G&R–El Paso, TX

G&R Restaurant
401 E. Nevada Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 546-9343
G&R Restaurant

G&R Restaurant


G&R (also known as Gonzalo’s G&R) Restaurant is one of El Paso’s “classic” restaurants, having been in operation since 1960. The original restaurant was located on Myrtle Avenue near Kansas Street. My first experience with G&R was in 1977 after it had moved to Nevada Avenue. One of the original owners’ children operated a branch on Pebble Hills for a while, while their daughter continues to operate what is now the restaurant’s only location.

G&R serves traditional border style Mexican food, which I would say is highly influenced by cooking styles in northern Mexico but modified by what is locally available in the El Paso area. G&R also seems to have a strong connection with New Mexico in the chiles it uses. The enchiladas are among the spiciest ones served in El Paso, and other items such as the chile con queso are on the spicy side as well. The salsa is one of the spiciest and most flavorful in the city as well.

In the past I asked how they made the beans, and they said with lard (I assume they still are). This is another indication of traditional El Paso style Mexican food, although a number of restaurants have switched to vegetable oil because it is considered to be healthier and it really has little effect on the food’s flavor.

The dining room is really not designed to accommodate a huge crowd, and the restaurant is not located on a major street where a lot of people would notice it passing by, but it seems to thrive on loyal customers who consider it a favorite neighborhood hangout. In my case the “neighborhood” is the downtown area where I used to work, and G&R was definitely one of my favorite places located nearby.

Appetizers

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa are part of every meal here, and I think the Salsa is especially notable. It is fresh, flavorful, and spicy (and if you are like me you will make a special effort to take home any leftovers).

Caldo

Caldo

Some restaurants use Caldo as an appetizer, serving customers a small bowl with every meal. At G&R it comes in a rather substantial serving and is considered a meal, although a lighter meal than many other menu items.

I particularly like the Chile con Queso here (compared to the ones at other restaurants). This comes with a very spicy green chile, and is one of the items with a notable New Mexico flavor. This can be ordered as an appetizer, but is also one of the items on the combination plates.

Enchiladas

Tri-color enchiladas

Tri-color enchiladas

If you order an enchilada plate, I would particularly recommend the Tri-Colored Cheese Enchiladas. This includes red, green, and a sour cream enchilada. Unlike some other restaurants the sour cream enchilada does not have red or green chile on it, there is just the flavor of the cheese, sour cream, etc. I would not be overly enthusiastic about an order of sour cream enchiladas by themselves, but with other enchiladas that have chile on top the sour cream makes a good flavor combination.

I think the general rule here is that the green chile is spicier than the red (thus the green enchilada would be the spiciest one). Both colors are spicy compared to most other restaurants in El Paso, and I think both of them have a good flavor (on the Tri-Color plate I particularly liked the green chile but most of the time I order the red and I think this is very good as well).

I think the rice and beans are both five-star quality, and it is important to note that all the elements of a meal here are good, and not just the main dish.

Combination Plate

Mexican plate special

Mexican plate special

Several combination plates are available, but the Mexican Plate Special has two of G&R’s best items–a red enchilada and a chile relleno. The Chile Relleno has a thick breading which I like (these are very non-greasy) and the chile inside the breading has a good flavor. They do not seem to be consistent about the sauce on top of the chile relleno–I have seen red, green, and New Mexico style (no sauce). I did not note that any of these had a better flavor than the others. I also did not note the type of cheese that was inside so it must have been the standard cheese that most restaurants use.

The Taco is traditional Ciudad Juarez style and is very flavorful. For me its negative point is that it has cumin (but I think restaurants in Ciudad Juarez typically do it this way).

The Guacamole had a good taste but was surprisingly bland considering the flavor of the rest of the food.

One alternative to this is the Super Special Plate which omits the taco and adds chile con queso. To me it is well worth the extra cost (25 cents more than the Mexican Special Plate on the current menu). I have not ordered it on a recent visit, though, and therefore I do not have a photo that I can show.

An Overview
For a while the food at G&R seemed inconsistent, but all of my recent visit have been consistently excellent. I have been for both lunch and dinner, and the food seems to be the same all the time.

I am the happiest here when I can get a combination plate that has a number of items (this is because everything is quite good). The only thing I do not mind skipping is the taco and this is because it has cumin (the owner confirmed to me that this is one of the ingredients). I did not know until recently that cumin is one of the ingredients in much of the classic Ciudad Juarez style food, and apparently its use is widespread in El Paso restaurants (especially the tacos). Unlike some other bloggers I do not gag at the thought of eating cumin, but like them I can say that cumin is not my first choice of flavoring for Mexican food.

