Riviera–El Paso, TX

Riviera Restaurant
5218 Doniphan Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 584-1542
Riviera

Riviera


Riviera has been in operation since 1948, and when I came to El Paso it was one of the several restaurants (mostly located in the Upper Valley) specializing in New Mexican style food. Even though I have a hard time defining the differences between the local style of food in El Paso and New Mexican cuisine, it is evident by eating in some of El Paso’s popular restaurants versus the ones in Las Cruces. In the case of Riviera it was mainly the red enchiladas that caused me to classify it as New Mexican.

Riviera had a change in ownership sometime around the beginning of the 2000’s, and after that I noticed a change in the food. My main benchmark was the red enchiladas, which I almost always ordered here. In addition to having one of the city’s spiciest red chiles, they were characterized by a deep red color and a very straightforward chile flavor. In some other respects the food was very close to the style of El Paso cuisine, but with the red enchiladas I thought it was straight up New Mexican style.

The Riviera web site says it is now 65 years and a few generations since the Riviera began, but “our reputation for serving the finest in authentic Mexican cuisine still exists.” In describing the enchiladas it states that you can choose the Original Red, New Green (creamy), or Old Green (rajas de chile verde sautéed with onions and tomatoes). I am not sure if they are saying that the red enchiladas served now follow the original recipe, but I definitely think some things about it are different. I am not sure Riviera was ever a full blown New Mexican style restaurant, but the food served now seems to be totally consistent with the El Paso style of Mexican cuisine (although probably using chiles from New Mexico in its red and old style green enchiladas).

Today I do not find either the red or green enchiladas to be among the best in the city, but there is still plenty of good reason to come to Riviera. Some of my favorite items have been the chile relleno and the tacos, but there are many items I have not tried that may be very good as well. Sometimes the sum of the whole is greater than its parts, such as on the combination plates number 2 and 3, where you get tacos and a chile relleno along with enchiladas (all three of these together make a very flavorful meal).

Riviera is one of the city’s better Mexican restaurants in terms of not being greasy, not using cheap cuts of meat, etc. Guacamole is also a dead giveaway to tell which are the better restaurants, and Riviera serves a very good version of it.

One thing that has brought me to Riviera is the fact that they have lunch specials while many other restaurants have quietly made this go away (or else they never had lunch specials to begin with). Another good feature is that on one of El Paso’s notorious oven-like summer days, Riviera offers a cool respite where you can enjoy a leisurely meal (they having continuing service throughout the day, but they change to the dinner menu at 3:00 p.m.). Sometimes shaded parking places are also available (at least the odds are better than at most other restaurants).

Riviera is open daily, is open late night, and serves food throughout the day. I believe it is open until 10 p.m., although at least on Sunday this apparently applies only to the cantina.

Riviera is open for breakfast every day and serves enchiladas montadas, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, Mexican omelettes, etc. I have enjoyed the breakfasts, but I found many of the items to be expensive compared to other restaurants.

Dinner

Dinner combination plate

Dinner combination plate

The dinner menu offers a wide variety of items, including the Dinner Combination Plate shown in the photo. Several items on the plate are noteworthy, including the Chile Relleno which I think is one of the best in town. This one was in fact very spicy, but it varies because not all of the ones I have had were this way.

The Red Enchilada was also very spicy on this night but I find it less so at lunch (and I do not have other recent experiences at dinner to compare with this one). This one had a very red color with a good flavor, and it was reminiscent of the “old” Riviera (but so far it is the only one that has been this way). They do have green enchiladas that look good in photos I have seen, but I have not tried them recently.

This plate includes a Shredded Beef Taco, while with lunch specials you get either ground beef or chicken. The shredded beef was my favorite, and in addition to being available on the dinner combination plates, are available on a taco plate or a la carte.

The Rice and beans are also excellent here, a key factor that I think puts Riviera in the category of the city’s better Mexican restaurants.

An item not shown in the photo is the tamal, which is available on one of the combination plates.

The restaurant seems to have a firm policy of not allowing substitutions (except as I have noted, the lunch combinations can come with either ground beef or chicken tacos).

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa are served with all meals, although on the combination dinner you may not want to eat all of the chips in order to have enough appetite for dinner. The salsa, like many of the items here, is one of the better ones in the city.

Flauta

Flauta

The Chicken Flauta is an a la carte item from the dinner menu, and is a less expensive alternative that may still be very filling (by the time you eat the rice, beans, salad, guacamole, etc.). The dinner plate has three of them (which I think might be overkill when you consider their size). I have not ordered the chicken taco plate, but I have had chicken tacos on the combination plate and on the old Taco Tuesday night. To me these are more flavorful than the flauta, but you would miss out on the guacamole and sour cream (which may make the flauta a better choice for many people).

Lunch

Complimentary soup

Complimentary soup

Recently they have been serving a complimentary Caldo (soup) with lunch plates, but I do not know if they come with dinners. The soup is not very large but it is nice to have some vegetables with the meal (it also contains chunks of beef).

