Tony’s Bar B Q–El Paso, TX

Tony’s The Pit Bar-B-Q
1700 Myrtle Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 546-9140
Tony's Bar-B-Q

Tony’s Bar-B-Q


Although I have lived in some of the country’s barbecue meccas such as Oklahoma City and Austin, I have only recently been on a quest to purposely seek out the best barbecue, catalog it, and really enjoy what they have compared to large parts of the country which are lacking in such amenities.

Just like in Oklahoma and Austin, though, I took it for granted that El Paso also had great barbecue. Today I no longer assume that good barbecue will be everywhere, but I do appreciate the fact that Tony’s Bar-B-Q is still going strong. Open since 1958, it has primarily served the downtown lunch crowd by specializing in sandwiches and barbecue plates that are just the right size for this time of day. Located just off of Interstate 10, though, it also makes a good stop for those who are just passing through.

I think that the brisket sandwich is really the thing to order, and I was reminded recently that it is really difficult to get brisket this good outside of Austin. There are several aspects of Tony’s that for me fall short of what I expect in a good barbecue restaurant, but the brisket is seriously some of the best you will find anywhere.

The Barbecue

The serving line

Brisket on the chopping block

When you approach the counter you get to look at the choices before you order, and a menu board also lets you know about any specials. On my last visit they had a special for ribs and a brisket sandwich, along with a side order and drink. This seriously makes a better meal for two persons than one, which was an excellent choice for my dining partner and I.

Brisket sandwich

Brisket sandwich

I think the Brisket Sandwich is not only the best item here, but along with a side dish is really the perfect size for lunch. I have to confess that we ordered an extra sandwich so that each of us would have our own, but sharing a half sandwich along with some ribs is not bad either.

The brisket was tender and had an excellent flavor–they cover all the points of having good meat and cooking it the right way. Brisket is sub-par in so many barbecue restaurants (even otherwise good ones) that I think it is important to take advantage of the ones that are as good as Tony’s.

Ribs

Ribs

To me the Ribs were somewhat disappointing compared to the ones in Oklahoma, as much so as the brisket in Oklahoma is disappointing compared to Tony’s. The ribs are still excellent and is cooked to the right texture with a good sauce, but for some reason I found the flavor a little lacking.

The sauce at Tony’s is less sweet than in Oklahoma and less robust, but I still found it to be good. I believe the barbecue is cooked according to the methods used in Austin, and I know that in Austin the sauce is really de-emphasized with the belief that the meat can stand on its own without adding sauce to it. I think the meat at Tony’s is better with the sauce (on the ribs they already add it and on the brisket you add your own). It is good to know, then, that the sauce has a good flavor.

Side Dishes
The Chili Beans were excellent with a good flavor that was not over the top in spiciness as I found it to be at Great American.

The Potato Salad was a little lacking in flavor but was good.

I think great barbecue restaurants should offer a large selection of excellent side dishes, but at Tony’s the sides are limited. I wish they had more sides and desserts such as pudding, cobbler, etc., but I think what they have will satisfy most people.

Sweet tea comes from a large jar while the regular tea is refilled at the soda machine. I got the latter and was expecting some sort of commercially produced tea, but I actually really liked what they had.

Additional Comments
Tony’s is located on a one-way street in an industrial neighborhood, and is not a place people would likely pass by unless they were specifically looking for it. It has very good access to the Interstate, though, and is worth seeking out for a good and inexpensive lunch.

Everything here is good, but for me the brisket is one of those special meals that allow me to feel that my blog can really provide a public service by publicizing it.

I have read many comments on sites such as Yelp saying that the employees here are quite helpful, and I also feel that this is another reason you will want to come.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Barbecue
Cost: $$
Hours: Lunch only; Closed Sun. (open to 5:00 p.m. weekdays)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 21, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Brisket, Chili Beans

Special Ratings
star 5 Brisket
star 5 Ribs
star 5 Chili Beans
star 5 Potato Salad
star 5 Sauce

Singapore–El Paso, TX

Singapore Cafe
3233 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 533-2889
Singapore Cafe

The new Singapore Cafe at 3233 N. Mesa


To truly enjoy Singapore Café I think customers need to place greater importance on fresh ingredients, healthy eating, and a home cooking style of food than on truly authentic Thai cooking. I call it “Thai fusion” because many of the best dishes are ones created by Becky, the owner and chef, rather than the traditional Thai dishes that are on the menu. Even the name of the restaurant implies that she borrows recipes from Singapore, Malaysia, and surrounding countries.