The red enchiladas here are about on par with most other restaurants in town, but the green enchiladas are a rarity because they are spicy and have a flavor like the ones in New Mexico (I think this is because of the chiles G&R uses versus the ones used by most restaurants). The chile con queso is another excellent item here, and I think uses New Mexico green chile as its base.

I will make a note that at times the enchiladas are close to a five on the chile heat level, and this is in line with New Mexico restaurants where the spiciness depends on the chile crop that year.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Has a bar (I am not sure what drinks are served)

Most Recent Visit: Oct. 30, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Green Enchiladas, Chiles Rellenos, Salsa, Chile con Queso

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Lard (the last time I asked)

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Sour Cream Enchiladas
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 4 Guacamole
star 5 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 5 Chile con Queso
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Ripe–El Paso, TX

Ripe Eatery
910 E. Redd Rd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 584-7473
Ripe

Ripe


The genre of “New American” restaurants has become very popular in El Paso, but Ripe was one of the original ones in the city and I think helped to create the market which many other restaurants are now filling. I have had a hard time defining exactly what “New American” means other than that it is different from restaurants which serve traditional American food. Having the “New” in the name allows the chefs to experiment and combine American food with other cuisine in some cases (in the case of Ripe I think there is a very large Italian influence). When Ripe first opened I read articles about the brother and sister team who opened the restaurant, and the one theme which dominated was their passion about good food and their desire to share it with the city.

One of the core principles at Ripe’s founding was to provide a la carte orders cooked in small batches made from the freshest ingredients. The “a la carte” portion of this directive has some flexibility, because there is a wide range of choices including full dinners, sandwiches, and small plates. The “freshest ingredients” aspect of the restaurant of course is a very good concept but it does create some difficulty in the sense that the menu changes all the time. They have seasonal menus, there are daily specials, and the regular items seem to change from time to time. When the restaurant first opened there was a large choice of panini sandwiches, but now there is only one that is offered. A waiter told me that if I wanted a certain type of panini I could request it (and if they could make it they would). It seems that in most instances, though, it is best to go with whatever is on the menu at the moment because these make use of their fresh and seasonal ingredients.

Some of the items I liked are listed as “Best Items,” although they may or may not ever again be listed on the menu. The menu is constantly changing, but the quality of food does not. Everything here has a high quality which I really appreciate, and so far they have flavored the food in a way that I appreciate as well. Combined with the top notch service, I generally feel that it is worth the money even though it is sometimes in the upper range of the $$ price level or higher if you consider drinks, desserts, etc.

The international aspect of the menu is also a good feature. In the past some of my favorite items were the panini and the Moroccan vegetable tagine. The only caveat is that they do not consistently serve any particular item, and I would say this particularly applies to the international dishes.

Drinks

Stout beer

Stout beer

It is not unusual for restaurants in El Paso to offer beer, but it is unusual for them to offer anything that would entice me to order it–especially ones that come in a can. This generally happens when they have craft beer, local brews, or some unusual labels I cannot find anywhere else. On a visit to Wisconsin I found a local brand that was good enough to make this my drink of choice at restaurants, but for me this is definitely not normally the case.

In El Paso, Ripe and Ardovino’s are the two restaurants that come to mind when I think I might want beer with the meal instead of my normal iced tea or other type of tea. This is because of the variety they serve and the quality of them. I want to emphasize, though, that this is not saying that Ripe and Ardovino’s are better than anyplace else, just that they had things that sounded interesting enough to make me want to try them.

Sandwiches

Black bean burger

Black bean burger with a Simple Salad

There are at least three advantages of ordering a sandwich at Ripe: (1) they are always on the menu, (2) it keeps you in the $$ price range, and (3) the ones I have tried have been better than at other restaurants. In the case of the Black Bean Burger I am not sure that this is the best I have had anywhere, but I do think it is one of the best in the city. The one I ordered here was a Tuesday special, but I think this meant it was at a lower price rather than that they only serve it on Tuesday. I liked the fact that it was slightly spicy but they were not using the spice to try to bump up the flavor (there was flavor enough from the fresh ingredients). The Simple Salad that came with it was fresh and had a good flavor.