Lunch Combination B

Lunch Combination B

My go to choice at lunch is Combination B (if you see a letter instead of a number you know this is one of their lunch specials). These are mostly the same items served on the dinner Dinner Combination No. 2, except the taco has ground beef instead of shredded beef. To me this is a step down, but not a big concern because frankly the chile relleno is so good it really does not matter about anything else (although other items are very good as well).

Combination B with chicken taco

Lunch Combination B with chicken taco

This photo shows the same dinner with a chicken taco instead of the one with ground beef. For me this makes it a little better.

The problem I have had with lunch is that the red enchiladas have had a darker red color and a different flavor than I have experienced at dinner. I have been told that at 5 p.m. the dinner shift comes in with different cooks, and this may be the reason the food has been different (there are also other variables including time lapses between my visits to the restaurant). Normally I do not find the color difference to be significant except that at Riviera the bright red colored chile seems to be the best.

Enchilada plate

Enchilada plate

For those who want just the enchiladas, it is available as a plate on the lunch special menu. This is something I frequently ordered at the “old” restaurant but for the new one I only have a photo of it (this one has onions, while I usually prefer them without onions).

Overall Notes
The standout item here is the chile relleno, and there may be others but I have not tried everything on the menu.

My experience is that the enchiladas improve after 5:00 p.m. when the dinner shift comes in, but I have been unable to prove this over time due to having a limited number of visits to the restaurant.

The lunch specials have a good price compared to eating lunch at other restaurants, and my experience here is that if you get a combination plate with a chile relleno it is always a worthwhile experience.

The service has always been good, and I particularly like that they make suggestions that let me know about better items, substitutions I can make, etc.

The “support” items here have generally been very good (rice, beans, chips, salsa, etc.).

When I went for lunch on a Monday they also had taco specials, which I think have replaced what they used to have on Taco Tuesdays.


Riviera Web Site


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Full Bar

Most Recent Visit: Aug 26, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Chile Relleno, Shredded Beef Taco, Chicken Taco, Guacamole, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchilada
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Shredded Beef Taco
star 5 Chicken Taco
star 4 Ground Beef Taco
star 4 Chicken Flauta
star 4 Chicken Fajitas
star 4 Slaw
star 5 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 5 Salsa

Valley Super Market–El Paso, TX

Valley Super Market
850 Resler Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 585-1003
Valley Super Market

Valley Super Market on Resler


Valley Super Market is a local meat market and Mexican grocery store with several locations in El Paso. Not being familiar with many of the items normally sold in Mexican markets, it is hard for me to make a comparison with other stores. I would classify it as a small store, though, which mainly carries items not sold in the regular super markets (such as Wal-Mart, etc.) that you would want to use for Mexican style cooking.

The Resler location has a meat market, bakery, a section for other groceries, and a restaurant that is served deli style (you order at the counter and select the items you want from the display case). The restaurant closes an hour earlier than the store, though (the store closes at 8:00 p.m.–7:00 on Sunday).

I indicated below the number of times that I have eaten at the restaurant, but I am a somewhat regular customer for the baked goods and other items. Since I do not give ratings for grocery stores or bakeries, the one here only applies to the restaurant.

The Restaurant

Plato Mexicano

Plato Mexicano with enchilada, chile relleno, and taco

Most items are served individually or by the pound, but they do have some plates available with rice and beans such as the Plato Mexicano shown in the photo. Although this was not the absolute best Mexican plate I have had in El Paso, it is a good deal for the money, and is far above the Mexican food I can find in other areas such as Oklahoma City. The Red Enchilada was particularly noteworthy as being a good representative of El Paso style Mexican food. It was not too spicy but had a good flavor.

The Chile Relleno did not stand out much from others in the city except for the fact that the rajas con queso on top were so flavorful that they turned it into a somewhat exceptional relleno.

The Shredded Beef Taco was good but was a little lacking in flavor compared to some others in the city.

The Rice with lima beans was very good, especially compared to most other restaurants.

The Beans were not special for El Paso but were excellent compared to most other places.

You do not get chips with a dinner here, but they provide salsas to go with the food.

There is no tea but Mexican sodas are available.

Items served by the Pound

Chile colorado and chile verde

Chile colorado and chile verde

For any item that is not part of a plate, you will need to specify how much you want. This is also a way to get a meal if you go after the restaurant closes at 7:00 but the store is still open (until 8:00 pm). Tables are available any time during store hours.

Shown in the photo are a half pound each of chile colorado and chile verde, along with some beans (which you can also order by the pound or portion thereof). The Chile Verde was so spicy that I thought this detracted from its flavor (I admit that I am not a diehard chilehead). I found the Chile Colorado to be very flavorful, though, and is one of the best in El Paso for sure. Both had a large potato content which I think enhanced the flavor of each one.

Grocery Items

Tamales

Tamales

One notable grocery item is the Tamales, which come in three flavors–red, green, and queso con rajas. In order to try them I had to buy three packages with six tamales in each, and some ended up in the freezer (I don’t think they are as good after this). Even when fresh, though, I did not think they were as good as some in Canutillo (either at Lupita’s or the Little Diner).

The Pan Dulce from Valley Super Market’s bakery is good, although I agree with some comments I have seen that it is probably better at Los Jarrones at Redd Road and Doniphan. I think Valley has a better selection of items than Los Jarrones, though. Valley Supermarket also has good quality control for the items they sell (I have heard that Los Jarrones falls short in this regard but I have not experienced any problems with them firsthand).

I also like the regular bread sold here such as the Bolillos, although these are certainly not my favorites that I have ever experienced.

Other Notes
In addition to the food being inexpensive, it is also self serve so you do not necessarily need to leave a tip (although you can). The food is actually very good, but the main thing I do not like is that they do not have iced tea.

The food seems to be Chihuahua style, although I think the enchiladas are typical of El Paso (they have more chile sauce than the typical Ciudad Juarez enchiladas). I was pleasantly surprised by the chile con rajas served on top of the chile relleno, and I think this is probably a Mexican tradition rather than one normally found north of the border.

Although I like the Mexican plate and it is a good way to get a sample of the food, many of my favorite items are ones I have ordered a la carte (the chile colorado is the best item I have found so far).

For the pan dulce I think the Empanadas are some of the best in the city, but for everything else I generally prefer other bakeries.

My cost category of $ applies if you order items a la carte and make a meal out of it, but it is $$ if you get the Mexican plate.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $
Hours: Open Daily (closes early on Sunday)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Aug 18, 2019
Number of Visits: 4
Best Items: Red Enchilada, Chile Relleno con Rajas, Chile Colorado

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchilada
star 5 Chile Colorado
star 5 Chile Relleno con Rajas
star 4 Tamales
star 4 Shredded Beef Taco
star 4 Chile Verde
star 5 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 5 Empanadas
star 4 Banana Bread

El Rincon de Cortez (Viscount)–El Paso, TX

El Rincon de Cortez
8900 Viscount Blvd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 592-9511
El Rincon de Cortez

El Rincon de Cortez on Viscount


For years I have been going to El Rincon de Cortez on Sun Bowl Drive, but I finally made it to the smaller restaurant in east El Paso on Viscount Boulevard (located near Cielo Vista Mall and behind The Fountains at Farah). As far as I can tell they have the same owner and the same menu, and as far as I know the food is very much the same at both restaurants.

I believe you can look at my review of the Sun Bowl restaurant and assume that the food will be largely the same at the Viscount location as well. I have only tried one dish at the Viscount restaurant and it is somewhat of a benchmark dish for El Rincon de Cortez–the huevos rancheros. I believe breakfast is the restaurant’s most popular meal, and this is the most popular dish, but in any case it is one with which I am familiar.

While I have a small sample size of dishes I have tried here, I do have a friend who eats here regularly and echos my opinion that the huevos rancheros were better in 2018 than in 2019, while the quality of the food remains very constant at the Sun Bowl location (although this is not something I have been able to confirm personally within the last year).

I was initially excited about the possibility of this location having better food than on Sun Bowl, but in the years I have been going to the Sun Bowl restaurant I know that it is at least consistent, and at the moment I think it is better than the Viscount restaurant.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The chips and salsa were both excellent, although the heat level of the salsa was so high that I might say many would like the salsa at the Sun Bowl location better (and I think I prefer the other one as well).

The chips here were quite good (not unusual for El Paso but at the same time many places do not have chips as good as these).

Breakfast

Huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros

The Huevos Rancheros are the only thing I have tried, and the only thing I can compare to the other restaurant. These are rather unique because they are topped with chile con queso (H&H Car Wash also has this type of sauce but I do not think this is the normal style for huevos rancheros). On my latest visit, though, the queso tasted flat and the green chile was barely noticeable, so I would recommend other restaurants over this one. The good thing about the Viscount Rincon de Cortez, though, was the way the egg was cooked, and if anyone is a stickler for the egg being prepared just right this restaurant is a good choice.

The Hash Browns were excellent (as they have been at the Sun Bowl restaurant). I thought the beans were noticeably better here than on Sun Bowl, but it is possible that my memory is not correct and they may be just as good at the other restaurant.

Additional Comments
At the Sun Bowl location I thought the steaks and meat items were good for lunch or dinner, and probably the same is true here. The Sun Bowl restaurant is larger, seems to be busier, and I would say is their flagship restaurant.

At first I thought the food was better here and that I had found a relatively undiscovered gem, but it has now proven to be inconsistent (probably with a change of cooks). On the other hand, I have found the Sun Bowl location to be very consistent.

For huevos rancheros, though, I would also say to try the H&H Car Wash.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily except Sun. Evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No
Special Features: Serves Breakfast

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 12, 2019
Number of Visits: 2
Best Item: Huevos Rancheros

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Huevos Rancheros
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 5 Beans