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

Los Galleros–El Paso, TX

Los Galleros
4400 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 351-8130
Los Galleros

Los Galleros


Although this restaurant has been here for a number of years, it changed its name sometime around the beginning of 2018 from Los Gallegos to Los Galleros. Some comments on other web sites indicate that it has spun off from the other Los Gallegos restaurants in town, and now has independent management. The decor of the restaurant and the menu, though, indicate that it is the same restaurant as before, serves the same food, and has the same specialties such as its special menu during the Lent season.

One of the restaurant’s specialties is breakfast, and this is the reason I made my first visit after the name change. They had a large breakfast buffet which included scrambled eggs and the normal breakfast items. I did not spot Mexican dishes in the buffet, although it may be possible that they will serve them on request (I did not ask about this). I also noticed that tables were served chips and salsa as part of the meal.

Breakfast Menu Items

Huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros

I ordered Huevos Rancheros from the menu, meaning that I could not get the “all you can eat” special from the buffet but this meal was very filling and extremely satisfying. In addition to beans and hash browns, it had an excellent flour tortilla. This was one of the three or four breakfast specials they had, meaning that it was a very good price (mine was $3.99).

I thought the huevos rancheros were excellent–they had a very good flavor and were spicy without exceeding the spice level that I thought was appropriate for this dish.

The Hash Browns were very good (especially when compared to the ones at New Clock which I thought were greasy).

The Beans were excellent and not greasy.

A glass of Orange Juice I ordered at an extra charge was the only disappointing part of the meal, and something I would probably skip in the future (I believe they said you could order horchata for breakfast along with the standard drinks such as coffee, etc.).

Lent Specials
I happened to go on a Friday during Lent at the old Los Gallegos and discovered that this is one of the few places with an authentic comida de cuaresma (Lent special). I tried the Pescado Veracruzano (pollack with a tomato sauce, peppers, green olives, etc.) which was actually on the menu all the time. Although the fish was not very good quality the preparation was excellent, and I enjoyed the sauce and the side dishes including good old fashioned french fries. What made the Lent dinner unique were the lentejas (lentil soup) that was one of the best I’ve ever had and the capirotada (bread pudding) for dessert. I noticed a sign at the new Los Galleros that they still have Lent specials and it seems that this is still one of their specialties.

Regular Menu
I had a problem with some of the regular menu items at Los Gallegos, though (and hopefully this may be one area where the new “independent” restaurant may be different). For instance, the Chicken Mole had a pretty decent mole sauce, but the chicken meat was so tough you needed a knife to cut it.

Tortilla Soup was served in a huge quantity such that the large bowl (for about $3) was enough for a meal at Los Gallegos. However the tortilla strips begin to disintegrate so that it became a soggy mess (another example of a dish which I hope is now improved at the new Los Galleros).

Overall Comments
Having a breakfast experience at Los Galleros may not be enough to give me a full picture of the overall food quality at the restaurant. However, it was very encouraging and much better than the meals I had before at Los Gallegos. This, along with the good experiences I had at Los Gallegos (such as the Lent meals) makes me think that the owners had a purpose in changing the name and that they have retained the good features of the old restaurant while adding some new ones that customers will enjoy.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican Durango
Cost: $
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Has Buffet

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 4, 2018
Number of Visits: 6
Best Items: Huevos Rancheros, Comida de Cuaresma (Lent Specials)

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Huevos Rancheros
star 5 Hash Browns
star 5 Beans
star 5 Flour Tortilla
star 5 Salsa
star 5 Pico de Gallo

Forti’s–El Paso, TX

Forti’s Mexican Elder
321 Chelsea St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 772-0066
Forti's

Forti’s


Restaurant Web Site: Forti’s


Forti’s Mexican Elder is one of the oldest and most well-known representatives of El Paso style Mexican food, and is probably as popular with tourists as with local residents. Forti’s has traditionally been one of the more expensive Mexican restaurants in town, but I have found the flavor to be top notch on many, if not almost all, of the items.