BLTA

Bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado sandwich on the Summer Seasonal Menu

I ordered a BLTA from the Summer Seasonal Menu, and it turned out to be one of my favorite sandwiches. I will have to say that even adding the “A” (avocado) to the traditional BLT does not fully describe it–the menu lists toasted ciabatta, bacon, pepper jack, avocado, chipotle mayo, lettuce, and fried green tomatoes. In terms of flavor I think what I appreciated the most over the traditional BLT was the cheese. The chipotle mayo was something about which I was wary, but it turned out to be very good with just the right amount of kick. The avocado was fresh but not so soft that it oozed out of the sides to make a messy meal as well as a tasty one. On the bacon they did a good job of making it just a little bit crispy so that it still had most of its flavor but I did not feel as if I were eating something greasy and soggy (usually I prefer bacon that is crispy rather than soft).

Ripe is known for its burgers, which account for the majority of sandwiches they serve. Burgers are not usually high on my wish list, but what I have heard about the ones here must mean that they are very high quality.

In the past one of my favorite items here was the Panini. There is currently only one type of panini on the menu, but a waiter indicated that you might be able to make a special request if there was a certain type of sandwich you wanted. I think that at some point this will be worth a try.

Dinners

Swedish meatballs on the fall seasonal menu

Swedish meatballs on the Fall Seasonal Menu

Large plates do not really seem to be Ripe’s specialty, but they do offer some such as the Swedish Meatballs on the Fall Seasonal Menu. It is apparently served every year and thus could be considered one of Ripe’s regular items. I had been looking forward to trying it since I heard about it, although perhaps I built it up too much in my mind because it turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. The sauce was good, and although it was similar to stroganoff dinners I thought this was better than most stroganoff dishes I have tried. The meatballs seemed somewhat dry, though, and it did not have much flavor contrast to the overwhelming amount of sauce that it contained. I certainly cannot say that this was a bad dish at all, but it was just a little less than I expected from something this expensive and which I had anticipated for so long.

Remembering the Past
Over the years the menu seems to have undergone a fairly extensive transformation, and I would say the major change is that there are now fewer choices offered. The specials now served make up for this somewhat, but it used to be that I could order my favorite items any time I went, and this is much less the case now.

Some of the highlights from the past include a delicious Stuffed Chicken and a Moroccan style Vegetable Tagine. Panini is still available, and I was told that some additional types of sandwich may be available by special order. However it was the vegetable panini (which is no longer on the menu) that I particularly enjoyed. I was very impressed in the past by the Asparagus and I think this is likely still available on some of the seasonal or special menus.

It is my understanding that Ripe has a different owner than it did when the brother and sister team were running it, and this would certainly explain why the menu seems to now be focused on different things. I still like many of the items here, but all of my favorites are still from the old menu.

Other Comments
I think many aspects of Ripe that were true in the “old days” are still true now, and this is a reason Ripe is still one of the city’s most popular restaurants. One thing I believe is still true is that there are many menu items that are good for takeout and that can be successfully reheated later for an excellent dinner. They used to have a full-fledged deli, and although this is no longer the case I still would think this is a good place for take-out items.

When Ripe first opened it was very big on Italian food. I thought the cheese was especially good, and I liked dishes such as the pizza, lasagna, and panini. The veggie pizza, for instance, was piled high with vegetables instead of the typical sprinkling you get at many pizza restaurants–the one here was not very traditional but it was very good. I still think that anything Italian at Ripe would be very good.

I used to consider Ripe to be the best place in town for vegetarian dishes after Kern Place Market closed. Now the vegetarian choices seem to be much more limited, although the quality here is still excellent and the black bean burger I had recently was good.

Ripe has a breakfast restaurant next door called Ripe Sunrise Cafe, and between the two you can eat from 6:30 in the morning until 10:00 pm (it closes at 3:00 pm on Sunday). I do not know if the breakfast menu was added recently or whether it has been here for some time, but I think it would be worth checking out.

After several recent visits my main takeaways here are (1) the service is always excellent and notably good compared to most El Paso restaurants, and (2) it is almost always best to get whatever is on special (i.e. at a price that is lower than the regular menu price)–here a lower price does not mean lower quality, it just means that you do not pay as much.


Ripe Web Site


RATING: 24

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

Most Recent Visit: Oct. 28, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: BLTA, Veggie Burger

Special Ratings
star 5 Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Avocado
star 5 Black Bean Veggie Burger

Peppe’s–Canutillo, TX

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

Peppe’s Restaurant


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

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

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

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

Peppe's menu

Peppe’s menu modeled after the former Griggs Restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salsa and Appetizers

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

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

Radio salsa sampler

Radio FREE Salsa Sampler

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

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

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

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

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

Combination Plates

Combination Plate No. 3

Combination Plate No. 3 with green enchilada instead of red

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

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

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

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

Green Enchiladas

Green enchiladas are New Mexico style

Green enchiladas are New Mexico style

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

Red Enchiladas

Red enchiladas with an egg on top

Red enchiladas with an egg on top

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

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

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

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

Chile con Queso Dishes

Chicken breast with chile con queso

Chicken breast with chile con queso

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

Noonday Combinations

Noonday Combination

Noonday Combination with items from both C and D

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

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

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

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

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

There is a full cantina (bar) here, but Peppe says he is keeping a family atmosphere (there are no TV’s or loud music playing although you can sometimes watch football games without the sound playing).

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

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

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

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


RATING: 25

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

Most Recent Visit: Oct. 20, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Green Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Tostada Compuesta, Red Enchiladas, Grilled Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso, ICX (chopped steak with chile con queso), Slaw, Beans

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

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

 

Menu (May 2019):

India Hut–El Paso, TX

India Hut
4410 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 260-9900
India Hut

India Hut


I know that many Indian people believe in reincarnation, and if this principle applies to buildings there is probably no better example in El Paso than the one that now houses India Hut. A number of restaurants have operated in this building over the years, and one that I particularly remember was Asia Garden which was here in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s serving a foretaste of what has turned into a trend of authentic and very good Chinese food in El Paso.

An Indian buffet is actually a very good use of the building which for some unknown reason is long and narrow, allowing the placement of tables on one side of the main dining room and the buffet line on the other. What is not so efficient is the fact that the parking lot surrounds the building, yet only those who find spots on the north side are situated near the restaurant’s one and only entrance (although there is an emergency exit at the south end).

India Hut is in good company with other restaurants which have repurposed a former restaurant with another one which is just as good or even better than before. I put up with quirks in the architecture or layout of the building in order to get good food, and those who are familiar with my reviews are probably aware that this many times involves humble surroundings rather than the city’s fanciest new buildings (although good food is non-discriminatory and may be found in all types of restaurants).

One other part of the story is that Indian food has always seemed to be very popular in El Paso, yet there have traditionally been very few choices for it in the city. In my opinion it has been better quality and less Americanized than many of the ethnic cuisines served, and business has seemed to be good at the Indian restaurants that have been here over the years. For some reason, though, most of them do not seem to last for a long time. India Hut is one that seems to be doing things right–it delivers good quality for the money. Of course this is no guarantee that the restaurant will have staying power but things look hopeful.

The Buffet

The buffet at India Hut

The buffet at India Hut

At times the buffet is the only type of food available, including Sunday lunch (at other times it is also possible to order from the menu). I am not usually a fan of Indian buffets because the food is usually nowhere near the spice levels that should be found in Indian food. In the case of India Hut there usually seem to be one or two items that are more spicy than the others, and they are about as spicy as I would order them from the menu. This alone makes the buffet at Indian Hut better than most I have tried.

The flavor of the food from India Hut’s buffet is generally very good. Here there are generally one or two items that I think fall short, while at many buffets it is the opposite (I can only find one or two items that I really like).

As of this date I have been to India Hut twice, so I cannot make blanket statements about the consistency of the food. What I can say is that both visits have been consistent in the fact that I liked several of the items. They have not been consistent, though, concerning which items these were. On the first visit one of the servers told me he had cooked the navratan korma, and this was one of the items I liked the best. On the second visit I did not like this item as much, and I did not see that particular server at the restaurant (so I assume the korma was cooked by someone else).

More than half of the clientele I saw in the restaurant appeared to be of Indian ethnicity, and it is always a good sign when a restaurant is popular with the people it is supposed to represent. I did think it had a good flavor, although most of the items were not as spicy as I think many Indian people prefer.

One area which was disappointing was their chutney and pickle selection. This has been a deficit in many of El Paso’s Indian restaurants, and is something I use as a test of Indian restaurants. Until recently I thought India Palace did not have them, but I discovered that it is available at an extra cost. At India Hut there are a couple of chutney/pickle varieties available on the buffet, but the ones I tried were so sweet and non-potent in the spicy category that I do not consider them to be true chutneys (they may be authentic, but just not the kind I need to spice up Indian food).

The Naan is one of the most important elements of an Indian meal, and the one here was excellent. They mostly serve garlic naan and at times I have had to wait for the plain one, but they serve it eventually.

Chai is available here, and they have a fruit flavored iced tea that I like. They give one free refill on the chai, and I am not sure about the sweet tea.

The price and quality of the buffet are good enough that I probably would question the desirability of ordering from the menu instead, although if you go for Sunday lunch (and I think any day at lunch time) the buffet is the only option.

