Como’s–El Paso, TX

Como’s Italian Restaurant
4030 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 533-0287
Como's

Como’s


Como’s is one of the city’s longest running Italian restaurants that is still around, and this has several implications. One is that it serves the traditional red Italian sauces that are a throwback to the past when almost all Italian restaurants were “Italian American.” Another is that they are probably not going to start being innovative with the menu or change the way they are doing things–what brought them this far is what keeps the old customers returning.

When I first came to El Paso I found that Italian food was one of the few cuisines popular locally besides Mexican, and that it is one of the city’s “comfort foods.” I think this is what people expect when they come to Como’s and the city’s other long time Italian restaurants–something they remember when growing up and which still tastes as good today.

Part of Como’s success is that it is a family-run operation. Quite a few years ago there was a second location which was called “Como’s No. 2,” but I think for this type of restaurant it really is best if they keep the operation small so that the food remains the same over the years.

I do not consider Como’s to be particularly authentic, as implied by the description I have given it as “red sauce Italian” (Como’s web site, though, says that the food comes from “Old world recipes” and I am sure that this is the case). Regardless of whether you call it Italian or Italian-American, I have to say that it has fresh and vibrant flavors that are as good as ever.

After all these years there are still many items that I have not tried, since I have stuck mostly with the red sauce dishes. Some of the other dishes may be even better than the ones with red sauce (and according to some reviews I have seen this seems to be the case). I would say look at the reviews on Yelp and other sites because I am not going to be able to cover all the dishes served here.

The marinara is my default sauce here (as it is at almost all Italian restaurants). I think the “meat sauce” is the same sauce with meat added, and customers can specify which one they want (but I have found that the waiters do not always ask). The vegetable lasagna came with marinara sauce as the default.

Another key element here is the salad which comes with most meals automatically without having to pay extra (although you can upgrade to a large salad at an extra charge). This is one of the better salads in town, at least when it comes to the ones that are free. Recently I have noticed fresher and greener lettuce than in the past, and this is good. To me, though, the dressing along with the garbanzos and olives they put on the salad make it a very good experience.

Salads and Appetizers

Soup and salad with complimentary cheese and crackers

Soup and salad with complimentary cheese and crackers on the Tuesday and Thursday night special

For years one of the best deals at Como’s was the Spaghetti specials on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Those as old as I am can remember when it started out as “all you can eat spaghetti,” but even after this was discontinued the plate served was all that most normal people could eat. One of the most “special” parts was that you got soup, salad, and cheese slices added at no additional cost. I have not gone on these evenings recently, but minus the cheese slices, all of the items are available on the regular menu (and the salad comes free with most meals).

The Minestrone Soup would probably not be considered anything special in Italian enclaves such as Boston or Saint Louis, but by El Paso standards it has always seemed to blow away many of the insipid soups I have had at other restaurants. I do not believe that the soup is totally vegetarian, but it provides a large portion of anyone’s daily diet of vegetables.

Salad

Salad

This photo shows a recent Garden Salad I have had with greener lettuce than I experienced in the past. The salad always tastes pretty fresh by El Paso standards, and even pale green lettuce was made good by the excellent dressing they have. The best feature of the salad is the generous portion of garbanzo beans and olives, although the tomato seems to consistently have a pale color and to be the weakest part of the salad.

Salad with cheese added by special request

Salad with cheese added by special request

I also found out that you can request cheese with the salad at no extra cost, and a few other modifications are available as well. Of course I think this makes a good salad even better.

Pasta Dishes

Spaghetti

Spaghetti

Spaghetti comes with either meat sauce or marinara (an oil and garlic sauce is also available at the same price and others such as shrimp are available for an extra cost). I tried the meat sauce perhaps two or three times, but after ordering the marinara I have always preferred it. One reason I think I like the spaghetti more than other dishes is that it is very simple–both the pasta and the sauce have a good flavor, and this is about all there is to the dish. Another good thing about the spaghetti is the cost.

Vegetable lasagna

Vegetable lasagna

The Vegetable Lasagna is not on my list of items I usually order here, but I experimented and tried it on a recent visit. Although it had the same marinara sauce that comes on the spaghetti and that has been my favorite, I found it to be very sweet. It had been about ten years since my last visit to Como’s, and I think I was probably more cognizant of the sauce’s flavors than I had been previously. Although the sauce turned out to be not quite what I expected, the pasta was quite good, especially because of the spinach (it also had broccoli which was good as well). I do not think their sauce has changed but I have two theories about what happened–either it tastes better on spaghetti than the vegetable lasagna or the sweet taste is more noticeable to me than before. This may be the reason I classified Como’s previously as an Italian-American restaurant but I could not put my finger on the reason why.

Eggplant parmesan

Eggplant parmesan

I believe the Eggplant Parmigiana to be one of the restaurant’s specialties, and the lunch portion is shown in the above photo. If I were to rate what I consider to be good about this dish it would start with the sauce, then it would be the breading, and then the eggplant. This is fine because eggplant is not one of my favorite vegetables, and Como’s prepares it in a way that I like it (as opposed to many eggplant dishes I have had). I am not sure how to rank the cheese, but I will say that it is good on all the dishes on which I have tried here.

In my ratings I have indicated that the eggplant parmesan is four stars, but it is actually one of my favorite dishes here (so at some point this may get bumped up to five stars).

Pizza
Como’s also offers a pizza or spaghetti special on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 5:00 p.m. with the soup and salad, but it has been over ten years since I have ordered either one. The pizza had a good freshly cooked red sauce, but at the time I thought other restaurants had a better pizza (thus I usually chose spaghetti over the pizza for the specials at Como’s). Both of the specials, though, are a good deal.