View of the inside courtyard

View of the inside courtyard from the front dining area

When I first went to Forti’s it was pretty much a neighborhood restaurant that was becoming more well known throughout the city. The building is quite large, and has been expanded significantly from its original size. It now resembles a hacienda with three levels inside and an outdoor patio. This is not quite the same type of tourist destination that can be found in Mesilla or Santa Fe, New Mexico, but the Mexican-looking interior is very pleasant for a leisurely meal.

The inside courtyard frequently hosts large parties

The inside courtyard frequently hosts large parties

The inside courtyard is able to host large parties, or it is used as a regular dining area when the restaurant is busy. There is sometimes entertainment, and the restaurant knows people want a good time and good ambiance almost as much as good food. The entire area is non-smoking as regulated by city ordinance. Forti’s has a full bar.

Outdoor patio

Outdoor patio

The outdoor patio provides overflow space, in case the 250 person capacity of the restaurant is not enough. I have availed myself of this opportunity when the weather was right, but I do believe this serves as the smoking area (so normally I do not try to use the patio).

For a while Forti’s had a branch at the El Paso International Airport, and was always on my family’s agenda while waiting for departures until the airport changed the food service contract. Now there is only one location, although it is not too far from the airport.

The restaurant’s on-line menu explains that Consuelo Forti’s grandmother supplied the recipes that she and her husband used in the menu, and that they have added a few items over the years. I have classified the food here as “El Paso” style, referring primarily to the enchiladas which have a unique local flavor, and which are served in restaurants throughout El Paso but which I have otherwise seen in only a few surrounding towns (as far east as Van Horn). I am sticking to this description because even though the original recipes came from Mexico, the El Paso style food is a mixture of Mexican recipes and local ingredients (the local markets stocked chiles from Mexico and local ones, but the Mexican chiles may not always be the same ones that were sold in the regions of Mexico where the recipes originated). Also I have long believed that Forti’s made the best version of El Paso style red enchiladas, so however one wants to classify the enchiladas, Forti’s is my model of how they should taste.

Forti’s menu has a list of “specialties,” and I believe these represent the recipes from Consuelo’s grandmother. One item from this section is the tampiqueña steak, but I do not have a list of all of them (and the restaurant’s on-line menu does not make a note of the specialties). However, I have noticed that the specialties seem to be a notch above many of the other items in terms of flavor and quality.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The chips and salsa used to be a source of irritation to me since I thought the salsa was “dumbed down” for tourists. Recently, though, it has been quite good with a distinct freshly made taste. The chips likewise are some of the best I can find in the city. Forti’s has risen quite a bit in my estimation, not because of better dishes that are served, but through the elimination of the weak points that I experienced in the past.

Specialties

Tampiqueña steak with a red enchilada and guacamole

Tampiqueña steak with a red enchilada and guacamole

Tampiqueña Steak from the “Specialties” menu is not only one of the better items served in the restaurant, but it may be one of the better ones in El Paso (although I am much more familiar with the various chicken tampiqueña dishes than the ones served with steak). One experience I had that was comparable was at Great American Land & Cattle Company (beef with an optional green chile topping). I would say Great American probably has better steak. Forti’s, though, served a great combination of steak with green chile, and this green chile was some of the best I have had in El Paso. On the “spice scale” it was probably about three-quarters of the way to the top, but if it is too spicy for some people they can cut off small pieces so that it will be diluted more by the meat and the tomato topping. This was one of the best single dishes I have had in El Paso Mexican restaurants.

The Red Enchilada that came with the tampiqueña was also among the best in El Paso, but that is something I have known for a long time, having ordered quite a few of the combination lunches and dinners. These have a rich red chile and a flavor that rivals many of the ones found in New Mexico. I think the tampiqueña is the only “specialty” dish that includes an enchilada–otherwise it would be necessary to order the enchilada on the side.

The Guacamole looked very appetizing, but was lacking in flavor compared to many that are served around Ysleta and the general area south of Interstate 10. In fact, I thought the guacamole at Ted’s Cafe Escondido in Oklahoma city was better in terms of flavor (this is not a plug for Ted’s, but is giving credit where credit is due).

