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 Salas

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