El Paso Restaurants that Closed Before I Could Write a Review (2019 Edition)

One goal of this blog is transparency–I try to review every restaurant I visit and give the good and bad features I find at each one. There are various reasons why I am unable to write a timely review of every restaurant, and I would say the main one is lack of time.

Sometimes I intentionally wait until I am able to make multiple visits or I think there is a good chance I will do so and have a better or more complete picture of the food. It is always a judgment call, but in my mind is always the idea that when a review is published it should present an accurate picture of a restaurant. Still, though, while there is a purpose for waiting to write some of the reviews, some are merely ones that fall through the cracks.

This article presents short summaries of the El Paso restaurants which closed in 2019 before I could write blog articles about them. At this point it does not really make sense to write reviews of restaurants which are already closed, but I did want to acknowledge their disappearance from the city’s restaurant scene.



7130 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX



Mehmaan was an Indian restaurant in Colony Cove on N. Mesa Street that I discovered in time to visit twice before it closed. It seemed to have problems with visibility, and even more problems with the parking once people found it (after years of experience with the Colony Cove shopping center I would be greatly surprised if people did not have problems with parking here).

Aloo matar and chicken curry

Aloo matar and chicken curry

I thought the main dishes here were excellent, although the naan was pretty lackluster. A friend and I ordered the aloo matar and chicken curry shown in the photo. To me the restaurant’s sign saying it was “Authentic Indian Cuisine” seemed truthful, and I thought this food was very good. I thought the spice level was good as well as the flavor. The restaurant seemed to have good business, although nothing like I have seen at Indian Hut since it opened (I think its opening pretty much coincided with Mehmaan’s closing).

The pricing was a bit of a problem here. The main dishes were reasonable, but I had to pay extra for naan, chai, and soup (at India Hut in the buffet you get the whole meal including naan for the same price that Mehmaan charged for just the main item). I did think that Mehmaan had food that was largely on par with the good Indian restaurants in larger cities, although with a few exceptions such as the naan.

Personally I questioned whether Mehmaan merited frequent visits because of the amount of my bill when they added all the extras I wanted in a meal. On the other hand, the food was very good. I felt like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof who kept debating about whether his daughter should marry a certain man and saying “on one hand…, but on the other hand…”, and went through this process quite a few times.  Ultimately I would have gone back to Mehmaan because I really like good Indian food, but apparently the majority of diners either disagreed or never had a chance to find this restaurant because it was so well hidden inside the catacombs of Colony Cove. There is still the good news that both India Hut and India Palace are on the west side and have good Indian food (at the moment I think India Hut offers the best bang for the buck but India Palace has my favorite dish which is the chana masala).


Just Fit Foods-Elevated

865 N. Resler Dr.
El Paso, TX

Elevated on Resler

Elevated on Resler

Elevated was a place that had prepared food that you take home and heat, but as the name implies it was several steps above what you typically find with this type of food. In fact, I have recently been getting prepared dinners at Sprouts but remembering that the ones at Elevated seemed to be a step above (originally called Just Fit, and later Just Fit Foods–Elevated).

I know the location on Resler is closed, but I am not sure about other locations. Google Maps shows a location at 2609 N. Mesa which only has a few recent comments, and Yelp lists a location on Montwood which does not have any comments later than 2017 (and I think must be closed). The Resler branch was convenient for me and I have not tried to seek out the others, but I was certainly impressed by the food.

Green chile chicken

Green chile chicken

The recipes seemed to be very innovative, and some did not have a flavor that I particularly wanted to try again, but others were quite good. I think my favorites were the green chile chicken and the juicy lucy. The latter was ground turkey stuffed with mozzarella cheese and turkey bacon. It was like Ripe in the sense that every time I went the menu was different, and the juicy lucy seemed to be particularly hard to find on different visits. I could always find something, though, that was more than suitable for dinner (and easy to cook because all you need to do is heat them).

Juicy lucy

Juicy lucy

It seemed that on every dinner the vegetable was broccoli, and I was not crazy about this, but I certainly enjoyed the meals as a whole. The price was not too bad and the portion size was right. Although it was take-out only, I considered it to be one of my favorite restaurants.



865 N. Resler Dr.
El Paso, TX

Poke3 on Resler

Poke3 on Resler

Poke3 (which I believe is pronounced “Pokay Cubed”) is a local chain for a cuisine that is now very hot around the city. The food, though, is served cold including the fish, which is why I was not a big fan (as opposed to sushi which I think is much more enjoyable). Poke3 went into the space vacated by Elevated, but I think it was even more short-lived than Elevated. There are still some other locations of Poke3 around El Paso, though.

Poke classic

Poke classic

The dish I tried was the Poke Classic which was filled with good flavors, but I was not a big fan of the poke version of raw fish. I wish I could have tried other items on the menu since I believe you can get ones without fish or perhaps other types of fish.

