San Isidro–El Paso, TX

San Isidro Mission Cafe
1071 Country Club Rd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 845-8400
San Isidro Restaurant

San Isidro Mission Cafe


If San Isidro Mission Cafe were in any other city it would probably be my favorite Mexican restaurant, but in El Paso there is very stiff competition and I really cannot say that any one of them is my favorite (including this one). Instead I look at individual items and compare them one to another.

One advantage of San Isidro is that it serves two cities. It is located in El Paso’s Upper Valley on Country Club Road, but literally across the street is Sunland Park, New Mexico, a city with its own substantial population base. I have not been to San Isidro when it was not close to its capacity with customers, whether from Texas, New Mexico or other areas.

San Isidro serves breakfast and lunch with prices that are moderate. The person who recommended it to me said the Lent specials were very good, although for most of the year the breakfast and lunch seem to be about equal in popularity.

Breakfast Menu Items

Huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros San Isidro

For breakfast I tried the Huevos Rancheros San Isidro, made with a special recipe of the owners (and different than the regular huevos rancheros which are also available on the menu). The version I tried had spicy green chile and a flavorful sauce. Although not very obvious from the photo, there are pieces of steak to give it additional substance and flavor.

While most huevos rancheros dishes in El Paso come with refried beans and hash browns, these come with whole beans and potato chunks (I think the other version of this dish on the menu is the more traditional one). The huevos rancheros San Isidro seems to be more of a New Mexico style dish (with the whole beans and green chile), so this is a good alternative if you are tired of the traditional versions served in El Paso.

Combination Plate

Combination plate

Combination plate

The combination plate gave me a good idea of what is available for lunch. I will say that I had two favorites from this plate, one being the Chile Relleno. Besides the flavor being good and having no sauce on top (New Mexico style), there were also relatively few seeds inside, and the ones that were there were near the stem.

The Red Enchilada was my other favorite item, mainly because this is always one of my favorite items in El Paso restaurants. This one had bright red chile with a good flavor, and again I think this is either New Mexico style or close to it (most El Paso red enchiladas are very close to New Mexico style).

The Quesadilla, although not one of my favorite items, was one that I judged to be very well prepared and with the flavor that it should have. I just prefer things with chile such as the enchiladas or relleno.

The Chicken Taco was better than one I had recently tried at Riviera, and therefore I have to proclaim the one at San Isidro as one of the best in west El Paso. In fact, only the taco and chile relleno were items that I thought were better than at most other restaurants.

Lent Specials

Lentil soup

Lentejas

San Isidro serves traditional Lent meals which start out with a bowl of Lentejas, a vegetarian lentil soup. This one was very good although the cilantro was very noticeable.

Fish and seafood special

Pescado lent special

There was only one choice available for the main dish of the Lent meal, Pescado Marinero. This was a mixture of fish fillet, clams, squid, and vegetables baked in tin foil and providing a complete meal in itself. I thought the fish was very good, and this dish was definitely more upscale than the typical Lent special.

Capirotada

Capirotada

The special Lent meal also included Capirotada for dessert, a traditional bread pudding. The thing that was noticeable about this was its moistness (which I judge to be a good trait, and it certainly tasted good).

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

For chips and salsa I think San Isidro is in about the middle for El Paso restaurants, but still very good overall compared to most places in the United States.

Overall Comments
Much of the food here is similar to what is found in other El Paso restaurants. One difference, though, is that they have several special items that feature New Mexico style chile such as the huevos rancheros San Isidro. I think the red enchiladas are also good and are close to New Mexico style (although I thought the one at Riviera was better).

One very unique item here, though, is the pescado marinero served as a lent special. It is expensive (I think about $16) but to me it was a special treat.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: 7:00 am to 3:00 pm (closed Tue.)
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 23, 2018
Number of Visits: 3
Best Items: Chile Relleno, Quesadilla, Enchiladas, Chicken Taco, Comida de Cuaresma (Lent Specials)

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Quesadilla
star 5 Enchiladas
star 5 Chicken Taco
star 5 Huevos Rancheros San Isidro
star 5 Rice
star 5 Beans
star 5 Salsa

Pepper Pot–Hatch, NM

Pepper Pot
207 W. Hall St.
Hatch, NM
(575) 267-3822
Pepper Pot

Pepper Pot


Pepper Pot should be on anybody’s short list of traditional Southern New Mexican style restaurants that serve it for locals (meaning that you get the real deal chiles which are not dumbed down for tourists). I have the same respect for restaurants which have switched to milder chiles but retain the same rich flavor that comes from being locally sourced (Chope’s has some milder chiles than before in some of its dishes but they still have an excellent flavor).

Pepper Pot, however, still has chile that is so hot it tests the limit of my ability to actually enjoy the food, yet it is so satisfying once the meal is finished. There are a dwindling number of restaurants who still dare to serve this type of chile, yet I remember when it was commonplace (even La Posta was near this heat level when I went there as a youngster).  I am just trying to do my duty as a blogger, though, and give people warning of what they will face if they come to Pepper Pot.