Buffet Items

Items from the buffet

Navratan korma, channa masala, spinach tadka, dal makhni

In my two trips to the restaurant there has been very little variation in the buffet items served. The photo shows some of the items I tried on a Sunday buffet. At another buffet they added tadka dal and they had black lentils instead of the dal makhni, but other items were the same including the korma, channa masala, rice, naan, etc.

One of the biggest things I noticed, though, is that some of the items had different flavors and different spice levels on my different dining experiences. There was not really a difference in overall quality, but just that different items were ones I liked best on different trips. For instance, on my first visit the Channa Masala and Navratan Korma were my favorite items. On the second visit the Tadka Dal was the best item, while others that I liked before were somewhat of a disappointment (such as the channa masala).

Thus I really should not write a description of individual items because they seem to change from one visit to another. With a buffet you can sample different items and than get more of the ones you like, so I think this system works pretty well. Overall I liked the food but I was disappointed that only one or two of them were spicy enough for my taste (my sample was mostly of the vegetarian items). I do like the selection of vegetarian items that they offer (the number of choices is about equal to the meat items).

Drinks
On one of my visits they did not have chai (the owner was not there and no one else could make it). Instead I had a fruit flavored iced tea that was very good and turned out to be much better than it sounded when they described it as “sweet tea.” When I had the chai on another visit I thought the flavor was not as good as the one at India Palace, but they give one free refill and I think this is a good drink to have with the meal.

Other Comments
The positive about the buffet here is that almost everything has a really good flavor, and at least one or two of the items on each visit have been spicy enough for me. They do not have a problem with leaving the food sitting until it gets cold, and the price is good. For now I will probably always eat from the buffet until I can find something I like well enough to order from the menu.

My favorite items have been different on each visit, but there have always been items that I thought were very good. In figuring out an overall evaluation of the restaurant, though, it is not only the flavor which should be considered but also the quality and healthfulness of the food. Indian food is definitely one of the ones I feel best about eating, and India Hut has well prepared food on the buffet which gives a good choice of items to try.


India Hut Web Site


RATING: 23

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

Most Recent Visit: Oct. 13, 2019
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Tadka Dal, Navratan Korma

Special Ratings
star 5 Tadka Dal
star 5 Navratan Korma
star 5 Spinach Tadka

Peter’s–El Paso, TX

Peter’s German Grill & Bakery
255 Shadow Mountain Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 626-6368
Peter's German Grill

Peter’s German Grill


The owner of Peter’s (whose name you can guess) was formerly a baker at Lo Mart Supermarket, a grocery store that had a large selection of German baked goods and other items imported from Europe (and is a store I have missed since it closed). Fortunately, though, Peter’s German Grill and Bakery goes a long way in filling the void, except for the fact that Lo Mart used to be on both the west and east side while there is only one Peter (who is located on the west side on Shadow Mountain Dr.).

Peter operates a German restaurant that mainly serves bratwurst and schnitzel, although I know that some other items are available as well (the web site lists two other types of Wurst). Side dishes are available, and there are daily specials Monday through Saturday. Most of what I have tried so far has been because it was the daily special.

The bakery is similar to Marina’s Bakery on the east side, except here there is a greater selection of breads while Marina’s mostly serves pastries. Each of these bakeries gives you a good selection of both, though.

Peter kept telling me that Friday night is the beer special night (I think it is half price) but I have yet to check it out. So far, though, I have found more than enough to keep me interested in coming back.

Bratwurst

Bratwurst

Bratwurst

Bratwurst is one of the specialties of the restaurant, and it is obvious that Peter takes care in finding a good source and in cooking it the right way. The one here is grilled, resulting in an excellent flavor of an already good sausage. Sauerkraut is served on top (onions are also available), and all around it is excellent.

After several visits I have come to the conclusion that the Sauerkraut is one of the things I appreciate most about the food here, and that this is one of the best versions I have found anywhere. The two things that are important for a good sauerkraut are freshness and flavor, and Peter has both of them nailed.

A very good Potato Salad is served as part of the daily special deal on Wednesday, or you can order it separately any time (including Monday when the bratwurst sandwich is half price). The potato salad is served cold. I have been told that it is prepared in house daily, and this is evident by its freshness.

Peter has several types of mustard which you can try out to your heart’s content, but the one I have found to be the best is the coarse mustard. Marina’s Bakery is the place in town that I think has the best German mustard, and I really like their bratwurst better overall except perhaps for the sauerkraut (I haven’t had Marina’s in a while and I am really impressed with the sauerkraut at Peter’s).

Jagerschnitzel

Jagerschnitzel

Jagerschnitzel

Jagerschnitzel is one of the variations of schnitzel served here, and the mushroom gravy covering the meat lived up to my expectations (as did the meat).

