake