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

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

Rosco’s–El Paso, TX

Rosco’s Burger Inn
3829 Tompkins Rd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 564-9028
Rosco's

Rosco’s


The business card from Rosco’s Burger Inn a few years ago stated that it had been “serving El Paso for over 50 years,” and just about everyone who has lived in the Sun City knows about the burgers here. What makes Rosco’s different is the fact that it hasn’t changed since I first started going there (I remember the original owner who I assumed was Roscoe but it appears to have gone through at least a couple of management changes since then).

The grill

The grill

Rosco’s small business card was large enough to list the entire menu: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese, caldillo, chili bowl, meat burritos, fries, and onion rings. Most or all of these are cooked on a large grill behind the counter, and patrons associate the sound and smell of the burgers cooking with the Rosco’s experience as much as the good taste of the food. I enjoyed the good flavor of the caldillo on several visits, but the burgers are by far the most popular item.

Hamburgers on the grill

Burgers are grilled the old fashioned way

The Burgers

Cheeseburger

Cheeseburger

The major decision at Rosco’s seems to be whether you are having a burger with or without cheese. I have mostly ordered the Cheeseburger, with the grilled meat, heated bun, and fresh toppings reminding me of the typical burgers that would have been served close to a half century ago (not that I remember that far back, of course). The quality of Rosco’s burgers is something that has been lost at so many other places, especially the franchise hamburger restaurants. The meat has real flavor and everything else is fresh. Probably the buns are the one feature that could use some updating from fifty years ago, but they are good.

Burgers come with a choice of a single or double patty, and patrons can choose their own toppings. I recommend getting everything that comes with it (the cheese costs extra but I think it is a good enhancement).

Hamburger

Hamburger

Ordering the regular Hamburger, though, offers a somewhat different enjoyment experience. The flavor of the meat is more pronounced than when it is topped with cheese, and I eat so few hamburgers I really want to enjoy the flavor of the good ones (as this one is). It is safe to say, though, that both the hamburger and cheeseburger are good choices.

Hamburger and fries

Hamburger and fries

I was disappointed with the Fries on my last visit because the oil seemed to have too much of an aftertaste. I am on the fence about whether to order them again, but there are not many options for side dishes here.

Caldillo

Caldillo

Caldillo

Caldillo is one of the three Mexican style dishes here, and is the one I have ordered the most. This used to be one of my favorite caldillos in the city, but my most recent experience was of one with chile that was so spicy I could hardly eat it. I do not enjoy extremely spicy chile as much as in the past, but I can still eat it. I think the problem with the caldillo is that it is mostly liquid (it is a soup), and I usually use starches to cool down my mouth after eating hot chile. Rosco’s gives you a flour tortilla, and the caldillo contains some potato, but for me this was not enough to make it so that I enjoyed eating something this spicy. Thus the caldillo is a “maybe” for ordering in the future, even though I have really enjoyed it in the past.

Additional Comments
I have heard comments from others that they like the food but dislike the dining room, and I cannot disagree. The few tables do not accommodate all the patrons at lunch time, and the counter would be considered uncomfortable by many. As an El Paso institution, though, people do not go to Rosco’s for the atmosphere. Actually I could argue that many people do like the atmosphere that is so familiar, everyone is treated as if they are a guest at a home cooked dinner, and you can see and smell the food cooking on the grill.

I do not know of any place in town that has burgers that I consider more enjoyable.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Hamburgers
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun. & Mon. (lunch only except Fri. & Sat.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 5, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Hamburger, Cheeseburger

Special Ratings
star 5 Cheeseburger
star 5 Hamburger
star 4 Caldillo
star 4 French Fries