Singapore Café has fulfilled a great need in my life by providing vegetarian dishes at a time when that was the only type of food I was eating, preparing them with individual care and making them flavorful enough so that a meatless meal could be genuinely satisfying. I have enjoyed the food a lot more by asking for fish sauce and other normal Thai flavorings to be included that are not necessarily vegetarian, but Singapore Café has a greater variety of tofu dishes than I can find anywhere else in town. True vegetarians have always flocked to Singapore, though, knowing that any dietary request made here will be honored, and that it will be made as flavorful as possible. Becky makes sure the food is cooked to customer’s specifications.

I cannot say for sure that the food at Singapore Café is inauthentic or unlike the food that would be found in Thailand. I do know, though, that patrons are not supplied a tray of Thai style condiments as they are at many other Thai restaurants. I definitely do not taste some of the flavors here that I have found in Pacific Northwest Thai restaurants, and the menu offers quite a small selection compared to most Thai restaurants. Instead of ordering the traditional Thai dishes, though, I have found that some of Becky’s creations are quite good, and in fact many of them seem to be “one of a kind.” Some of the best sauces also seem to be on the Malaysian and Singapore style dishes.

The Southwest in general and El Paso in particular does not do vegetarian food very well, thus I usually think meat dishes are the best choices. Singapore Café, though, is one of the few restaurants that serves good quality tofu, but more importantly makes tofu dishes that are balanced and provide a satisfying meal. I have tried some of the meat dishes at Singapore, but most of the time I go back to the vegetarian dishes because this is one of the few places that does them really well (although I usually make sure to ask that fish sauce be added).

Ginger Dishes
Over the years one of the entrées I have enjoyed very much at Singapore Café has been Veggie Ginger Tofu, although I would not rate it the same as many of the ginger dishes served in the Seattle area and other cities. The one here includes tofu, ginger, mushrooms, peanuts, and snow peas as the primary ingredients, set on a bed of lettuce that I only consume if the rest of the plate is not sufficiently filling. I find the dish to be sickly sweet and off balance in flavor, but still the vegetables and tofu are of good quality and this is something I do not mind ordering. It is much better with fish sauce, which does not come in the vegetarian version, but can be requested.

Yu Sang

Yu sang broccoli

Yu sang broccoli with brown rice

Yu Sang Broccoli is generally good in its vegetarian version, but can also be ordered with meat. Becky describes this as a “Chinese ex-patriot” dish, and it probably came from the large Chinese population in Thailand that mixed their own recipes with the local ingredients. To me this is one of the few dishes at Singapore Café that does not taste too sweet or “Americanized;” rather it has a good balance of flavors. It is surprisingly spicy, though, considering the lack of spice found in many of the other dishes.

Curries
Curry dishes are the ones that have been the most disappointing to me. They do not seem to have the rich and full flavors I have experienced elsewhere, and in this case I would like them to be more “authentic” (as I have experienced them in other restaurants).

Mi Goreng

Mi gorent

Mi goreng

A very good vegetarian choice is the Veggie Mi Goreng, consisting of noodles with tofu and vegetables. I think this is usually considered to be a Malaysian dish, and over the years has been one of my favorites at Singapore Café. It is not one of the dishes that taste “sweet,” although it seems to have a sweet and sour contrast done in a traditional Asian way.

Soups
Several soups are served as entrées, but many of them are not as satisfying to me as at other Thai restaurants. The Tom Kha Gai (with coconut), however, has frequently been better than at many other places.

Tom yum

Tom yum is a spicy soup with lemongrass

Tom Yum is a spicy soup with pineapple and tomato, flavored with lemongrass. This is similar to Vietnamese style sweet and sour soup, but is rather different from the versions of tom yum I have found at other Thai restaurants. I liked the chicken version better than the one with shrimp, even though the opposite is true with some other dishes.