Although other branches of Poke3 are still open, I believe this location suffered from too much competition from similar restaurants on the west side. I have yet to try the other ones, though.


Mediterranean Restaurant

4111 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX

Mediterranean Restaurant

Mediterranean Restaurant

Mediterranean was not a restaurant that closed suddenly, but one which I frequented for a number of years after its opening in 1991 before it mostly fell off the radar for me. I went back twice in 2018, but when I tried to go in 2019 I discovered that the building was vacant and there was no sign of an active restaurant inside. I actually thought that it had closed earlier when it looked similarly vacant, but I believe the earlier time had been a false alarm when the owner was probably on vacation (he was a geology professor at El Paso Community College and took trips to all parts of the world in order to do geologic studies).

Libyan soup

Libyan soup

I definitely thought the food was worth the effort to try to catch the restaurant when it was open. My favorite dishes were the ones that seemed to be from the owner Sulaiman Abushagur’s family recipes such as the Libyan Soup. I have not had this soup at any other Middle Eastern restaurant in the country, and I think it is my favorite of this type of soup I have tried. Fortunately I had one last opportunity to try it on my 2018 visits.

Syrian platter

Syrian platter

One quirk of the restaurant seemed to be that you got more for your money if you ordered a very large plate, such as the Syrian Platter I tried on one of my last visits. I thought two of the items were especially noteworthy (the fataier and the hummos), as well as a very strong and delicious hot tea which I ordered as a drink.

Chicken gyros sandwich

Chicken gyros sandwich

The Chicken Gyros Sandwich was an example of one of the lighter meals I had here–it was a sandwich I had not had anywhere else (nor have I had any since). Thus I can say this is the best chicken gyros I have ever had (and it really was quite good, as was all of the food here).

Pine nut baklava

Pine nut baklava

The Pine Nut Baklava was another example of how the food here was always very special. It was a “mini roses baklava” which I believe was not actually made with any parts of the rose plant, but which followed the traditional method of making baklava so that customers got the authentic version of this popular Middle Eastern dessert.

I am not sure if the restaurant’s closing signals that Sulaiman has left El Paso or retired from teaching, but I wish him well and remember his food fondly.

A Look Back at the Roadfood 1992 Edition–New Mexico

Roadfood 1992 Edition

Roadfood 1992 Edition

In my quest for nostalgia and information about old restaurants, I came across a goldmine of information from the 1992 edition of Jane & Michael Stern’s book Roadfood, published by HarperPerennial (a division of HarperCollins). One thing I love about this book is that it has its mission statement on the cover, which is to be a “guide to America’s best diners, small-town cafes, BBQ joints, and other very special eateries serving great, inexpensive regional food.”

This is largely the same mission I have for my Restaurant Guide and for many of the reviews published on this site. The Restaurant Guide lists places I find reviewed on the Internet in various cities, many of which meet the criteria set forth by the Sterns. Roadfood only lists a few restaurants per state, but it covers much of the United States (the 1992 edition does not have any listings for Alaska, Hawaii, or Montana). I am also very impressed that the Sterns were able to travel to all of the places listed and personally visit each restaurant mentioned in the book.

Somehow the Sterns got very good intelligence about which restaurants to visit, and this was in the age before the Internet was available. The restaurants included were obviously not picked randomly out of a phone book (one of my methods for finding places to eat in 1992), but there was a specific reason each one was chosen (I imagine they must have eaten in some places that they judged to not be worthy of inclusion in the book). In any case, I judge this book to be a treasure for restaurant historians (is it acceptable for me to invent a new field of academic study which I am sure does not actually exist anywhere?).


There are a couple of reasons I would like to include the New Mexico restaurants in my first blog post about the Sterns’ book. One is that I found this book at the fabulous Coas Books in Las Cruces, a used book store that concentrates on excellence in books as much as the Sterns have done with food. Many of the best additions to my own collection have come from this store (I have always gone to the one at 317 N. Main although they have another location at 1101 S. Solano Dr.).

Also we got word this week that Tecolote Cafe in Santa Fe, one of the restaurants listed in the Sterns’ book, has closed. Now that I have this list I plan to deliberately put many of the ones that are still open on my list of places I would like to visit (some of them are already on the list). One of them, Nellie’s in Las Cruces is where I had lunch right before going to Coas where this book almost magically appeared, with Nellie’s being one of the first restaurants I spotted.

The Sterns list the restaurants alphabetically by state. I am listing all of them here, whether they are still open or not. I will only include a brief summary of the information about each restaurant (there is additional information available from other sources such as the Roadfood web site and later editions of the book).

Abeyta’s Mexican Kitchen–2805 San Mateo NE, Albuquerque.  Chicharrones, carne adovada, and menudo are what made the best impression.

Bien Mur Indian Market–Exit 234 off I-25 (Tramway Rd.), Albuquerque.  Come here for cookies and fry bread.