Marina’s does not serve jagerschnitzel, but it is a popular item at The German Pub. Personally I think the one at Peter’s is better because of the flavor of the sauce, but both Peter’s and The German Pub have an excellent jagerschnitzel.

Pretzels

Pretzel

German style pretzel

One feature at Peter’s is that they have German style Pretzels made with rye, covered with rock salt, and served with butter. Like all of the bread it is fresh and baked in house.

Bread

Cranberry and walnut bread

Cranberry and walnut bread

After trying the Cranberry and Walnut Bread I have made it a point to buy more every time I go back. This is one of my favorite things to eat at home for snacks or as part of breakfast–the sweetness is just right but it is not to the point that you will get a sugar high from it.

For those who like bread with fruit and nuts, I would honestly say I have tried quite a few of them and this one, along with the cranberry and walnut at Whole Foods (and a similar bread at Bella Cora) are the best. My favorite of all of them, though, is Peter’s.

Pastries

Black forest

Black forest

The Black Forest has a very nice cherry filling with a liqueur flavor along with a very fresh cake and European style (not too sweet) cream topping. This is definitely one of the best I have tried (I would say probably the best).

I should mention that Peter has quite a few other desserts, but I am so stuck on the Black Forest that this is the one I like to buy.

Drinks
There is a large variety of specialty drinks in the cooler (I think many are from Europe) that include some I have tried and would recommend. The drink I usually buy is the canned pink lemonade (I think it is by Minute Maid).

Peter does not have a drink fountain (Coke, etc.) and does not serve iced tea. Beer is available, though.

Other Comments
This is a German deli with a very impressive selection of schnitzel and wurst, but overall the menu is not as extensive as would be found in most German restaurants. The quality of the food at Peter’s is very good, and of course there are other perks such as the pastries.

The daily special on Wednesday is especially good if you go with a friend. You get two bratwurst sandwiches with a side dish (such as potato salad), two drinks, and two desserts for the current price of $20 (I figure when you add up the prices of everything if it were purchased individually, the desserts are almost free). All of the daily specials seem to be good deals, though, and all of them are for one person except on Wednesday.

In addition to being a restaurant and a bakery, this is also quite a good store for German and European foods (and I think Peter expanded it in 2019). I do not think the selection is like it was at the old Lo Mart, but it is getting very close.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: German
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer

Most Recent Visit: Oct. 12, 2019
Number of Visits: 7
Best Items: Jagerschnitzel, Bratwurst, Cranberry and Walnut Bread, German Pretzel, Black Forest

Special Ratings
star 5 Bratwurst
star 5 Jagerschnitzel
star 5 Potato Salad
star 5 Pretzel
star 5 Cranberry & Walnut Bread
star 5 Black Forest

Great American (Mesa Hills)–El Paso, TX

Great American Steakburger
701 S. Mesa Hills Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 585-7873
Great American on Mesa Hills

Great American Land & Cattle Company opened in 1977 on Alabama Street, and serves steaks that may be comparable to the ones at the more well-known Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs, east of the city. Great American’s claim to fame is probably its signature seasoning that is used on all steaks and is available for sale to take home. Equally important, though, is the quality of the steaks that makes this a “destination” restaurant for El Paso, rivaling some of the well-known Mexican restaurants in popularity.

Some of the Great American locations have the names “Steakhouse” or “Land and Cattle Company,” but they are all part of the same group. Great American Steakburger’s web site explains that the Mesa Hills location is one of the five restaurants originally started by the Nunn’s (Great American’s founders), but that it is now owned by Chris and Theresa Green. Chris started working at Great American in 1978, and opened the first Great American Steakburger on Yarbrough in 1985 (the Yarbrough and Mesa Hills restaurants are the two locations now open). There are three Great American Steakhouses with the original being in Vinton (near Anthony, TX). The Great American Land & Cattle Company restaurants have different web site addresses for the Alabama Street and Gateway North locations, so I believe these are under separate ownership.

While the various owners of the Great American restaurants have their own take on the food and their own ways of cooking, the overall quality has remained relatively consistent between the various locations I have tried. I believe the steaks on Mesa Hills to be as good as at the other locations, if not better. It does have some items I have not found at the other restaurants such as the Kobe burger. Also I am not sure that all the other locations have the chicken tampiqueña or green chile chicken sandwiches, which are two of my favorite items here.

I used to look forward to the times I could make the long drive to Fabens to eat at Cattleman’s Steakhouse, and I thought the steaks there had a better flavor of natural beef with little need to add salt or other seasonings. This was in contrast to the Great American on Alabama Street (near my old neighborhood) that seemed to add so much seasoning I could hardly taste the steak. Great American has a famous (and probably patented) seasoning that is delicious, but the Mesa Hills location used it in more moderate amounts that I thought gave the meat a better flavor.

One of the employees told me the bad news about the Mesa Hills location was that they did not have a liquor license, although the restaurant has a bar from the days when it was a Griggs Restaurant location. Great American does serve beer and wine, but I have always thought iced tea was a more appropriate drink with this type of food.

Steaks
Several cuts of steak are served, with a medium sized selection compared to most steak houses. One feature I like about Great American is that smaller cuts are available (and I believe all the locations will allow two people to split a steak). Personally I have to go on a night I am really hungry to be able to handle one of the small steaks by myself.

10 oz New York strip

10 oz New York strip

New York Strip Steak is one of the cuts that I was able to get in a small version (10 oz.). As may be evident from the photo, this was a thick steak that had very little in the way of fat. This was the only cut that the menu described as “USDA Aged Choice Beef.” Using some of the well regarded steak restaurants in Oklahoma as my benchmark, the steak here was slightly gristly, but Great American served a well cooked steak with just about as much flavor as would be expected. The steak here was also considerably less expensive than some of the ones in Oklahoma. The key here was the value– this was pretty close to high end quality served at mid-range prices. The seasoning that in years past (and at the original restaurant) was the main reason I avoided Great American in favor of the long trek to Cattleman’s, now has become a flavor enhancer instead of a detriment.

I also enjoyed the large selection of sides that were served with the steak which is pictured (a vegetable, mashed potato, rice, or steak fries can be substituted for the baked potato).

Filet

Filet

I was also able to get a photo of the filet that a friend of mine ordered, and it was reported to be very good.

Steakburgers

Steakburger with green chile and cheese

Steakburger with green chile and cheese

The restaurant has long highlighted its namesake, the Steakburger. This is a thick, juicy, ground steak that provides both a smaller and less expensive meal for those times when customers do not want to order a steak. Great American takes great pride in the quality of the meat served, and deservedly so. The meat patty was so thick that this really amounted to a steak as much as a burger. Great American offers a choice of American cheese or Monterey Jack. I remember thinking that the burger was not cooked quite the way I ordered it, but I am more particular about burgers than steaks.

I ordered the steakburger with green chile and cheese partly to compare with the ones I had at Jaxon’s, and partly because the green chile cheeseburger has become a highly sought delicacy along the Rio Grande, with the joy of discovering a good one equal to or greater than the excitement in experiencing a great enchilada, chile relleno, or carne adovada. The green chile and cheese were more flavor enhancers than the main point of the burger, and in fact I think this burger would have been just about as good with mustard, barbecue sauce, or a number of different toppings. The green chile and cheese were fresh, but somehow the experience fell short of the ones I used to have at Jaxon’s (Jaxon’s also included mushrooms the Tampico sandwich which was their version of this dish). It is nice to have a version of the green chile cheeseburger here, but while I thought this was one of the better burgers in town I did not rate it as one of the top GCC versions I have tried.

Kobe burger

Kobe burger

In 2008 the Mesa Hills restaurant followed the lead of Great American in Albuquerque by offering Wagyu beef, raised only by approved ranchers following strict guidelines (and hopefully tasting the same as the Japanese Kobe beef). I found out the steak only comes in a large size, so I ordered the less expensive Kobe Steakburger. Gil’s Thrilling Blog gave an excellent report about the Wagyu beef at the Albuquerque Great American Steakhouse, and also noted the Duke City branch’s closing in 2008. The high regard Gil had for this restaurant is one that I share for the one in El Paso.

However, my reaction to the beef patty was not quite as positive as many have had for the steak. I did enjoy a very good burger, and it included the knowledge that I was eating the best quality beef (including the guildelines followed to keep the cattle off of hormones and antibiotics). I saw a group of people enjoying the Kobe steak, and it looked as if it would be a worthwhile experience. The size and price of it made it seem that the steak should be shared by at least two or three persons, but I do not fault people who want to keep it to themselves.

Great American recommends that the Kobe burger be cooked no more than medium, and also has guidelines for the steak to provide maximum flavor. I think with beef this good they do not want to cook all the juice out of it.

I should also point out that around 2008 many restaurants were calling their beef “Wagyu” or “Kobe,” but since that time the ranchers in Japan have taken a dim view of this. The beef at Great American may be a similar quality but I do not think they claim that it is real Kobe beef (it is still called Kobe on the menu, though).