Other Items
Como’s serves a basket of garlic bread with each order that is so reminiscent of the ones I used to get in Italian restaurants growing up that it is worth coming here just for the nostalgia. I think, though, that Como’s bread still tastes good because it is careful to cook it the right amount of time and apply the right amount of garlic.

I always remember the iced tea as being particularly good here, but I think now most of the other restaurants serve upgraded tea to match the one at Como’s (which is still excellent).

A Summary
I believe Como’s strength is in serving everything freshly prepared, thus patrons should not expect everything to come out of the kitchen quickly. This is a comfortable restaurant that feels like home, and the prices are reasonable.

Ordering from the dinner menu gives you more food but I would have a hard time eating all of it and for me the prices are high. In my opinion the lunch menu offers a much better deal, and the Tuesday and Thursday night pizza and spaghetti specials are also very good. The lunch menu is abbreviated, but mostly what is missing are the high end items that cannot be easily prepared in a smaller portion.

One of the employees told me that probably the things that set Como’s apart from other restaurants are the sauce and the special parmesan cheese the owner buys. I certainly agree about the cheese–it is one of the best I have found anywhere. The red sauce tasted sweet on the vegetable lasagna, but it went quite well with the eggplant parmesan, and thus I can see why many consider it to be one of the restaurant’s best features. It is also very good on the spaghetti.


RATING: 20

Cuisine: Italian
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer and Wine

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 26, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Spaghetti, Eggplant Parmesan, Minestrone Soup

Special Ratings
star 5 Spaghetti
star 4 Vegetable Lasagna
star 4 Eggplant Parmigiana
star 4 Pizza
star 5 Minestrone Soup
star 4 Salad

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).

Green chile meat loaf

Green chile meat loaf

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. I did like the bed of mashed potatoes underneath which gave the plate more substance as well as good flavor.

Mexican Food
Greenery has made Mexican food one of its specialties, and while almost every restaurant in the city serves Mexican food in some form each one does it a certain way. At Greenery it seems to be the upscale style found in Ciudad Juarez at hotels or stores such as Sanborn’s where you can go shopping and then eat in their coffee shop styled restaurant. I asked enough questions at Greenery to find out that their chefs are from Ciudad Juarez (at least the ones who cook the Mexican food). They take pride in preparing authentic Mexican food that I call “gourmet,” but it is actually the traditional dishes (such as enchiladas) that are cooked in a gourmet fashion rather than being a high-end restaurant serving steaks, etc.

Red cheese enchiladas

Red cheese enchiladas

It seems that in El Paso I cannot get enough Red Enchiladas, and I really enjoyed the ones here. They did seem to be authentic, but authentic ones that I remember from upscale Ciudad Juarez restaurants such as Julio’s rather than the “street food” style which also exists. These have a deep red colored chile and a mixture of white and yellow cheese (and most of the cheese was on top where it gets melted properly). Like most authentic border style enchiladas the spice level gets close to that of New Mexico chile but it stops short of being what I would really call spicy.

The sauce had an earthy or “crude” flavor (in Spanish I think of the term crudo as meaning very strong and getting the raw elements such as the straight red chile without the finesse of mixing it with a lot of spices, etc. to tone it down). In any case, if you like red chile I think you will like the enchiladas here. I am thinking that perhaps what I associate as being “crude” is actually the taste of cumin, which the staff told me that the red chile contains. I do not know if this was an informed statement and that it actually contains cumin, but I will say that while these are not my favorite enchiladas anywhere, I did like them and they did remind me of the ones served in the upscale restaurants in Mexico. They were spicier than many of the enchiladas in Mexico, though, and were definitely border style in this regard.

I also noticed the toasted tostada chips stuck into the refried beans that reminded me of the ones at Leo’s or Avila’s where the enchiladas are baked. I think the ones here were baked as well, but the only thing I can really attest to is that they came out at a good temperature.

Tortilla soup

Tortilla soup

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, 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 ingredients used in the tortilla soup include a noticeable amount of green chile and celery (which do give a flavor offset to the large amount of chicken they use). The tortillas are crispy and not oily.

The broth is spicy and the flavor is very strong (this is perhaps what I think is the weakest part of the soup, although it does seem to be very authentic Mexican style). I got the cup of soup but they do serve it in a bowl (perhaps it would be enough for a meal but I prefer the cup along with an entrée such as the enchiladas).

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.

I think the Mexican food here is slightly better than what I have tried on the American side, but both are very good and I am perhaps struck more by the high quality ingredients than the actual flavor of the food.


RATING: 23

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

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 24, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Pizza, Red Enchiladas, Tortilla Soup, Chicken Pot Pie

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

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

La Malinche–El Paso, TX

La Malinche Mexican Food
3910 Doniphan Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 833-7941
La Malinche in west El Paso

La Malinche in west El Paso\


La Malinche is one of El Paso’s “classic” restaurants, having been in operation for as long as I can remember and probably many years before that. There are three restaurants in the city, this one is on the west side at Doniphan and Sunland Park (just a couple of blocks west of La Malinche is the State Line Restaurant which straddles the Texas-New Mexico border). My older reviews state that the food does not vary much between the different locations, but that I liked the west side restaurant because it had a larger dining room that I found more comfortable than the others. Now I honestly do not remember the food at the other restaurants, but I have enough confidence in my earlier memories to say that it is about the same at all three restaurants.

In my early reviews I stated that La Malinche has a homey atmosphere and food that tastes as if someone made it in their own home. Now that I have other resources to consult such as Yelp I find that many other people are making this same type of comment about the home made food. I would say that by definition this is probably simple food–nothing too fancy or that is meant to dazzle people with their innovative recipes. Instead it is more simple food that stands the test of time.

Over the years I have tried a number of items here, but by the time I published the first review my go-to items were narrowed down to red enchiladas, chile rellenos, and entomatadas. I usually went for the entomatadas because I could not find any others in town that were as good. I also really liked the horchata, although these days it is not on my diet very much because of the calories and sugar content.

One thing I do remember vividly from earlier visits was that although they had an 8:00 p.m. closing time, I tried several times to go around 7:30 or so and either it was OK or else they would say they were closed (when there were very few other customers). On a recent visit on a Sunday they ran out of caldo very early (before noon), yet this is what I saw some of the employees eat after the noon rush was over. Over the years I would say that customer service has never been the restaurant’s strong suit, although on the flip side I have had very good service from the wait staff.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Just about every restaurant in town serves good chips and salsa, so it is hard to make note of their differences and to really say which ones are best. I have a habit of taking leftover Salsa home, though, and it is there that I noticed how distinctly fresh and flavorful this one was compared to others. In my recent memory this one is really at the top of my salsa list. Earlier I had also noted that it was jalapeño based rather than puréed, and was spicy as a result of the chiles that were used. I think it is always a good thing for salsa to be genuinely spicy as long as it is not this way because it is full of seeds (and the one at La Malinche does not have a noticeable amount of seeds).

The Chips are good. I used to think they were overly salty but I did not notice this on a recent visit.

Enchiladas

Red enchiladas

Red enchiladas

Red Enchiladas were one of my favorite items in the past, and although I have not tried them recently I was able to get a photo when my friend ordered them. I said in the previous review that they have a “strong chile flavor” and my friend said they were quite good.

Entomatadas

Entomatadas

Entomatadas have been my favorite item at La Malinche for a number of years. Nobody else seems to do them as well as here, or at least no one that I have found. These are made the same way as enchiladas but instead of chile sauce they use a tomato sauce. I think the actual sauce is much more complicated than just saying it is made with tomato (the same way enchilada sauce contains a mixture of herbs and spices). The cheese is also excellent, and is also a key factor (but the sauce is also special in its own right).

The entomatadas have a Spanish sauce which is not spicy, but the flavor is quite complex the same way I find with good enchiladas. It comes with some green peppers which give it a little bit of a kick, and I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Other Items
In the past I thought the Chile Relleno was excellent, but I have not tried it recently. It has the same Spanish sauce they use on the entomatadas, but the chile itself is spicy, making this fall into the category of spicy Mexican food. I have found the Spanish sauce to be the classic way to make El Paso styled chile rellenos, and based on this I would say to try the ones at La Malinche because they really do have the best Spanish sauce I have tried.

Tacos contain potato mixed with ground beef. This is a popular local style, and the potatoes are a way to make the tacos more affordable, but this is not my favorite version of the beef taco.

It is somewhat annoying that they will not make substitutions on the combination plates, but this is balanced by the fact that prices are very cheap. It may be worthwhile ordering more than you think you can eat in order to get all the items you might like to sample.

When I saw the breakfast menu it looked like a little less of a bargain than the lunch and dinner menus, thus I have not tried it. Many reviewers on Yelp, though, seem to enjoy the breakfast as much as I do with the entomatadas, so it may be well worth paying a little more if you have to.

Drinks

Horchata with chips and salsa

Horchata with chips and salsa

Horchata is excellent, and like everything here is made the classic Mexican way (in the Chihuahua border style).

An Overview
For a while La Malinche had five locations throughout the city, and now they are down to three. This is still a lot for a restaurant which is competing against numerous others which are serving the same type of food. Most importantly, though, the reviews say the same thing I have thought in the past–all of La Malinche’s locations have good food.

Like most Mexican restaurants, though, there are certain items that stand out and seem to make it worthy of a special trip. For me this has been the entomatadas, and I still find them to be the best I have ever had. The sauce is excellent, but the cheese also plays a large part.

A very popular time of day here seems to be breakfast, but it is not what I would call a breakfast restaurant–the lunch and dinner menu is extensive and is popular as well. Some items sell out quickly, so this is another reason to go early if you can. The food quality is still good at night, but past 7:30 they seem to be subject to closing early if they do not have a lot of customers.


RATING: 23

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

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 22, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Entomatadas, Red Enchiladas, Chiles Rellenos, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Entomatadas
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 4 Enchiladas Suizas
star 4 Tacos
star 5 Horchata
star 5 Salsa

Little Diner–Canutillo, TX

Little Diner
7209 7th St.
Canutillo, TX
(915) 877-2176
Little Diner in Canutillo

Canutillo Tortilla Factory & Little Diner


Finding this restaurant is half the adventure. Canutillo Tortilla Factory & Little Diner, otherwise known as “Little Diner” is located in Canutillo, just northwest of El Paso, off I-10 at the Trans-Mountain exit. Eastbound traffic on I-10 would want to take the Vinton Exit and follow the frontage road to Vinton Avenue.

Order at the counter

Orders are placed at the counter, or you can get them to go

There is good reason for the name “Little,” with a few booths and tables that at times can barely hold the crowd of customers that are here to enjoy the downscale, but very enjoyable Mexican cuisine. The crowd has become much larger in recent years due to word-of-mouth and magazine articles in publications such as Texas Monthly, extolling the delights of the “roadfood” served here. You will see much of this publicity exhibited on the walls, as well as the fact that George W. Bush has been a visitor.

Little Diner's awards

Some of Little Diner’s reviews and awards

I think many of the articles published about Little Diner are inaccurate, though. It has recently experienced a change in ownership, and the staff told me they have changed the concept of the restaurant somewhat. Recognizing that many of the customers are now tourists, they have downgraded the chile spice level from almost off the charts to a more tolerable (and I think more appropriate) level. Some of the food has changed, and I will get into details in the review. Overall I do not think it is any better or worse than before, but I think they are making a conscious attempt to make it more consistent (I think this is a good thing, but I will find out on subsequent visits).

The food at Little Diner is sort of a cross between “El Paso” and “New Mexico” style cooking, with the “New Mexico” part meaning the use of unadulterated chiles that can either be hot or extra hot, depending on the time of year and the particular crop of chiles used. El Paso style Mexican food comes through in the beans, rice, tamales, and I would say most of the items served. They also follow the El Paso tradition of cooking special tamales just before Christmas (these are the ones I like to order for myself when I get the chance).

Gorditas

Little Diner's gordita

Gordita with a hard corn masa shell

Little Diner is most famous for its Gorditas, a large shell of corn masa stuffed with ground beef or other fillings. The shell here is thicker than most places, and I would say is more flavorful. One good feature is that you can order several different fillings, but the most popular is ground beef.

Ground beef gordita

Ground beef gordita

The Ground Beef is flavored with a spice that reminds me a little bit of Durkee’s.  I have come to really appreciate the flavor, especially compared to the ground beef other restaurants have to offer. As much as I like avocado, I would say that version is the one that does not really bring out the best flavor of the gordita. Little Diner provides a small cup of red salsa that I also recommend to enhance the flavor.

The gordita went through a phase where I found the shell to be exceptionally hard and crispy, but on several recent visits I have found it to be back to the same quality it had with the old ownership, and at this point it is back to being my favorite item at the restaurant.

Green Enchiladas

Green enchiladas

Green enchiladas

Green Enchiladas are one of the items I have come to appreciate most over the years, not because they are the best I have ever eaten but because they are unique in El Paso. Based largely on the style of enchiladas served in New Mexico, they provide a “chile fix” that is conveniently located for El Paso residents. I would compare Little Diner’s enchiladas to many served in Las Cruces, although Little Diner does not have the extreme spice level found in some of the New Mexico restaurants. The enchiladas are served flat, with the chile sauce overflowing onto the plate and the large chunks of green chile mixed with cheese on top. The traditional yellow cheese is used, I think largely as the most effective means to help cool down your mouth from the spicy chiles (the refried beans do a good job also). Personally I like to order the enchiladas without onions– I think they are too strong. The green enchiladas are probably the spiciest item you can get at Little Diner but they are less so than people would have found if there were here under the old ownership. For flavor I prefer the green enchiladas here over the red.

If you get a green enchilada a la carte or on a combination plate it will be rolled instead of flat, but this is one of the few instances where I think the flavor is just as good either way.

Red Enchiladas

Combination dinner

Combination dinner with tamal, red enchilada, rice, gordita, taco, and beans

The Red Enchiladas are also good, but to me they have a very “earthy” taste almost as if they simply grind up the chile pods with no other ingredients to offset the flavor (my description is extreme, but I am trying to describe how it differs from many others). You do get local flavors with the red enchiladas, but for me the flavor is not quite as good as with the green enchiladas.

Chiles Rellenos

Chile relleno with a gordita

Chile relleno with a gordita, salad, beans, and rice

The Chiles Rellenos are served without sauce on top– you are left to discern the flavors of the chile, the Muenster cheese melted inside, and the egg batter. These are the closest you can get in El Paso to the style of rellenos served at Chope’s in La Mesa, a few miles north in New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley. This is an instance where the “new” food has not really changed from the old one, and the chile relleno continues to be excellent as it was before.

Refried Beans
The Refried Beans are made with lard, and they are very good as long as you do not allow them to get cold. I almost always prefer the Rice that seems to be flavored with a number of ingredients (but in the past was occasionally subject to being dry and overcooked).

Tamales
Tamales are one of the standout items (green chile with chicken and cheese is my favorite). These, along with the red chile and pork variety, can be ordered individually in the restaurant or by the dozen in to-go orders. At Christmas the popularity of Little Diner’s tamales becomes apparent when the kitchen goes into full gear, and you have to call for an order ahead of time in order to get a dozen or more to take home. The Christmas tamales are actually the same ones served throughout the year, except that two varieties are added: vegetarian with green chile and sweet tamales made with raisins (these are also vegetarian). I think there is a reason the tamales at Little Diner are so popular– they are just a lot better than I find at most other places.

Chips and Salsa
Chips cost extra, and come in a rather large order. These are not the best chips I have ever eaten, but the salsa is excellent and it is good to have something to eat with it.

Additional Comments
Like most Mexican restaurants, Little Diner has its specialties, and some items that are better than others. Overall, though, this is a very unique “diner” experience–serving that down-home style that lets you know the food is made to appeal to the local population (which is still the major clientele despite the tourists who visit).

The chile here is no longer so spicy that I think it would be hard for many people to eat (although if you are totally averse to high spice levels the green enchiladas should be avoided and possibly the red).

The restaurant is willing to make substitutions for at least one of the items on combination plates, so this is a very good way to try several items and probably get all of the ones you really want.

View outside from the window

View of the Franklin Mountains from the Little Diner

With GPS widely available I do not think I need to provide directions, although the restaurant is off the beaten path and located in the middle of a neighborhood (actually it is mostly desert with a few houses scattered about).

If you saw the segment about Little Diner on Texas Country Reporter, this was shot when it had its original owners and showed the process involved in making the gorditas. After the change in ownership I thought the gorditas were no longer like the ones shown in the video, but recent visits have convinced me that they are back to their former glory.

