El Cometa–El Paso, TX

Taqueria El Cometa
4131 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 275-4215
El Cometa

El Cometa


El Cometa is a popular lunch and late night hangout on the strip of Mesa Street near UTEP, and I think it will remain popular because of its good food and cheap prices. The food is nothing fancy–they only serve tacos and flautas. From my sampling of the flautas, though, they seem to do it better than just about anyone else.

One thing customers like is that they have a salsa bar where you can load up on all the salsas and toppings you want. There is not a large variety of these toppings–the only salsas available are red or green (the green is spicier). I think if salsas were my main concern I might prefer other restaurants (El Taco Tote, for instance, has a very good salsa bar). At El Cometa, though, the food seems to be the main draw and the toppings are mainly something people expect with this type of food.

Orders here come with chips, and you get the salsa from the salsa bar as well (red, green, or both). I should note that I thought the red salsa was quite good.

El Cometa has drinks such as horchata which do not come with refills, but they are inexpensive. As a matter of fact, the restaurant seems to exist on being able to charge the cheapest price possible for good food (they do not have some of the “extras” such as alcoholic beverages but customers are left with enough money in their pockets to enjoy the nearby bars).

Food is served from the counter and customers do whatever they wish with their food from the salsa bar. Although this is pretty much a fast food concept, I felt that it had an atmosphere that made people want to stick around, talk, and enjoy the meal more than at the typical fast food restaurant (in this regard it reminds me a lot of Chicos Tacos).

So far I have only made one visit to El Cometa, leaving me with my first impressions which are the ones I am sharing here.

Flautas

Flautas

Flautas

I believe Flautas are the only menu item which is not some type of taco. I also read from reviews that flautas are what many people consider to be the best item here.

In my opinion the flautas here are probably at least as good as the ones at Flautas Tepalca, and possibly better (Flautas Tepalca has been what I have considered to be the best flautas I have ever experienced). This is a very tricky subject because Flautas Tepalca now has more than one location, and I have had slightly different experiences at the different restaurants. With only one visit to El Cometa I can only say that this one might be better, but for sure it was quite good.

The flautas here only come with beef (as they are at Flautas Tepalca). Crema and cheese are added to the top, and there are other garnishes such as tomato and avocado. At Flautas Tepalca I liked the fact they they topped the flautas with red and green salsa, as well as the crema and avocado. I also thought the cheese at Flautas Tepalca was especially good.

At El Cometa you add the salsa to your own taste, and I think the salsa here is just as good. I came in with the knowledge, though, that it was supposed to have both red and green along with the crema (the colors of the Mexican flag). This is not a big deal, but with El Cometa being a fast food type of restaurant, you do not really get any instructions about the best way to enjoy the food (and of course I am sure most people do not need any).

Tacos
There are several types of tacos here. I did not try any so I do not know how they compare to other restaurants.

Drinks
The Horchata here was not the most notable I have ever tried but it was good. In other cities I would just be glad they had horchata at all, and even more so if it was as good as at El Cometa.

Closing Comments
I believe the El Cometa in Ciudad Juarez is the original, and the El Paso location gives a true feeling of a typical Mexican style restaurant. The majority of restaurants in Mexico seem to specialize in one item or else that is all they serve. Here that specialty is tacos, along with flautas which are a special type of rolled tacos that are made to look like a Mexican flag with red and green chile, avocado, and crema on top.

I think there are other “chow worthy” items here, but the flautas are the one I have discovered so far, and that I definitely recommend.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $
Hours: 10:00 am to 4:00 am Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 31, 2019
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Flautas

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Flautas

Sofi’s–El Paso, TX

Sofi’s Mexican Restaurant
4709 Crossroads Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 219-7706
Sofi's

Sofi’s near Mesa & Doniphan


For many years I have thought that while the Mexican food in El Paso is very good, it tends to be only certain dishes at certain restaurants that are the best. Many restaurants did not seem to live up to their potential, and it was very hard to find places where I could say that just about everything they serve is consistently good.

I think this situation has now changed, largely because of some of the new upstart restaurants such as Sofi’s. Actually I think the Mexican restaurant scene is returning to the way it was in the 1970’s and 1980’s when I first explored the El Paso Mexican restaurants and found them to be so good I had a hard time imagining why people would want to eat anything else. It is possible that the very good restaurants have been here all along (and I know some of them have been), but now I think they are more numerous and easier to find.

If I were to put Sofi’s into the big picture I would say it is a fairly new restaurant (the oldest reviews I can find are from 2015), it is a homey inexpensive place like Good Luck Cafe, but it strikes the balance a little more toward upscale food with a little bit higher prices than Good Luck Cafe. Like Good Luck I enjoyed everything I had on the Mexican plate, but there were some subtle differences such as the cheese and the taco meat that made it better. The chile relleno was possibly better at Good Luck Cafe, though.

In El Paso you can make endless comparisons between different Mexican restaurants, but the main theme about the Mexican plate at Sofi’s was that everything was good. In my opinion it is a very good representation of El Paso style Mexican food.

Mexican Plate

Mexican plate

Mexican plate with taco, enchilada, chile relleno, rice, and beans

Something I found surprising was that they only had one Mexican Plate (combination dinner), just like at Good Luck Cafe. In fact, the list of items served at the two restaurants is the same, as it is at quite a few restaurants in the city. There is also enough variety on the Mexican plates that I seem to never get tired of them, even though all of these restaurants have a number of other items on the menu to order.

I did not have a favorite item from the plate because they were all good, but the Deshebrada Taco was one thing I thought was significantly better than at other restaurants. If the meat had been served on bread instead of a tortilla it would have made an excellent roast beef sandwich, with very flavorful roast beef like the kind I have found in upscale restaurants. This really seems to be one of Sofi’s specialties. Just as notable was the fact that the taco did not seem at all greasy (although it is served with a soft shell).

The Enchilada stood out from others because of the Mexican style cheese they used. Over several visits, though, I have found it to become more greasy so overall I cannot say this is one of the best versions of enchilada.

The Chile Relleno was a little more greasy than most, which was offset by a sauce that was more flavorful than most. Overall I would say it is one of the best in the city.

The Beans were very good but it seems that there are always some that are better (such as the ones at Chope’s in New Mexico).

Daily Specials

Caldo

Caldo

Sofi’s has daily specials for lunch on weekdays that are not only at a cheaper price than the regular version on the menu, but also come with a bowl of Caldo. In El Paso the caldo is traditionally made with beef and comes with a generous amount of vegetables. The one at Sofi’s is very good, especially with the “generous” part.

Mole

Chicken and mole

I was able to get the Mole special served on Wednesdays, which I thought was very flavorful. The chicken was shredded, which I think is the traditional way to serve it, and there was an ample amount of meat in the serving. The mole is Poblano style (dark colored with a chocolate flavor).

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The Salsa here was exceptional, with large chunks of green chile providing much of the flavor. The Chips were exceptional as well, with a good flavor but no oily aftertaste.

Other Notes
I came away with a couple of overall impressions at this restaurant. One was that it is very good overall, and some items that normally do not impress me much (such as the taco) were an integral part of the Mexican plate. Another impression was that the cheese was the main factor that set Sofi’s apart from other restaurants, but other items such as the sauce used on the chile relleno kept any part of the dinner from being a weak link and one that would detract from an overall good experience.

This is a family restaurant and has been very busy the times I have gone. I did not find the service lacking considering how many people they had to accommodate.

The menu had so many items that I am sure that some of them might not be as good as the ones I tried, but on the other hand some might be better. One thing I look for in a really good restaurant is that the beans, rice, chips, salsa, etc. have the same quality as the main dishes, and I found that here.

I do need to note that I have downgraded the rating from my earlier visits because of an increased greasiness in some of the items. It is still one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, though.