Special Dishes
Some of the best dishes at Singapore have been specials that are not always available including Mango Tofu that may not be great when compared to Thai food available in other cities, but is one of the more delicious and healthy dishes available in El Paso. This is an example of the food at Singapore that may not be the best that can be found anywhere, but is certainly enjoyable (or at least I have found it to be so).

Green tea chicken

Green tea chicken on a take-out order

The Green Tea Chicken started out as a special but was added to the menu in 2005. This is a spicy dish served in a bowl on top of rice with broccoli and other vegetables. When Becky served it as a special I liked it so much I made it a point to tell her, and perhaps this was one of the reasons it was added to the menu (OK, maybe this wasn’t the reason). There is also a tofu version but I think the chicken has a better flavor.

Lunch Specials

Soup served with lunch specials

Soup served with lunch specials

Lunch specials come with a delicious, slightly tomato flavored soup that I think is better than the soups found at just about any Chinese restaurant in the city. The crispy noodles that come with it are excellent, and even if the choices for luncheon specials is limited the soup is always good. I am sure this is a big factor for the restaurant’s popularity at lunch time.

The lunch menu comes with about six choices, and besides the soup includes lumpia. The lumpia, a small fried spring roll, has meat inside, and most of the menu items are meat dishes. Two of the lunch specials can be made vegetarian (pad thai and kao pad), but if you order it vegetarian they do not bring the lumpia unless you ask for it. I will admit to having ordered pad thai quite a few times not because I was craving it, but because I wanted the soup that comes with the lunch specials (and the lumpia is good also).

Lunch portion of pad thai

Lunch portion of pad thai

Pad Thai has been my favorite dish from the lunch menu, but I cannot say it is the best because I have not tried all the others. I do think, though, that the pad thai at Singapore Café is better than average in the universe of American Thai restaurants. This is a white to slightly brown colored dish that I was told is made with vinegar and soy sauce. The regular (non-vegetarian) version is also made with fish sauce (nam pla), and personally I think it needs the fish sauce to have the full flavor that it should. Some restaurants use tamarind sauce that turns the noodles a red color, but Becky does not (perhaps this is why I like Singapore’s version better than others). Bean sprouts provide substance but not much flavor, and are traditionally included in the dish. Crushed peanuts are spread on top, and fresh limes and chiles are provided on the side for extra flavor. While many dishes at Singapore Café seem to be too sweet, the pad thai is not. Scrambled eggs are mixed in, and it is topped off with shrimp and chicken. The shrimp and chicken are both good, and some tofu is included as well.

In A Nutshell
One of Singapore’s main claims to fame (and to my heart) is that it is one of the few vegetarian friendly restaurants in El Paso, and offers dishes that actually have some flavor at times when I do not want to eat meat. It is also noteworthy for the specials and other dishes that are not served in any other restaurant. Most of my favorite dishes at Singapore Café are Malaysian rather than Thai, but calling the restaurant “Thai fusion” probably works as well as any description I can think of. In any case, I know I can call it “delicious.”


RATING: 20

Cuisine: Thai
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun., Closed Mon. evening, Closed Tue. evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 7, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Item: Soup Served with Lunch Specials

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine (bags)/ Thai Tea
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 4 Green Tea Chicken
star 3 Green Tea Tofu
star 4 Pad Thai
star 4 Tom Kha Gai
star 4 Tom Yum Gai
star 3 Tom Yum Gung
star 4 Yu Sang Broccoli
star 4 Mi Goreng
star 3 Ginger Tofu
star 4 Lumpia
star 5 Soup served with lunch specials

L & J Cafe–El Paso, TX

L & J Cafe
3622 E. Missouri Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 566-8418
L & J Cafe

L & J Cafe


When I first started working in El Paso some of my co-workers introduced me to a relatively unknown restaurant with about five tables and a number of bar stools with very good food named L & J. Over the years L & J became more popular so that we developed strategies for getting a table at lunch time (such as showing up as soon as the restaurant opened). However busy it became, though, it was always worth the wait as long as we could manage being gone for longer than the allotted time for lunch hour.