The green enchiladas and chiles rellenos are also items that I consider to be among the best in El Paso, and in the case of the chile relleno it is one of the best I have found anywhere. Tamales are also a very good choice here.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Wed.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 17, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Gorditas, Chile Relleno, Green Enchiladas Tamales, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile

Index:

chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable (but beans are cooked with lard)

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Gorditas
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Tamales
star 5 Chiles Rellenos
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 4 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 5 Salsa

Chope’s–La Mesa, NM

Chopes Bar & Cafe
16165 S. Hwy 28
La Mesa, NM
(575) 233-3420
Chope's in La Mesa, NM

Chope’s in La Mesa, NM south of Las Cruces

When you approach La Mesa, about 15 miles south of Mesilla on State Highway 28, you get more of a feeling that you are approaching a religious shrine than a small farming village in southern New Mexico. The “holy ground” you are entering is for possibly the best chile relleno anywhere (for once the reality lives up to the hype). It is much like going to Mamou, Louisiana to experience the very best Cajun music, except in La Mesa pilgrims are given a gustatory reward (unless by some very bad karma or extremely unkind trick of fate they end up in La Mesa on a Sunday or Monday when Chope’s is closed).

Chope's kitchen

The kitchen is adjacent to the main dining room

At Chope’s you enter the realm of world-class roadfood (not the gourmet kind of Mexican food found at Rick Bayless’ restaurants in Chicago). It is no longer a question at Chope’s of whether certain items are good, it becomes a matter of whether they are the best. I get discouraged sometimes because the salsa at Chope’s may not be as good as at some restaurants in Las Cruces, the green chile may not be as fresh some times of the year as at harvest season, or some of the dishes may not live up to what I consider the signature dishes: the chile relleno and the enchiladas (both made with locally grown chiles). At other restaurants, however, I would hope to find just one outstanding dish, while Chope’s in my opinion the chile relleno is uncontested, the sopapilla is one of the best anywhere, and the enchiladas are certainly noteworthy examples of New Mexico cuisine.

Around 2007 the daughters of Lupe and Chope took over management of the restaurant, and I initially thought they had made changes to the food because I found red chile that was less spicy than before (and I did not have enough samples of the green chile to really tell about the spiciness). On a recent visit, though, I was served red enchiladas that were reminiscent of the old ones in their spiciness. When I asked the employees about it they said that was just the way that particular harvest turned out. Thus this is one case where a change in management of a long-running restaurant did not result in an appreciable change in the food (and the more visits I made the more I found this to be true).

Chile Relleno

Chile relleno

Chope’s chile relleno without sauce on top

If Chope’s is known for anything it is the Chile Relleno that somehow seems different from those served anywhere else. Of course the freshness comes from its local source in the Mesilla Valley. While the Hatch chiles, grown north of Las Cruces, have become famous worldwide, there is actually quite a large variety of chiles grown in both the Hatch and Mesilla Valleys that include the milder Anaheims that are largely exported and the more spicy varieties that are popular locally.

Chope’s serves a somewhat flat shaped chile that is quite spicy compared to many of the long skinny ones that are more common throughout the country. While being more spicy does not necessarily make a chile better quality, I do think this is an important criterion for a New Mexico style restaurant. It is also important for the chile to be roasted and prepared properly, as are the ones served at Chope’s. I have always been impressed that Chope’s does not put a sauce on top. The relleno really does not need to have any type of sauce, since the chile, the cheese inside, and the perfectly cooked batter stand by themselves and provide all the flavor needed for an excellent chile relleno.

Green Enchiladas

Green enchiladas

Chope’s green enchiladas made with fresh green chiles

The Green Enchiladas are some of the best found anywhere. While many restaurants use a puréed green chile to pour on top of the tortillas, Chope’s uses large chunks of fresh chiles that demonstrate the texture and flavor of the green chiles that are used. A white cheese is used that is perfectly melted (and it looks as if some yellow cheese is also mixed in). Chiles come locally from the Mesilla Valley (from the Provencio Farm near Anthony), and are at their freshest around harvest season.

Around the beginning of August postings appear on the Internet asking about the availability of freshly harvested Hatch chiles in various cities around the United States. Over the years I have noticed a fresher flavor to the green enchiladas around harvest time, and other sources have confirmed this as well. I asked the owner when the exact dates would be for this, and she stated that around September and October would be when they would have the freshly harvested green chile. Thus this is the time I would especially recommend for people to try the green enchiladas at Chope’s if they can (for me this has been a very special experience that I have not found at any other restaurant).

Many other places seem to either use too many additives, purée the chile too much, or use chiles of lesser quality that do not yield the same results as at Chope’s. This is why I think both the green and red enchiladas are better than at most other restaurants.

I would also make a personal note that I have observed a difference in the way they prepare onions in northern and southern New Mexico. The ones here (at least at Chope’s) are sharper than in the north, and thus I prefer for the enchiladas to be made without onions. Those who feel as I do, though, have to ask Chope’s to omit the onions because otherwise they will come in the enchiladas by default.

Red Enchiladas

Red enchiladas and chile relleno

Red enchiladas served flat with an egg on top, and chile relleno to the side

For about ten months out of the year (November to August) the Red Enchiladas are my preference at Chope’s, and only lose this status during harvest season because the green ones are exceptionally good here. Generally the red chile is the only one I eat in New Mexico and El Paso, so this is in no way a knock on Chope’s green chile.

Over the years I had noted that the red and green enchiladas were both very spicy, but the red ones were a little milder (my Previous Review on Steve’s Gastronomic Home Page reflects this fact). My current understanding, though, is that it all depends on the chile harvest, and the only way to know which type of chile is spicier is to ask the people working at the restaurant.

Regardless of the spiciness, the red chile at Chope’s always has a very good flavor. I am especially happy, though, when it also comes from one of the spicier harvests.

I would suggest having the enchiladas served flat (for both the red and the green). They come this way on the enchilada plates, but are rolled on the combination plates unless you request otherwise. The reason I like them flat is that they have more of a red chile flavor this way (I think they pour more chile on top, and it soaks into the tortilla better than when they are rolled).

I like the enchiladas without onions but if you want them this way you have to request it (onions are served in the enchiladas by default).

Stuffed Sopaipilla

Stuffed sopaipilla

Stuffed sopaipilla with a chile relleno on the side

Although my favorite dishes are the chile relleno and the enchilada, I discovered that I was missing out by not trying the Stuffed Sopaipilla until 2019. This is definitely one of the best ones I have tried, although in my opinion Nellie’s in Las Cruces remains as the champion in this category. One area where I think Chope’s excels, though, is in the quality of the chile con carne stuffed inside the sopaipilla. It was not so much the chile as it was the meat itself that made Chope’s stand out for me.

Customers choose between chile colorado con carne, chile verde con carne, ground beef, chicken, or bean as a stuffing choice for the sopaipilla. The one I tried was chile colorado, and I definitely thought this was a good choice.

For all the non-meat items (sopaipilla, lettuce, tomato, beans, etc.) I have always preferred Nellie’s over the other restaurants, and I believe this will remain my choice. When adding chile con carne into the mix, though, I believe Chope’s will be the first choice of many (and may become mine as well).

Combinations

Combination No. 3

Combination No. 3 with a taco, two enchiladas, and a chile relleno

Combinations come with rice and beans, and include three main items. In addition, they have a choice of adding a chile relleno for an extra price. Combinations are available for lunch or dinner, although they have a lower price Thursday for lunch (constituting the only true lunch special I have found at Chope’s).

Even at the regular price the combinations are a good value, and I definitely like being able to get enchiladas and a chile relleno in one meal. I would advise people, though, that enchiladas come rolled on the combination unless you ask for them to be flat (as they are in the above photo). On the enchilada plates, though, the enchiladas are served flat.

Rice and Beans
For some reason the New Mexican restaurants in the southern part of the state prefer Refried Beans, such as the ones served at Chope’s, to the whole beans that are normally found in the north. I do not usually pay much attention to beans that are not northern style, but the ones at Chope’s are cooked so perfectly that I think they are almost as good as the whole beans.

The Rice has not only been excellent on recent visits, but it has impressed me as being one of Chope’s signature items. I do not think it has been as consistent over the years as other items at the restaurant, but it now seems to be some of the best I have found anywhere in El Paso or southern New Mexico.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The Chips are nondescript in the sense that they do not seem outwardly to be much different from any others. I just know that all the factors are there to always make them a part of the meal that I really enjoy.

The Salsa seems to have undergone a transformation since about 2007 when the daughters took over, and I think very much for the better. It used to be memorable for being so spicy it almost numbed the taste buds before you even got a chance to try any of the delicious main dishes. Now, though, I think it retains the freshness it had before, but with a heightened flavor that I enjoy a lot more. The spiciness is variable, and sometimes it almost gets to the point of numbing the mouth, but the excellent flavor is more noticeable than the heat. I do not know, though, if there was a conscious decision to tone the salsa down a little or if it is just my perception.

Sopaipillas

Sopapillas

A basket of freshly cooked sopaipillas going to a table of anxiously awaiting customers

Sopaipillas are light and fluffy, and are a recommended enhancement to the food, either during or after the meal (I prefer them with the meal). The red and green chiles are not always spicy enough that I think eating a sopaipilla with them would have much of an effect in ameliorating the heat, but it still would taste very good (you have to pay extra for the sopaipillas). Of course they are also good for dessert. In the past the sopaipillas have been rather greasy, but recently they have been perfect, and worth ordering even if you think your stomach cannot handle any more food. One item of note is that they give you a jar of honey with a squirt cap that does not make a mess all over your hands as would be the case at restaurants that provide the little packets that you have to open with your fingers.

The Bar

Chope's Bar

Chope’s Bar, located next door to Chope’s Cafe, serves the same food as the restaurant

What is now Chope’s Bar was the original restaurant, and is located next door to Chope’s Cafe (which was originally the Benavides family home). The bar serves the same food as the restaurant, and this can be a great help during the times that the restaurant is full and you have to get on a waiting list for a table. In fact, I think one of the major drawbacks of this place is having to drive for miles deep into the heart of the Mesilla Valley farm country and not knowing if you will face a long wait once you arrive (Chope’s does not take reservations, but at times the bar has had seating space when the restaurant did not).

The Restaurant

Part of the main dining room

Part of the main dining room

The restaurant itself is in an old house, and has what I would describe as a somewhat crowded dining arrangement. The main dining room is adjacent to the kitchen and is small, noisy, and busy, but also tends to be very friendly where it is easy to talk to the staff and other patrons. The larger dining room is quieter and provides slightly more space between tables, but they are still rather crowded.

A view inside to the waiting room

Patrons at Chope’s frequently spend time in the waiting room before a table opens up

The restaurant is open only until 1:30 p.m. for lunch, but the 8:30 p.m. closing time at dinner should give most diners enough time to reach La Mesa and wait for a table if necessary. I have discovered that they are pretty liberal on the closing time and lock the door about 1:35 to 1:40 at lunch time. They also keep the kitchen open past this time so that you can order items such as sopaipillas. I noticed that on Saturday they are open all day, but this seems to be the only day for which this is the case.

The combination plates are becoming my preference here because I can get the enchiladas and chile relleno together at a good price. The enchiladas on these plates, though, are rolled instead of flat. They will serve the enchiladas flat on request, though.

A great tip that I found by accident is to go Thursdays during lunch hours when all of the combination plates are on special (at what I thought was a very good price).

Coming from El Paso, La Mesa can be reached from IH-10 by taking the Vado exit (NM 227) and going west to Vado. You then turn left on NM 478 and go south less than a quarter mile, where NM 227 again goes to the west (the direction signs can sometimes be easy to miss). From Vado you should follow NM 227, and keep going straight after it turns into NM 28. Once you are on Hwy 28 La Mesa is the next town.

From Las Cruces or Mesilla it is easy to reach Chope’s– just take NM 28 south.

Chope's photo

A photo of “Chope,” for whom the restaurant was named

Lupe

Lupe managed the restaurant until her daughters took over

Lent Specials
Chope’s, like many other Mexican restaurants in the area, offers specials on Fridays during Lent that are appropriate for the season. Chope’s not only offers food that is not normally on the menu, but it comes at a very good price (and the special with a chile relleno offers the item I would most like to order anyway).

Lent special

Lent special with quesadillas, chile relleno, and lentils

The plate pictured includes Quesadillas that were made the traditional way I have experienced them in home style restaurants in the borderland. The Chile Relleno was as good as ever, but I do not know why it had a large amount of cheese sprinkled on top when this is normally not the case. The Lentils were excellent, with less salt and garlic than I usually find in the ones served in El Paso (and to me the ones at Chope’s are better).

Capirotada is also served with the Lent special but they were out when I went. Still, this was an excellent deal.

Things to Know

  • In chile harvest season the green enchiladas are especially good, and would be what I recommend (Chope’s serves freshly harvested chile from about the beginning of September to the end of October).
  • The chile relleno is the best I have found anywhere, and would always be a good choice here. The combination dinners have a choice of adding a chile relleno for two dollars extra, and I think it is well worth it to do so.
  • The bar is next door to the restaurant and serves the same food. It gives you faster service if the restaurant is full and there is a waiting line, but I am usually willing to wait for a table in the restaurant if necessary because it is quieter and I like the setting better.

 

Update May 2019:

I would like to point out a very interesting article on eater.com about Chope’s Restaurant. The article gives a detailed history of Chope’s, including the fact that it has been added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. It is one of the few restaurants in the United States to be so designated, largely because the qualifications for placement on the list are so rigorous. Chope’s has been run by the same family for over 100 years, and this is significant. One large factor for its designation, though, was Chope’s connection with the Braceros who worked on the nearby farms until the program ended in 1964. There are many reasons I recommend this article including the story of the Benavides family who owns Chope’s and insights about the food that they serve. Now the daughters of Jose (Chope) and Guadalupe (Lupe) Benavides operate the restaurant, and they have been faced with what is at times an onslaught of customers because of the publicity the restaurant has received on web sites and media. They also talk about the possible future direction of the restaurant.

Update Oct. 2019:

After visiting several New Mexican restaurants in 2018 and 2019 I just want to make a few comments about Chope’s. I consider this to be one of the best in the state, and definitely the best for the chile relleno as well as a very good choice for a relleno/ enchilada/ sopaipilla combination. There are very few cases where I think the green chile would be my first choice, but I make it a point to order it at Chope’s during harvest season (Sep. & Oct.).

Nellie’s in Las Cruces is my other Southern NM favorite, but here I usually order the stuffed sopapilla. People I know are divided about whether they like the red enchiladas better at Nellie’s or at Chope’s, but I think these are generally considered to be the two best places for them in the Las Cruces area.

The food in northern NM is very different in several ways. There my favorite item is usually the blue corn red enchiladas, which I think are better than the enchiladas I have had in the southern part of the state. Although I personally do not generally like the green enchiladas as much as the red, this is where I think the south is more competitive with the northern versions (even though southern NM serves regular corn tortillas instead of the blue one). During harvest season (September and October) I think Chope’s green enchiladas may even be better than the red ones, but the truth is that any time of the year the green enchiladas here are some of the best in the state.

I have tried several restaurants in the north recently, and these are the ones where I have found the best blue corn red enchiladas:

  • Mary & Tito’s in Albuquerque has one that is excellent, but I particularly like the one with meat (not a style of enchilada sauce that is generally found in the south).
  • El Bruno’s in Cuba, NM so far is tied for the best non-meat sauce I have found in the north, and I would say also in the state. I tried the meat sauce at El Bruno’s also, but I thought that for this Mary & Tito’s was superior.
  • Tomasita’s in Santa Fe was tied with El Bruno’s for my favorite red enchiladas (I was not able to try The Shed, La Choza, or restaurants in other cities such as Taos or Chimayo which are highly recommended, so this is not yet a scientific sample that will allow me to claim that I have found “the best”).

RATING: 26

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Lunch 11:30 to 1:30; Dinner 5:30 to 8:30; Closed Sun. & Mon. (Open all day on Sat.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, Wine, Mixed Drinks

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 14, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Chiles Rellenos, Red Enchiladas, Green Enchiladas, Stuffed Sopaipilla, Salsa, Sopaipillas

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Special Ratings
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Stuffed Sopaipilla
star 5 Beans
star 4 Rice
star 4 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 5 Sopaipillas

 

Menu (Jul. 2019):

Charcoaler–El Paso, TX

Charcoaler Drive-In
5837 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 581-0660
Charcoaler's new indoor dining room

Charcoaler’s new indoor dining room


Charcoaler Drive-In has a long history in El Paso, and originally had locations on Montana as well as the present location on Mesa. It was definitely one of my favorite places for hamburgers in town, and was modeled after the Charcoal Oven in Oklahoma City which was one of my frequent haunts during high school and afterwards. The original owners of Charcoaler were friends of the people who operated the OKC Charcoal Oven, and apparently there was a sharing of the methodology used to cook the burgers and to make the barbecue sauce which is popular at the Charcoaler.

