Little Shack (Resler)–El Paso, TX

Little Shack
865 N. Resler Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 307-3205
Little Shack on Resler

Little Shack on Resler


Little Shack has several locations around El Paso, and every one lives up to its name of being “little.” The restaurant on Resler has about a dozen to fourteen tables. The original location on Mesa appears to be somewhat larger, although I have not gone inside to see the actual size of the dining room. The problem is that they almost always seem to be full (I think the reason they keep adding more locations is to fulfill the customer demand). The fact that it is always so full is what kept me away for so long, although tables are definitely more easy to come by if you like to eat during the non-peak times.

One time when it is not full is during Happy Hour (3 to 5 pm), and while this is not usually when I want to eat, it has worked out for me to experience a good deal at Little Shack. Also there are usually seats at the bar (a type of seating that is usually uncomfortable for me but it got me in for my initial visit to Little Shack, and I did enjoy the food as well as the conversation with the staff).

Little Shack is a Mexican seafood restaurant, and while I have limited experience with this type of restaurant, it did seem more like my experience in Matamoros than with the inland seafood restaurants I used to frequent in Ciudad Juarez. This is my way of saying that I think the food at Little Shack is the real deal. I think the selection of really fresh seafood here is limited, but what they serve is very good.

My experience at Little Shack has also been somewhat limited, but I can say that I was largely impressed with what they have. So far my meals have been the daily special and the Happy Hour specials, thus I am not sure if I have had the restaurant’s real specialties. If they have things that are even better than what I tried, though, this is a very good restaurant indeed.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

I think the chips here are among my favorites in El Paso, and this is because they are thick the way I usually find in Mexican seafood restaurants. The salsa is also the classic Mexican seafood style, namely pureed but hearty rather than thin and watery. The salsa is not as spicy as many others, but in flavor it can hold its own with any of them.

Happy Hour Specials

Adobada and fish tacos

Adobada taco, fish tacos

First I should note that the food served in Happy Hour (3 to 5 pm) is also on the regular menu, but it is just at a better price during these hours. I figured I could not go wrong with trying the Fish Tacos, and it turned out that they were even better than I expected. Somehow they get very fresh fish to this inland location, so the question then becomes merely what toppings you want to put on them. They bring two types of sauce, and if you want a fresh avocado it costs twenty-five cents extra (a real bargain). The sauce I liked best was the cilantro sauce, but customers can try both of them (the other sauce is chipotle).

The Adobada Taco was also very good, but this type of taco is one where similar styles can be found at other restaurants.

The Happy Hour special comes with three tacos of your choice, so you can mix or match.

Daily Specials

Aguachiles

Aguachiles

This was my first time trying Aguachiles, so I do not have a comparison of them with any other restaurants. As I understand it this is boiled shrimp with an extremely spicy red chile (you can get green if you prefer). The red onion and cucumber that come with it do not do much to quench the heat of the red chile in your mouth. It is served with crackers and lime. The spice level on this was to the point that I actually thought I would not want to order it again, although the flavor was very good (and I also might want to try it with green chile). I am not averse to extremely spicy food, but in this case I just had a little difficulty eating it.

The aguachiles was a Wednesday special, and the restaurant is good about having daily specials that I think people would actually want to order.

Drinks
I tried the fresh lemonade but it was the carbonated version and it did little to quench my mouth of the hot chile from the aguachiles. The iced tea here is good and I think will be my drink of choice.

Additional Comments
The main issue here seems to be finding a time to go when a table is available. I have passed by the restaurant many times going to other restaurants in the same shopping center and observed that it is really impossible to find empty tables at certain times such as Friday evening. The good thing about happy hour, of course, is that they do have an availability of tables in addition to the good deals you get on the food.

The fish tacos are extremely good quality, and go a long way in convincing me that you can get good seafood in El Paso. The aguachiles was very good quality as well, but just spicier than I prefer.


RATING: N/R

Cuisine: Mexican Seafood
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, wine

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 26, 2019
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Fish Tacos, Adobada Tacos, Chips, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Fish Taco
star 5 Adobada Taco
star 5 Aguachiles
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Leo’s–El Paso, TX

Leo’s Mexican Food
7520 Remcon Cir.
El Paso, TX
(915) 833-1189
Leo's on Remcon

Leo’s


Before writing about one of El Paso’s “classic” restaurants I try to search other material that has been written about their history and connection to other restaurants. In the case of Leo’s the story can be found on its web site which recounts the fact that the restaurant was founded in 1946 by Leo Collins and Willie Terrazas at the corner of Cotton and Yandell Streets in El Paso. It further states that “From this location, a tradition was started that has been passed down from generation to generation.”

Willie Terrazas, Jr., manager of the one and only Leo’s location now in operation on Remcon Circle in west El Paso, enjoys talking to customers and telling the restaurant’s story (and he said he remembers me from their former “Crossroads” location at 8001 N. Mesa). He stated that this restaurant has been in operation for 13 years (as of 2019) and that the last of their other locations at 315 Mills closed in 2016 (it became La Morena Restaurant but is now home to Mac’s Seafood).

Entrance to Leo's on the south side of the building

Leo’s entrance

I have read that Leo’s was the first restaurant in El Paso to serve baked cheese enchiladas as well as the first one to offer sopaipillas (here they are served free with all entrees). Even today these two features are not widespread in the city. I would say that red enchiladas are probably the best item here, but what I like even better is a combination plate such as the tri-color baked cheese enchiladas or a combination of enchiladas with a chile relleno or other items.

I have been going to the various Leo’s since the 1970’s, and along the way I have tried many other items but at the time I was not taking notes about them to include in an article. The 1970’s was also the time there were nine locations including one in Lubbock, so for anyone who has been around as long as I have it would be hard not to have multiple experiences with Leo’s to the point that it is as much about nostalgia as it is about their baked enchiladas and other favorites that I am sure everybody has.

For locals an article about Leo’s is not one that will lead them to a new discovery, but it is a reminder that there are several long-running restaurants that helped put El Paso on the map for Mexican food and which still enjoy a good deal of popularity.

Chips and Salas

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The Chips are thin with a good flavor. The Salsa is spicy in a good way but I think not so spicy that it would be hard for people to eat who are used to the “gringo” style salsa served in many parts of the country.

Combination Plates

Combination plate

No. 2 “A Popular Combination”

The Number 2 Popular Combination comes with an enchilada, taco, and a chile relleno. Interestingly, these are the same items served at the No. 2 dinner at Avila’s, another restaurant that serves baked enchiladas, sopaipillas, and which has a tri-color enchilada plate. Sometimes it seems as if all Mexican restaurants in El Paso serve pretty much the same food, but even if the menus are similar there are nuances in the food that definitely make each restaurant unique.

The Red Enchilada is usually my favorite item at El Paso Mexican restaurants, and it has been the same here. I really do not crave them enough to order a whole plate of them, but they are very good on a combination plate with other items. They are less spicy than most of the ones in El Paso but they are spicy enough that I still classify them as “authentic” El Paso style enchiladas.

The Chile Relleno is a good representation of this item as it is commonly prepared in El Paso with a mild Spanish sauce on top of a spicier green chile. The breading is very good.

The beans and rice are both five-star quality, but I particularly like the beans with the baked tostadas inserted into them (and the beans become a dip to put on them). It is my understanding that the beans are vegetarian (and are not made with lard).

Tri-Color Enchiladas

Tri-color enchiladas

Tri-color cheese enchiladas (Mexican flag)

One of my favorite dinners here is the Tri-Color Baked Cheese Enchiladas plate (No. 16 in the Entrees section of the menu). Also called the “Mexican Flag,” it comes with a red, green, and sour cream enchilada. On the current menu you have to pay a dollar extra for rice and beans, but you do get a free sopaipilla for dessert.

Unlike some restaurants the sour cream enchilada is not put on top of the chile but it is strictly cheese and sour cream. I thought it was good but it is definitely not very spicy.

I do have to report a problem I had with the dish pictured, though, which is somewhat representative of a situation I have experienced more than once at Leo’s. What I noticed was that no red sauce was visible on the plate, and the green was barely perceptible. I found out that there was some red sauce from the red enchilada underneath the sour cream enchilada, but like the green enchilada the chile was in what I considered to be a small amount. I told the waitress that the red chile was almost non-existent and her response was to bring me another red enchilada which was definitely up to Leo’s normal standards.

Red enchilada

Red enchilada

The Red Enchilada pictured here was brought by the waitress to make up for the one on the Tri-Color plate with almost no chile, and this one confirmed that the red enchiladas are probably the best item at the restaurant. If you are not happy with what is initially served, though, it is definitely worthwhile asking the restaurant if they can make it right.

Other Entrees

Flautas with chile con queso

Flautas with chile con queso

I think the menus at many Mexican restaurants are far too dependent on beef as a flavor enhancer, but the beef dishes at Leo’s are one thing that seems to be very worthwhile. One example is the Flautas that had very good shredded beef with a crispy shell. The fact that the waitress recommended beef over chicken confirms the observation I had that perhaps the beef is one of the things the restaurant does best.

Flautas usually come with guacamole and sour cream, but I ordered some with Chile con Queso to see if they would be anything like the queso flautas I had at the now closed Casa Jurado. Unfortunately, these flautas turned out to be disappointing since the queso turned quickly into a solid mass that did not taste like real cheese. For that matter I did not really get much flavor from the chile that was mixed into the queso. Ordering the chile con queso on flautas is more economical than getting an order of chile con queso, but my tendency would be to pass on either one of them.

Dessert

Sopaipilla

Sopaipilla

Sopaipillas come free with the entrees, and this is one of the signature features of Leo’s. The one pictured, though, tasted very oily and left a bad aftertaste in my mouth (I have subsequently skipped the sopaipilla when I have gone to Leo’s and frankly have enjoyed the meals much more by doing so). Of course other people’s experiences may be different, but I would say the meals are fine here without the sopaipilla.

An Overview
There seem to be some quality control issues here, as evidenced by the fact that I was served tri-colored enchiladas which were almost totally lacking in red and green chile (something that is not normally the case at Leo’s). They made up for it, but I think this is a big operation that probably has several people cooking the food, so mistakes will happen.

Some things here are probably just not going to be as good as at other restaurants, and I think sopaipillas are one of these. In my many years of dining at Leo’s, though, I do remember them being better in the past so I do not know if this situation will also be corrected.

This is one of the places where I think the atmosphere of the restaurant enhances the experience. The manager comes out and talks to customers, the service is very good, the building is pleasant, and in a way I think it is even a positive when you have to wait for a table because then you can meet other people who are also sitting in the waiting area. In any case, coming to Leo’s is many times more than just for the food.

When I mention “El Paso style” Mexican food, Leo’s is a place where you can get a good idea of what it is all about. In some ways it is even better than the average restaurant (I especially like the fact that they bake the enchiladas). There are a lot of choices for El Paso style Mexican food, and Leo’s is one of the ones who has been doing it the longest (I saw a source that said when Leo’s first opened there were only three Mexican restaurants in El Paso, and Leo’s became the fourth because “What El Paso needs is another Mexican food restaurant”). I do appreciate the history of the restaurant, but I would say Leo’s strength is its food and not just because it has been around for a long time.


Leo’s Web Site


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Breakfast buffet on Sat. & Sun.

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 24, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Tri-Color Enchilada Plate, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchilada
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 4 Chicken Mole
star 4 Chile con Queso
star 5 Rice
star 5 Beans
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Zino’s–El Paso, TX

Zino’s Greek & Mediterranean Cuisine
7040 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 584-8166
Zino's on Mesa St.

Zino’s on Mesa St.


I have lived in both Oklahoma City and El Paso, and based on years of experience my stereotype of El Paso is that you cannot find really good American food, barbecue, Latin American cuisine other than Mexican, European food, or Middle Eastern food (there is an equally valid stereotype that you cannot find really good Mexican food in Oklahoma). Of course this is not true in all cases, but if I am to believe otherwise I need to go back to my earlier roots in the Show Me State where I have to taste it to believe it.

Thus when I say Zino’s is as good as the Mediterranean food in Oklahoma, this is about the highest compliment I can give to it. I currently have very limited experience with Zino’s, but the flavor and quality are definitely there to know that this restaurant is not like the many others I have tried (I should also mention that the now closed Mediterranean Restaurant on Mesa near UTEP was also this same type of quality, and for some dishes other restaurants in El Paso are at this level).

Not actually having been to Greece, however, I can only say that Zino’s seems to be the real deal based on what I have tasted in other cities. I know that on-line reviews rave about the gyros (and my friends also like it). I saw items on the menu such as moussaka and chicken souvlaki that reinforced my idea that Zino’s is making a genuine effort to serve authentic Greek dishes, and combined with what I tasted, this gives me great confidence in the restaurant.

Daily Specials

Lemon chicken

Lemon chicken

In the case of Zino’s a daily special is something that is not on the regular menu. The one I tried also had a lower price than many of the menu items, so this is what I call a no lose situation. The Lemon Chicken was a Thursday special, but I do not have a list of all of their specials and I do not know if they are changed from time to time.

The chicken was a small piece, and was the kind that had a better flavor than the giant pieces of chicken served in many restaurants. I think it was a breast but I do not remember, and to me it does not matter if it is white or dark meat as long as it is of high quality.

The flavoring was lemon, as they advertised, and actually it is an adaptation of rosemary chicken which was printed on my check (and I think is another one of their daily specials).

What I found out about the specials is that they do not serve a huge quantity, the food is very good, and the price is good. Other than the sandwiches and daily specials, the food mostly comes in large servings at higher prices, and I think is really meant to be served in the evening when people expect larger portion sizes.

Salads
The Lunch Salad was notable for being small but loaded with lots of good stuff (as I would describe it in technical food review terms). If the salad had not been as good as the other parts of the meal (meat, pita, rice, tzatziki sauce) I would not give this restaurant as high of an endorsement as I am doing.

The menu lists three types of salad including tabouli. According to the photos on the menu, most of the dinner plates do not come with a salad (but perhaps there is a separate salad as there is with the lunch specials).

Summing It Up
So far I really cannot say what are the best dishes, etc. except to say that I liked everything I tried. The sauce, pita, etc. were at the same level of quality as the main dish.

Definitely come at lunch if you can to try the daily specials. They seem to be smaller than the entrees on the menu, but they are less expensive and the quality seems to be just as good. (I do not know if the specials are available in the evening).

There is another location at 6590 Montana Ave. in El Paso (on the east side).

I do not really see the “Mediterranean” aspect of the menu except perhaps with the lamb osso buco and some soups which also seem to be Italian. The good news, though, is that they have a very extensive menu of Greek items. I think they do not serve alcohol and you would not be able to get Retsina here (for me that would not really take away from the experience).


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Greek & Mediterranean
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 20, 2019
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Lemon Chicken

 

Salad

Special Ratings
star 5 Lemon Chicken
star 5 Salad
star 5 Pita