Sandwiches

Chicken tampiquena sandwich

Chicken tampiqueña sandwich

Two items which I particularly like here are different types of chicken sandwiches. The Chicken Tampiqueña Sandwich is the one I think is best, and reminds me somewhat of the Tampico sandwich which used to be served at Jaxon’s (except that the one at Jaxon’s had mushrooms). To get this sandwich you order the chicken breast sandwich (which comes with pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes)  and get the tampiqueña upgrade (which gives you jack cheese, green chile, and onions). My experience has indicated that the most flavorful way to do it is just get the tampiqueña toppings and have them omit the ones from the chicken sandwich.

Green chile chicken sandwich

Green chile chicken sandwich

The Green Chile Chicken Sandwich is another good choice from the “Burgers & Sandwiches” menu. Technically it is the Green Chile Cheese Steakburger with chicken substituted for the beef. There is enough green chile served to cover the entire sandwich if desired, and this chile is spicy compared to the one in the tampiqueña sandwich. For me the tampiqueña is more flavorful and is my preference, but both sandwiches are a taste treat and include good quality green chile.

Other Items

Beer battered fish bites

Beer battered fish bites

“Other Items” is a catch phrase to describe anything that is not one of the restaurant’s specialties (steaks or sandwiches). At Great American there is not much on the menu that is not a steak or sandwich, but one choice is the Beer Battered Fish Bites. I was not much impressed with the batter but the fish is what I would call “OK for El Paso.” That is, I do not expect to find what would be available in a coastal city but the fish was good quality. It is just that the “beer batter” did not seem to have much flavor.

I have been told that the barbecue platters are very good, and there is a good selection of items.

Desserts

Key lime

Key lime

Great American has a good dessert selection including their “Mission Pies” (the entire purchase price is given to support both local and worldwide missions to spread the Word of Jesus Christ and to bring food and medical support for those in need). Key Lime Pie is one of the flavors which is always available (other types of pie are done as a flavor of the week). I was going to recommend the key lime anyway, but knowing about the cause it supports makes me more likely to order it whether I am really hungry for it or not (and when are we really so full that we cannot enjoy a good dessert?).

The Sides
One of the highlights of all the Great American restaurants is the side dishes that come with the steaks and other main dishes. The pineapple flavored Cole Slaw is probably the one generally considered to be the best side dish, and I will have to say that it has always been outstanding even when I have been somewhat disappointed with the main course. The cole slaw has a creamy sauce that the pineapple accents perfectly. The cabbage was fresh and tender as always, and everything came together so naturally it made me wonder why other restaurants do not produce their versions with as good a result as the one here. The Great American in Vinton seems to include more pineapple in the slaw and that is the one I prefer, but the one here is very good as well.

Another side dish has the nondescript name Great American Beans that are actually similar to ranch beans served at other restaurants. Actually I think just about any barbecue joint would be quite proud serving beans that tasted like the ones at Great American. For the beans I think this restaurant does a better job than the Great American in Vinton because the Tabasco sauce is not as pronounced (and the beans here have more of a traditional barbecue flavor).

The Baked Potato was excellent, but probably not a standout item like the other side dishes. Although I enjoyed the baked potato, I thought the steak fries (served with the steakburgers and optional with the steaks) were just about as good.

The Dinner Roll that came with the meal was as fresh and flavorful as the other items. All of these side dishes together probably equaled the steak as the most enjoyable part of the meal. This is good news since Great American has quite a few menu choices other than the steaks, so there is plenty of reason to try it on multiple occasions.

The Steak Fries that came with the burger were quite good, with Great American’s style of seasoning used for enhanced flavor.

A Summary
Although the steakburger would seem to be the restaurant’s best item based on it name “Great American Steakburger,” I believe the standouts are actually the steaks and the chicken sandwiches. Having green chile with the chicken sandwiches (either with the tampiqueña or the green chile sandwich) is even more of a treat because the chile here is local and prepared in such a way that not many places around the country know how to do it.

Overall this is my favorite of the Great American locations because they are more subtle on the seasoning (giving the steak a better flavor in my opinion) and with less Tabasco sauce in the beans. The one thing I like better at the other restaurants is the cole slaw, although it is good at this restaurant as well.


RATING: 24

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

Most Recent Visit: Oct. 6, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Chicken Tampiqueña Sandwich, New York Strip, Beans, Cole Slaw

 

Special Ratings
star 5 New York Strip
star 5 Chicken Tampiqueña Sandwich
star 5 Green Chile Chicken Sandwich
star 4 Steakburger
star 5 Kobe Steakburger
star 3 Fish Bites
star 5 Cole Slaw
star 5 Beans
star 5 Baked Potato