Both of these restaurants were drive-through only, and they provided awnings where you could eat in the car. The Charcoal Oven in Oklahoma City is now closed, and at about the same time the Charcoaler in El Paso closed as well. The current Charcoaler reopened with a new owner, and has adopted what I think is a better restaurant model where there is now an indoor dining room in addition to the original awnings. There is also an outdoor patio which I think was there all along. The dining room and patio have picnic tables which I find very hard to negotiate, but at least it is a step in the right direction (and the continued success of some of the Charcoal Oven’s competitors in Oklahoma City demonstrates that many find the indoor dining room concept more comfortable than having to eat in the car).

The flavor of charcoal broiled burgers, though, is the main attraction of Charcoaler and similar restaurants. At Charcoaler you get the flavor of hamburgers cooked over charcoal (although I do not know the exact process they use). In Oklahoma City they use natural gas to augment the cooking process, and I assume the same is done here. The bottom line is that you do not get the same flavor as with hamburgers that are cooked on the normal type of flat grill.

The drive-through menu

The drive-through menu

There is still a drive-through entrance at the restaurant where you can order from the car, and the food is the same whether it get it the traditional way or from the new sit-down dining room which you can access through what used to be the exit only driveway to Mesa Street. I much prefer the sit-down arrangement, mainly because you place your order directly with a person rather than through a speaker. Charcoaler has a second location on Airway Boulevard which I have not tried, but which I assume has a dining room as well.

When the original Charcoaler closed I thought it was gone forever, but the new owner who revived the restaurant has fortunately kept the same food, and seems to have expanded the menu a little bit while keeping all the old classics. The main difference I find now is in the size of the hamburgers. Although a burger and fries would technically put this restaurant in the $ cost category, I need two sandwiches (two burgers, a burger and another sandwich, etc.) to feel full. This puts it in the $$ category, which I think is realistic for what most customers will spend.

The double burger is also very popular, and I think even with a drink and fries would keep it in the $ category. The double burger still has a small bun, though, and I prefer to have two of the small sandwiches which would not only have more bun but also more of the barbecue sauce or other toppings which are one of the big reasons I come here. In any case, the difference in price is not that great.

The Burgers

Regular burger

Burger with cole slaw

The Hamburger is the main attraction here. I find both the charcoal broiled style of cooking and the barbecue sauce to make it a special treat. The one shown in the photo is the “Junior Hamburger” (with a single patty). Its diameter is not much larger than the container of cole slaw I ordered, but it does have a good flavor.

The restaurant tries to encourage people to order a double patty because this will be more filling, but it is still on the same sized bun. Whether I get a single or a double, though, I have always ordered them with the barbecue sauce. This sauce is much like the sauce used in many Oklahoma City hamburger restaurants, but I believe its actual origin was the (now closed) Charcoal Oven.

There is always the traditional mustard, mayonnaise, etc. available for those who prefer it this way.

For a side dish I recommend the French Fries. I did not order this on my recent visits but I had a sample courtesy of my dining companion, and I was impressed by the flavor and lack of greasiness.

The Cole Slaw I ordered was a little lackluster in the flavor department and of course it will not fill you up the way the french fries will do. I suppose it is more healthy, but the issue for me is that there are many restaurants in El Paso that have better cole slaw than here, but only a small number that have better fries.

Other Sandwiches

Hot dog

Hot dog

A single patty burger does not seem to be enough food, and for me a hot dog is just enough extra to make this a full meal. Because of the charcoal broiling I think this is a better tasting hot dog than most. It is good with either the barbecue sauce or the chili (this is Texas style chili rather than the “chile” they have in New Mexico).

Black bean burger

Black bean veggie burger

I tried the Black Bean Veggie Burger, but to me there were so many things wrong with it that it is likely off of my list of possible choices in the future. On the flavor I think there was something wrong with the way it was composed–probably all the ingredients were good but the way they were combined was not quite right. I like black beans as a filler in a veggie burger but perhaps there was a little too much of it here. The consistency was really the worst part, though, because it fell apart and did not hold together as a patty should. The patty had a very sharp taste which I found to be improved by the barbecue sauce which I ordered as a topping.

The other choices from the menu are limited but they do have chicken and fish sandwiches, as well as caldillo and burritos.

My only holdover recommendation from the old restaurant that I have not tried at the new one is the milk shake, but the iced tea is very good as well (and it is easy to get refills when you eat in the dining room or the patio). Theoretically those using the drive-through get free refills on tea or soft drinks as well, but I found the logistics of it to be a little difficult.

Additional Comments
I believe the food is the same as it was at the “old” Charcoaler, except for the fact that the sandwiches are smaller. Many like the double burger, but an alternative would be to get two small sandwiches if you want to get what I consider to me a normal sized meal.

Although the drive-through lane has been the way people have been placing their orders since the restaurant opened, I believe the new indoor dining room which opened in summer 2019 makes Charcoaler much more attractive and much more customer friendly. For me the best choice here is the hamburger (and this is what most people order), but there are still many variables with the toppings, side orders, and choices of other sandwiches that make the dining room an easier way to order as well as likely a more comfortable dining experience.

I grew up with the type of charcoal broiled burgers they serve here. The more I travel, though, the more I find this style of burger to still be one of the best, and I am happy that it is available in El Paso.


Charcoaler Web Site


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Hamburgers
Cost: $$
Hours: Ope Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking (in the dining room and patio areas)
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 12, 2019
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Hamburger, French Fries

Special Ratings
star 5 Hamburger
star 4 Hot Dog
star 3 Veggie Burger
star 5 French Fries
star 4 Cole Slaw