RATING: 24

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

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 19, 2019
Number of Visits: 4
Best Items: Deshebrada Taco, Chile Relleno, Mole, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Deshebrada Taco
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Mole
star 5 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Barbacoa El Azul–El Paso, TX

Barbacoa El Azul
3010 George Dieter Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 630-2061
Barbacoa El Azul

Barbacoa El Azul


One thing I have learned about border cuisine is not to ask too many questions about where certain foods originate, but to concentrate on going to places that are popular and eating what people recommend. In the case of Mexican style barbacoa a few experiences at random restaurants convinced me that I did not like this dish until I got some informed opinions about where to go, such as to Barbacoa El Azul in east El Paso.

Finding out exactly what you are eating when you order barbacoa is not easy, because barbacoa can mean a certain cooking style regardless of the meat, or when it does refer to a meat it is usually lamb or goat. In El Paso, though, I am fairly certain it means beef cheeks (although admittedly I have not witnessed the process of meal preparation).

The one important fact I have heard from my friends is that Barbacoa El Azul serves old style barbacoa as it is prepared in Ciudad Juarez. The important factor to diners is that the meat be lean and not greasy, as is the case at El Azul. Barbacoa is made fresh every day, and they serve it until it runs out (this is probably the reason Google lists Sunday as having an earlier closing time than other days, but it is really based on when they run out of food).

Barbacoa is the only item served served here, and it is sold by the pound in the quantity you want (you can also order a half pound or get four tacos which I think is about equivalent to a quarter pound). They give you tortillas and condiments so you can make tacos out of them. Some of the chiles in the salsas have a flavor that somewhat overpowers the meat, but this is why it is critical that the meat not be fatty so that this would be the overwhelming flavor (and also give an aftertaste). All I can say is that after trying a lot of barbacoa dishes, I think it is important to go to a place that knows how to prepare it correctly, as I found at El Azul.

Visually this is not the most appealing meat to me, but inside a taco you are not looking at the meat, but just tasting its deliciousness. Yelp says there are several very good places to try it besides El Azul and this is fine, but I know from experience that El Azul is good enough to make a believer out of a barbacoa skeptic as I was before I came here.

Mexican Dishes

Barbacoa

Barbacoa

The Barbacoa can be ordered by the pound or you can get an individual order of four tacos (the price of four tacos was $6.25 when I went to the restaurant). It comes with tortillas to make tacos, and along with this are cilantro and onions along with red and green chile (the red sauce is made with chile de arbol and is the spicy one). This is all very flavorful and I would certainly suggest trying it for anyone who is interested in this type of food. Nothing else is served at this restaurant besides the barbacoa, but I think it makes a good lunch or at least a snack.

People describe the meat as being very lean, and I think this is what makes it good. I have had several experiences with barbacoa that was not as good as the one here, and I know this restaurant has a reputation for being one of the best.

The barbacoa is made fresh every day, and they serve it until it runs out. My friends who recommended the restaurant say you are fairly safe at least until 1:00 p.m., and after that it depends on how busy they have been.

Drinks
Drinks follow the pattern of the menu, and you only get one choice–Mexican sodas. Fortunately these are the good ones that I have always liked, including Mexican Coke and fruit flavored drinks including manzana (apple).

Things to Know
Restaurants in Mexico follow one of two patterns–either they just serve one item or one type of food, or they are restaurants as we know them with a varied menu. The first example gives a limited choice but it is likely where the best examples of their specialty can be found. Barbacoa El Azul just has one item but the dining room is like a regular restaurant where you eat at a table (they do not have wait staff but they will bring your order to the table). It is very casual and I think it fits a local trait where people want the best food they can get for very little money, but they do not want to pay for fancy things they do not need.

There is no issue with language here–they speak English and Spanish. It is, however, very typical of border style restaurants.

My chile index does not mean a lot for this restaurant–if you add a lot of red chile it might be 5 chiles and if you only use the green it will be about three.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $
Hours: 7:00 am to 3:30 pm (2:30 on Sun.) according to Google
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 12, 2019
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Barbacoa, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Barbacoa
star 5 Salsa