The Beans served with nearly all plates are of excellent quality and are one of the few examples that enhance a meal rather than serving as a filler.

Mexican Plates

Combination plate with mole enchilada, red enchilada, chile relleno, and chicken taco

Combination plate with mole enchilada, red enchilada, chile relleno, and chicken taco

The combination plate comes with standard border Mexican food items, and substitutions are allowed. Even though the combination plate at Forti’s has traditionally been one of the most expensive in town, it is certainly worth sampling some of the best food the borderland has to offer.

Mole Enchiladas do not normally come on the combination plate, but they can be ordered as a substitution. In years past I thought of them as having an absolutely wonderful rich flavor (with a chocolate component). On a later experience I thought they were somewhat unbalanced. This is one of several items that has been inconsistent on different visits, although I do see a pattern to this (as I will explain at the end of the article).

I have also tried the whole beans instead of refried beans, but I am not sure I have an opinion about which one is best (this is a tribute to the refried beans).

The Chile Relleno (not shown in the photo) was just a little better than average on most of my visits. This is an example of inconsistency turned around–it has lately been one of my favorite items.

The Chicken Taco (shown in the photo) was very good. The Mexican style white cheese was one of its strong points.

The Rice is also a very strong point at Forti’s, while it mostly serves as a filler at many restaurants.

Mexican plate no. 3

Mexican plate no. 3

The Combination Plate Number 3 includes a taco, chile relleno, and red enchilada. The Beef Taco is not one of my favorites in the city, but everything else seemed to be among the best anywhere. I should mention that one of my recent inconsistent experiences was with the red enchiladas–they came out cold on the plate. The kitchen heated them up and I then had what I consider to be the ultimate in El Paso style red enchiladas, as I have through the years. It is apparent to me, though, that there is a consistency problem in the way the food comes out of the kitchen.

At the same time, though, I appreciate some of the improvements Forti’s has made. One is that it used to have a “no substitution” policy on the combination plates, but this is no longer the case. This, along with a big improvement in the salsa, have probably made Forti’s more popular at a time when many restaurants in central El Paso are seeing a decline in business or have closed. Traditionally I have viewed the area south of Interstate 10 as the place where you can get “real Mexican food,” but not all of it has the excellent quality I have found at Forti’s.

Drinks
Forti’s serves fresh squeezed Lemonade that is a good example of this Mexican style drink. The bar also seems to be quite popular.

Additional Notes
One of my major points about Forti’s is that I think it has the best red enchiladas in El Paso. I like to order a combination plate with other items (especially the chile relleno), but I always make sure to get one that has a red enchilada.

Another major point is that I think the restaurant has a consistency problem in the way the food comes out of the kitchen. This was demonstrated by the way one of my orders came out not heated enough, and it was especially noticeable with the red enchilada.

I personally think these problem occur when the restaurant is not very busy. Also they seem to be fixed very easily if you just tell them that your food is not right. Sometimes you will have to have ordered an item before to know that what you are served now is not right, but mostly it is just common sense and knowing how El Paso Mexican food should taste. My theory about this issue is that they have the best cooks on duty when the restaurant has the most customers (so it is a good sign when the parking lot is full). Actually, I have found the flavor of the red enchiladas and other items to always be excellent, and I do not think I would turn down a chance to come here no matter what time of the day it was.

A final point about Forti’s is that the “Specialties” section of the menu seems to be where you truly get some of the best items, and it is not just the hype some restaurants use to charge more money for certain dishes. I believe these are the items that are made from the recipes of Consuelo Forti’s grandmother, and like the tampiqueña, are likely to be some of the best you can find anywhere.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $$
Hours: N/A
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Full Bar

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 3, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Tampiqueña Steak, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 4 Mole Enchiladas
star 5 Tampiqueña Steak
star 5 Chicken Taco
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 4 Guacamole
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 5 Lemonade