There are alternatives to Pepper Pot’s very spicy red chile, though. The green chile is the next step down–not as spicy but still with a good bite. The chile relleno without any sauce on top is even less spicy, but still has a good chile flavor (both the green chile and chile relleno are what I would rate as four chiles on the five chile scale). Pepper Pot even seves American food for those who do not want anything spicy at all (I am not sure why anyone would go to America’s chile capital to eat American food, but it may be able to satisfy anyone in your party who is not ready to try the hot stuff).

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

I usually like the chips and salsa at any restaurant, but it is not often that I take note of both of them like I did at Pepper Pot. The Salsa is actually not as spicy as it is at most New Mexico restaurants, yet I think the flavor here far exceeds most of the others (this is an obvious sign that they use fresh local chile here). The chips were good for not having anything that would detract from them (such as having too much of an oily flavor).

Enchiladas

Enchiladas

Enchiladas served Christmas style

The Red Enchiladas are the spiciest of the two types, and I think also the most flavorful. I have gone to several restaurants in southern New Mexico where I thought the red chile was lacking the flavor it should have, but the one at Pepper Pot was an example of the flavor the others were missing. I had to take several bites before I got over the overwhelming spiciness and could really enjoy the flavor, but in the end I thought these were possibly the best red enchiladas in New Mexico. I have been eating this type of red chile since I was growing up and I know that not everyone will really appreciate something so hot, so I will just say try it if you think you will like it.

The Green Enchiladas were not nearly as spicy. In fact the chile was different than at most restaurants–it looked as if they made sort of a chile con queso using the green chile rather than the standard New Mexico chile. It was still very good, but I would say probably not what I was expecting in Hatch.

Chile Relleno

Chile relleno

Chile relleno plate

The Chile Relleno was the choice of my dining companion, and we split both plates so we could both have a variety of items. The relleno plate comes with red, green, or both sauces if you want it, but it costs extra. We actually had enough red and green sauce from the enchiladas to put this on the relleno if we wanted, but served without the sauce it turned out to be almost as good as the one at Chope’s. These had cheese on top while the ones at Chope’s only have cheese on the inside. Even accounting for this I would say the only difference with Chope’s is that perhaps the batter here was a little more oily. Everything else (and especially the chile) was excellent at both places.

Other Notes
I did not try the stuffed sopapailla which is many times my favorite item at New Mexican restaurants, but I had more than enough to eat as it was. Based on the green chile I gave Pepper Pot a rating lower than Chope’s, but the stuffed sopapilla might bring it up (I thought the red chile was definitely better than at Chope’s and an excellent sopapilla here might give this restaurant equal weight to the excellent relleno at Chope’s).

In any case, I am only trying to give full disclosure about the pluses and minuses of each restaurant. To me all of the traditional New Mexican restaurants are good, but they just have different degrees of excellence.

I passed by Sparky’s, know for its green chile cheeseburgers but with a waiting line that rivals Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. I hope I have convinced everyone to stay away from Pepper Pot so it does not develop a similar waiting line (this is your warning!! it is way too spicy!!). Actually for some my warning would be appropriate–they are not messing around with the chiles here.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily (Breakfast & Lunch Only)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 18, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Chiles Rellenos, Beans, Chips, Salsa

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 5
Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Rice
star 5 Beans
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

El Camino–Socorro, NM

El Camino Restaurant & Lounge
707 N. California St.
Socorro, NM
(575) 835-1180
El Camino

El Camino


I have been aware of El Camino at least since the 1980’s, and it probably was operating long before then. In fact, I would call it a 1950’s style diner like the kind that used to dot the highways as people traveled anywhere in the country. This one, though, has the added feature of serving local New Mexican cuisine which has usually been the attraction to me (I listed that I have been here twice but the number may actually be much higher from the days I did not keep track of the places I ate).

The restaurant is open 24 hours per day, and you can order breakfast any time. Most people sit in booths unless you have a large party (and then tables are available). Even though the restaurant is a little dated it is very clean, and it always seems to have people coming in for coffee even if they are not ordering a meal.

Eggs & ham

Eggs, ham, and hash browns with a bowl of green chile on the side

As far as breakfast goes, it is pretty much like breakfasts you get in diners anywhere. Everything was very adequate, but the hash browns were some of the best I have ever had. Other than that, I think most people will like the food but it was not very notable to me.

Green chile

Bowl of green chile

The one caveat, though, is that I think the breakfast must be accompanied by a complimentary bowl of green chile. This is not salsa, but the standard green chile they put on enchiladas. It also turns eggs into something I think is as good as huevos rancheros, if not better than most that I have had.

Everything I tasted made me want to come back and try their New Mexican food (actually I have had it before but I do not remember the specifics of it). The really big selling point here is the green chile, and probably the red chile also.

I asked for the bowl of green chile (they do not bring it automatically with breakfast orders). Since it is free, though, it is definitely worth a shot.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: American & New Mexican
Cost: $
Hours: Open 24 Hours

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 18, 2018

Number of Visits: 2

Best Item: Eggs & Ham

Special Ratings

star 5 Eggs & Ham