The bar at L & J

The bar at L & J is very popular, particularly in the evening

It took me a while to realize that the restaurant was also open in the evenings and on weekends, and that this afforded an easier opportunity to get a coveted table. The bar has always been quite popular, but I do not think it is really designed for eating food (contrary to many bars in El Paso Mexican restaurants). Either way you are experiencing a piece of El Paso history, with L & J being in operation since 1927. The restaurant is also know for being located across the street from Concordia Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the city with grave sites for notable figures such as gunfighter John Wesley Hardin as well as numerous local residents such as my own great-great grandparents and other family members.

The overflow parking area outside L & J along Stevens Street sometimes serves more as parking for the cemetery when they have historical tours or other special events. In any case, L & J is like La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico–you can come for the food, for the history, or both.

Now that L & J has expanded with a couple of new dining rooms, its popularity with patrons continues to cause larger crowds than it can handle many times, and waits seem to be as big an issue as they were before. I think the food has experienced somewhat of a transformation along with the dining facilities, and like many of the restaurants I review I find it necessary to update my comments and recommendations.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The salsa is different than at most restaurants because it is pureed. In my former review I called it a “liquid concentration of high chile potency,” and it remains this way at the “new” restaurant. What was missing was the green salsa they used to serve, as shown in this photo:

Red and green salsa

Red salsa along with the green salsa L & J used to serve

Perhaps the green salsa is still available if you ask for it, but I think the red is equally good and I am fine with only that one being served.

Combination Plate

Combination plate

Combination plate with taco, chile verde, chile relleno, red enchilada, guacamole, taquito, rice, and beans

With the combination plate you get a good sample of the food at L & J. I also got more food than I wanted for a meal, but of course I did not complain too much!

While some web sites seem to rank L & J as the best Mexican restaurant in El Paso, but I find that there is too much inconsistency between some of the dishes to say that this is the case. Nevertheless, the combination plate includes some of L & J’s best dishes such as enchiladas and chile verde. This is my overall assessment:

Best Items:

  • Red Enchilada. The red chile has a good spice and gives a good taste of El Paso style enchiladas.
  • Chile Verde. The staff told me this was the same as the caldillo listed on the menu, and which I had previously designated as one of L & J’s signature dishes. It is made with beef instead of pork (caldillo is usually made with pork), and as before I think this is possibly the best chile verde I have had in El Paso.
  • Rice. I enjoy the flavor of the spices and the tomato sauce, the generous mixture of peas, and the fact that over the years I have never found it to be overcooked.

Good Items:

  • Chile Relleno. This was very tasty but a little greasy. The restaurant used to put a sauce on top, but this has little to do with my downgrading it from one of L & J’s best items to merely a good one (instead it has to do with the greasiness).

Other Items:

  • Taquito.  This was a little bland in flavor but otherwise good. I just could not find anything that made it stand out.
  • Beans.  These contributed to the overall theme of much of the food (namely being greasy).
  • Ground Beef Taco.  This was possibly the greasiest item on the plate.

Recommendations from Previous Visits

Green enchiladas

Green enchiladas

I do not generally like Green Enchiladas in El Paso as much as the red, but the one at L & J is very close (based on past visits). My description of it in a previous review was “very hot green chile strips in a soupy sauce poured over the tortillas.” I assure readers that this is a good thing when you experience it, at least if the enchiladas are still prepared the same way (and I am sure they are).

Other Notes
In general my reference to L & J being a “new” restaurant does not mean they have changed the recipes, but I think in some cases the execution is a little different. For instance, I find some items to be more greasy than before. I also think the chile used in the red enchiladas is not quite as spicy as before, but it has not yet morphed into “tourist food” (I think the chile now is just about right).

The prices seem to be noticeably higher than at comparable restaurants, although for many items it is worth it. The history of the building is quite notable, and I think L & J has rightly turned into somewhat of a tourist attraction.

Although I enjoy the increased diversity in Mexican food that El Paso is experiencing, there is always a place in my heart and my stomach for the “old style” Mexican food that is unique to El Paso. I particular encourage people to try the red enchiladas at various restaurants, and I believe L & J should be on this list.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer and Wine

Most Recent Visit: Apr. 19, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Caldillo, Salsa, Rice, Green Enchiladas

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchilada
star 5 Green Enchilada
star 5 Caldillo
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 4 Taquito
star 3 Taco
star 5 Rice
star 4 Beans
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa