Peppe’s–Canutillo, TX

Peppe’s Restaurant & Cantina
6761 Doniphan Dr.
Canutillo, TX
(915) 877-2152
Peppe's Restaurant

Peppe’s Restaurant


Perhaps my favorite long time El Paso restaurant was Griggs Restaurant, located on Doniphan Drive about a mile north of Country Club Road. There were branches in Kern Place, a long-running one near the airport, and for a brief time on Mesa Hills. These all used the Griggs family recipes, but the Doniphan restaurant is the one that stayed in the family until shortly before its closing in 2003. I also thought the Doniphan restaurant stayed the most consistent to the family recipes, although for the most part the other restaurants served the same great food.

I heard that the east side Griggs Restaurant closed sometime around 2008, and unfortunately it was related to the health of the owner. This led to an agreement between the owner and his long time employees Peppe and Lorena Morales that the latter could open their own restaurant using the Griggs family recipes. Thus Peppe’s Restaurant & Cantina has been open since 2009 in Canutillo, Texas, carrying on the Griggs tradition and using the same recipes that were used in the original restaurants.

Peppe’s dining room with much of the memorabilia from the old restaurants

The Griggs Restaurants on Doniphan and Montana were probably as famous for their antique furniture and artifacts as for the food, and both were in spacious buildings that resembled haciendas. In contrast Peppe’s Restaurant is rather small, with only a few of the antiques from Griggs Restaurant on display. Peppe likes it this way, though, allowing him to concentrate on the food which has been purposely copied from Griggs. The menu even looks the same as the old ones I remember.

Peppe's menu

Peppe’s menu modeled after the former Griggs Restaurant

With Peppe’s Restaurant being small and the owners present every time I go there, I think the food will keep the consistency I found at the old Doniphan location (Peppe worked as a chef at the Montana location and is very familiar with the Griggs family way of doing things).

In 1968 the Griggs family published a cookbook with Mrs. Josephine Griggs’ recipes, and copies were still being sold as late as about 2015 at El Pinto in Albuquerque. Mrs. Griggs’ children owned Griggs Restaurant in El Paso, La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico, La Posta in Rancho Cordova, California, and El Pinto (the Albuquerque restaurant). La Posta in California is closed, but it is apparent that the restaurants still operating do not cook the food in exactly the same way, and have done a lot of tweaking to the original recipes. Peppe says that Mrs. Griggs’ book was not complete in that it did not explain what type of pots and pans to use for cooking the food, where to source the ingredients used, etc. Presumably, though, this information was passed down to all the Griggs children and to anyone operating the family’s restaurants.

One of the unique features of Peppe’s (and Griggs before it) is the source of its chiles. These come from a farm in La Union, New Mexico (near the El Paso Upper Valley) and are fresh inasmuch as the growing season allows. Peppe takes further steps, though, to ensure a good quality and flavor of his chile (including the chiles rellenos). The chiles used at Peppe’s are all sun dried, which gives a mild flavor (many restaurants use machine dried chiles, which have a darker color and a more bitter taste). His chiles are not terribly spicy, and the Griggs family understanding of New Mexican chile was that it is not supposed to be as spicy as some of those from Mexico such as chile de arbol, habanero, etc. The Griggs recipes also make generous use of tomatoes which further tone down the food.

In my opinion La Posta and El Pinto are geared toward tourists in their chile spice level. El Pinto seems to start with milder chiles than Peppe’s, and by the time they tone them down with tomatoes and other ingredients, there is very little New Mexico chile heat left (although there is enough flavor that I do not totally dismiss La Posta’s food as being unauthentic, only that it is one of the mildest New Mexico style restaurants in the Las Cruces area).  I have not been to El Pinto in a while, but the review on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog indicates that it is very mild as I remember it.

At Peppe’s I think the the red chile has the highest spice level. It does not match the level of some restaurants in New Mexico, but it is definitely noticeable. The chile con queso is probably next on the spice level, with the green chile being the mildest (although it definitely seems to be more potent than the green chile served at La Posta).

In some ways the recipes at Peppe’s are a little non-traditional for New Mexican food, and offer a little bit of a different take on this cuisine than I normally find. Some examples are the following:

  • The green enchiladas are a solid choice here although I rarely care much for them anywhere else. The spice level is less than with most other New Mexico style green enchiladas, but they are hot enough that to me this is not an issue. The flavor, though, seems to be a perfect blend of chile, tomato, and spices (and few others have a flavor that I like this much).
  • The Griggs family recipe for the chile relleno is similar to the one at Chope’s in serving it plain with no sauce on top, and both Chope’s and Peppe’s use local chiles. Although Chope’s has what I think is the iconic New Mexico chile relleno, the one at Peppe’s is very good, and makes this one of the few restaurants where I go out of my way to order the chile relleno.
  • Peppe’s presentation of chile con carne is a little different than at most restaurants, and in addition to serving it plain also features it on a tostada compuesta with the beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese on top. Several restaurants use chile con carne in a sopapilla compuesta, but Peppe’s is one of the few I have found that serves it on a tostada.
  • The slaw at Peppe’s is quite unique and is my favorite side dish over the rice or beans (La Posta, though, has a similar slaw which is also made from Mrs. Griggs’ recipe).

Salsa and Appetizers

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

After all these years it is still hard to beat Griggs’ Salsa, now served at Peppe’s along with with their excellent chips (and tortillas if you desire). In fact, I used to think that the Griggs salsa was a little wimpy, but I appreciated it a lot more after all the Griggs Restaurants closed and it was no longer available (and fortunately it was only a short wait until Peppe’s opened). It is true that this is not the spiciest salsa in El Paso or in New Mexican restaurants throughout the Southwest, but I appreciate the flavor and the fact that it is always fresh.

Radio salsa sampler

Radio FREE Salsa Sampler

The Radio FREE Salsa Sampler came as a promotion on the El Paso History radio program which airs Saturday mornings on KTSM-AM. Peppe’s is a sponsor of the show, and anybody who mentions the “Radio FREE Salsa Sampler” gets the above pictured salsa samples for free. The original purpose of it is so that you can try all of their sauces and find out which ones you like best in terms of the flavor and the spice level before you order a whole plate of it. It is also a good thing to order, though, if you simply want to try different things (you can ask for it whether you heard it on the radio program or not).

The Chile con Carne (at the top of the photo) is the same meat sauce used on the tostada compuesta, and it also comes on some of the combination plates such as the Combo #3. Peppe says this is also a sample of their red sauce used on the enchiladas, although this sauce comes without the meat.

The Green Sauce (at the bottom) is used on the green enchiladas, although I think it has a better flavor on the enchiladas because of the cheese that is added.

Peppe’s has one of the best examples of Chile con Queso I have found anywhere (shown on the left of the photo). The cheese at Peppe’s is a little thicker than is usually found, offering the reason people will either like it or dislike it (depending on their viewpoint), but I am glad it is more of a solid than a liquid. The green chiles are fresh and flavorful, but not of the ultra hot variety.

The salsa on the right is the regular one that all customers get with the chips.

Combination Plates

Combination Plate No. 3

Combination Plate No. 3 with green enchilada instead of red

Usually I like meals with a variety of items, the the combination plates offer a several choices for this (they will also make some substitutions). The Combo Plate #3 on the dinner menu is a good way to sample some of my favorite items. Although the red enchilada comes standard on the plate, I think the Green Enchilada is one of the best items at Peppe’s, and can be substituted for the red. To me the green enchilada offers a very flavorful blend of New Mexico chiles, cheese, tomato, and tortilla (but one which is not as spicy as most of the ones in Las Cruces).

There is no question in my mind that the Chile Relleno is another “best dish” at Peppe’s. Peppe’s serves the chile relleno New Mexico style, with no sauce on top. The chile, cheese, and batter are all much better than average, making it unnecessary to add a sauce (and in my mind it would be an adulteration of the dish to do so). The trick of the cheese is to cook it just right, and I have found that Peppe’s has this nailed (the menu says they stuff it with a mild cheddar). There is also the factor that the chile is local, and is sun dried.

Another notable item on the Combo #3 is the Chile con Carne, made with pork carnitas and red chile. This was one of the spicier items served, and I thought it went well with the other items. My favorite form of chile con carne, though, is when it is served on a tostada compuesta with beans, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Thus my choice is usually to get the Noonday Combination C that includes a tostada compuesta, and because of the substitutions that are allowed I usually get the other items I want as well.

The Rolled Taco is an item I often substitute because I am usually not a big fan of ground beef, but the one at Peppe’s was quite good. It tasted as if it were mixed with potato, and everything was simple but prepared well.

Green Enchiladas

Green enchiladas are New Mexico style

Green enchiladas are New Mexico style

An order of Green Chile Cheese Enchiladas comes with rolled enchiladas, but you can ask for them to be flat, as pictured. Stacked (flat) enchiladas seem to have more sauce, and I think this is the best way to enjoy one of the best versions of this dish I have tried in the El Paso area (in fact, I am gradually reaching the point that these are the only green enchiladas in El Paso that I really like).

Red Enchiladas

Red enchiladas with an egg on top

Red enchiladas with an egg on top

The Red Chile Cheese Enchiladas plate is also quite good, and is prepared New Mexico style (with more of the chile flavor coming through than in restaurants that serve the typical El Paso style enchiladas). These enchiladas are spicier than the green ones, but mild compared to ones found in Las Cruces or northern New Mexico. I recommend it with an egg on top (as shown in the photo).

The Rice is excellent, with a good mixture of flavors. Its moisture content indicated that it had not been sitting around for a long time.

Peppe’s serves whole beans by default. It is really hard to judge these compared to others, since preparing them is pretty straightforward. I prefer these, though, to just about any refried beans that are served in El Paso.

The Slaw is notable for being one of the best, although slaw is somewhat of a novelty in El Paso restaurants unless they are New Mexico style as Peppe’s is. One of the secrets of the slaw here is that it is made with apple cider vinegar (and Peppe says it has to be a certain kind of vinegar mixed just right with the other ingredients that are used).

Chile con Queso Dishes

Chicken breast with chile con queso

Chicken breast with chile con queso

I do not think there are any items with chile con queso available on the combination plates, so the best bet is probably to order one of several plates available from the menu. One of the best is the Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso (you can also get it Tampiqueña style). One reason I like this dish is the high quality of the chicken. Another one of my favorites from Griggs was the Grinder (chopped steak), but I have not yet had this at Peppe’s. Burritos are also available topped with chile con queso.

Noonday Combinations

Noonday Combination

Noonday Combination with items from both C and D

The Noonday Combination C is one of my “go to” choices at Peppe’s, although I usually substitute a green enchilada (an item from Combination D) for the folded taco (an item normally served on C). I think the reason I can make this substitution is that Combinations C and D are the same price (A and B are less expensive, and probably allow similar substitutions between them).

The above photo shows my preferred mix and match, resulting in slaw, tostada compuesta, chile relleno, and a green enchilada. It does not have rice and beans, but I do not really miss them since I have the slaw. Griggs Restaurant only served the Nooday Combination at lunch (hence the name), but Peppe’s lets you order it any time.

Desserts
Peppe’s charges extra for a Sopaipilla, as did Griggs Restaurant. You can get them plain or get the bite size version with cinnamon and sugar.

Other desserts are also available, such as Flan. I do not know if this is one of the items from the Griggs family recipes, but I was quite impressed with it.

Additional Comments
One of the little things that I particularly enjoy about Peppe’s, is the fresh Corn Tortillas that are served with the meal on request. The tortillas are made fresh daily at a nearby tortilla factory, and I think are excellent.

There is a full cantina (bar) here, but Peppe says he is keeping a family atmosphere (there are no TV’s or loud music playing).

I do need to mention that they have an additional charge if you use a credit card. It does not become official until you sign the receipt and they run it through, so if you decide you want to pay by cash after seeing this charge on the check, you can do so.

My usual meal here is the Noonday Combinations C, with an enchilada substituted for the folded taco. The Combination Plates have a larger number of items, and are also very good. For those who want smaller plates, though, the Noonday Combinations are available any time and not just at lunch.

For a one-item plate, though, my top choices would be enchiladas (green or red) or something with chile con queso. Be advised, though, that the green enchiladas are served rolled unless you specifically ask for them to be stacked (the red enchiladas come default as stacked).

So many of El Paso’s classic restaurants are now gone that I make a special effort to support the ones that are still around or that have been reincarnated with new names. What is especially good about Peppe’s is that it maintains the quality that Griggs had, and the food here is not exactly like anything I have had in El Paso or New Mexico. La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico gives a good presentation of the Griggs family recipes, but I think Peppe’s gives one that uses hotter chiles and has a better flavor.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun. evening & Mon.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 30, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Green Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Tostada Compuesta, Red Enchiladas, Grilled Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso, ICX (chopped steak with chile con queso), Slaw, Beans

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Tostada Compuesta
star 5 Rolled Taco
star 5 Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso
star 5 ICX (chopped steak with chile con queso)
star 5 Slaw
star 5 Rice
star 5 Beans
star 5 Chile con Queso
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 4 Flan
star 4 Sopaipilla

 

Menu (May 2019):

Greenery–El Paso, TX

Greenery Restaurant
750 Sunland Park Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 584-6706
Greenery in Sunland Park Mall

Greenery in Sunland Park Mall


Greenery Restaurant has evolved over the years from a snack bar/ restaurant in the old Popular Department Store to one of the most upscale restaurants in El Paso. Still located in Sunland Park Mall, it is now occupies a large enough space to offer meals for shoppers as well as others who come to the Mall just to eat.

Mall entrance to Greenery

The mall entrance to Greenery from the parking lot next to Sunland Park Drive

Greenery is a  “New American” restaurant with mostly American items on the menu (but also a number of Italian, Mexican, and Southwest style dishes). I think there is also a trend at the restaurant that the American items do not have a traditional American flavor. For instance, the meat loaf is made with green chile. The chicken pot pie not only has green chile added, but the traditional chicken broth has been replaced by a more Italian tasting gravy.

Previously there was a market next door that sold made from scratch baked goods, gourmet European meats and cheeses, and other items. The market was closed several years ago, but some of these items are still for sale behind the cash register at the restaurant. I think many of the items that used to be sold in the market are still used in the restaurant’s recipes.

Some of the entrées are on the pricey side, but a large number of sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and similar items can provide a lighter meal for a reasonable cost. The prices have creeped up lately along with most other restaurants in town, but it is still mostly a good deal for the money and for the quality involved.

The vegetarian menu is small, but most items are so flavorful and substantial that they would be satisfying even to a carnivore. The Wood Fired Pizza is one of my favorite items, and comes with several choices of meat and vegetarian toppings. To me the vegetable pizza is quite good.

Sandwiches

Eggplant panini

Eggplant panini is one of several types available

The Eggplant Panini is flavorful, and the ingredients are so fresh it is more like a west coast restaurant than the typical desert Southwest establishment. I do not generally care much for eggplant, but the one served here is pretty good. I also like the goat cheese used instead of the typical sliced cheese that is found on most sandwiches. The biggest disappointment, though, is the fact that artichokes are not served on the panini as they used to be at the now closed Kern Place Market (this was the panini by which I measure all others). The fresh bread and vegetables are quite good, but I would just prefer it with a different selection of vegetables.

Other sandwiches, such as the Southwestern Tuna Sandwich, are good as well. Although the vegetarian selection is limited, there is quite a range of meat options.

Entrées

Chicken pot pie

Chicken pot pie

I have recently begun trying the larger plates here, mainly because I heard that some of them had green chile. The Chicken Pot Pie is one of the items with green chile, but there are some other non-traditional features about it as well. While the traditional pot pie is made with chicken broth, this one has a large number of vegetables inside that make up a large part of the “filler,” and the seasoning tastes very Italian to me. It is not spicy as I would expect with most green chile dishes, but it does have a mild chile flavor that definitely lets you know you are eating green chile. I like the flavor of it, but I also wish they had a traditional pot pie because most of the restaurants that serve it this way do not use the quality ingredients I find at Greenery (and I would like good choices for both of these two styles).

I also tried the Green Chile Meat Loaf, and had the same reaction to it. While I liked it, I wish they also had a traditional version because it seems that the restaurants which do it are not using the quality ingredients that I find at Greenery.

Mexican Food
Over the years I have had a “love-hate” relationship with the Mexican food at Greenery. It is geared toward the “gourmet” taste, meaning it is “toned down” and probably not what I would call authentic. It does live up to the label “gourmet,” though, with interesting flavors and good quality ingredients.

If you get a chance to try the Tortilla Soup, it is excellent (it is currently served on Tuesdays as the soup of the day). Although I think they go overboard on the chicken at the expense of other ingredients, it is quite fresh and flavorful, and it is superior to many places in which the tortilla soup is supposed to be a signature dish.

Other Comments
It seems that Greenery has been in El Paso for about as long as I have, and as long as Sunland Park Mall has existed (I think this is now far enough back that the El Paso History Radio Program could do an episode on the malls). I used to enjoy Greenery because it was somewhat of a novelty in a town that did not have a lot of upscale choices. Later it fell off my radar, and recently I have wanted to experiment with items on the menu I have not tried before. Most of the time the food is not quite what I expected it to be, but I am often pleasantly surprised.

What I have to deal with here, though, is the fact that it is “New American” (it is largely Southwest style, but so much of the food has an Italian flavor that I think New American is a better term). The chicken pot pie is not the traditional style, although the combination of the very good ingredients here and the fact that it seems much more healthy than the way others serve it are enough to make me a fan (and of course it helps that it has green chile).

However, traditional American food seems to be what is missing here, and with items on the menu such as chicken pot pie and meat loaf, this may be a little misleading to some. The only problem with the way they do the food is that it is competing with many other restaurants that do the same thing. With this much competition, I can say that the quality at Greenery is always very impressive, but the flavors have been hit or miss with me, and is the reason I sometimes prefer other restaurants.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: New American
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily except Sun. Evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer and Wine

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 30, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Pizza, Tortilla Soup, Chicken Pot Pie

Special Ratings
star 5 Pizza
star 5 Tortilla Soup
star 5 Chicken Pot Pie
star 5 Green Chile Meat Loaf
star 4 Eggplant Panini
star 4 Southwestern Tuna Sandwich
star 5 Cole Slaw

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