Chope’s–Rt. 28, La Mesa.  (Not surprisingly) they recommended the chile relleno. Since Dr. Paul Bosland, America’s foremost chili breeder, recommended that they get red enchiladas instead of green, they complied (and were very glad with the result). Note: The Sterns use the spelling “chili” throughout the book.

Don Jose’s Cocina–Route 279, Bibo.  They were surprised this place was even open (with the town’s uranium mine being played out and the area being so isolated). They described eating what was apparently the only thing offered that day (roast beef burritos topped with green chili and an enchilada platter). One fact revealed in the write-up was that the source of many of the Sterns’ tips was Bart Ripp from the Albuquerque Tribune.

Dora’s–401 E. Hall St, Hatch.  Supposedly the owner was trying to change the name because it was named after his ex-wife, but locals kept calling it Dora’s no matter what sign he put in front. What impressed them the most was the chili, red or green (I think they liked the red better). Dora’s had 3 levels of spiciness, and the Sterns said all of them were very good.

Double Rainbow–3416 Central SE, Albuquerque.  They were coming here for the coffee, and eventually tried the food (pastries, Zuni stew, East Indian pot pie, and sourdough bread filled with smoked turkey were all hits).

Duran Central Pharmacy–1815 Central NW, Albuquerque.  Located in a working pharmacy, they recommended both breakfast and lunch here. For lunch they liked the specials of the day (all were New Mexican cuisine). They were quite impressed by the freshly made tortillas.

Frontier–2400 Central SE, Albuquerque.  They recommended the sweet roll served with coffee. What they liked best, though (and said so), was the breakfast burrito with green chili. They also mentioned that the orange juice was freshly squeezed.

The Hacienda–2605 S. Espina, Las Cruces.  They enjoyed the blue corn enchiladas, tacos in blue corn shells, chili colorado, and chili relleno. Sopaipillas were a must with this, “to salve the tongue.”

Josie’s Casa de Comida–225 E. Marcy, Santa Fe.  Josie’s was said to be good for New Mexican cuisine or Southwest (chicken fried steak, etc.), but the real gem here was dessert (a wide variety and all of them were good).

La Tertulia–416 Agua Fria, Santa Fe.  The Sterns said “the food at La Tertulia isn’t as spectacular and hot as it used to be, but it still tastes good.” What they recommended, though, was the carne adovada, which was one of the best examples of it anywhere. This had become a very formal restaurant, by Santa Fe standards, that gave a very pleasant experience even if the meal wasn’t as good as it used to be.

M & J Restaurant–403 2nd St. SW, Albuquerque.  They say the burrito stuffed with carne adovada may be the best version of the dish anywhere, but I think they liked the blue corn enchilada plate equally well. They said it was great fun to watch people come in from the Greyhound station, just down Second Street, and “accidentally” discover some of the best food they have ever experienced.

Nellie’s–1226 W. Hadley, Las Cruces.  They pointed out that the sopaipilla compuesta was sensational, and the chili relleno and the salsa were also quite notable (they gave great compliments to the green chili, but apparently did not try the red). They also complimented the rich and lardy beans. At that time Nellie’s was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

OJ Sarah’s–106 Guadalupe St., Santa Fe.  This was a restaurant that catered to locals, and which really shined for breakfast. They had so many great sounding items it was hard to choose, but the Sterns liked the cottage pancakes best (the batter was made with cottage cheese).

Powdrell’s Barbecue–11309 Central Ave. NE, Albuquerque.  They say the beef is done right, and they like this the best of the items served. The reason they like this out of the three Powdrell’s locations is the setting in the mountains, particularly at sunset.

Rancho de Chimayo–Route 520, Chimayo.  Their top recommendation is the carne adovada, or the sopaipillas rellenos for those who want something a little less spicy. The town is a destination in itself, having a history that goes back to the eleventh century.

Roque’s Carnitas–Corner of Palace and Washington, Santa Fe.  These are served out of a food cart at lunch time, and unlike most carnitas these are made with beef. Apparently you don’t have to choose the chili you want–these come with green.

Stop And Eat Drive In–110 S. Paseo de Onate, Espanola.  This is a true drive in (you eat in your car). They have jumbo burgers (which are not really very jumbo), but it sounds as if the best items are the burritos or the frito pies. The Sterns recommend getting Hawaiian Punch with a frito pie if you want the ultimate Roadfood experience.

Tecolote Cafe–1203 Cerrillos Rd., Santa Fe.  The Sterns state that the real mission of the restaurant is breakfast, and what they liked best were the atole pinon hotcakes. However, there were so many other excellent items on the menu it required many trips through town to try them all. For lunch they liked the carne adovada (excellent here, as they are at many New Mexico restaurants).

Truchas Mountain Cafe–Truchas.  This was a very small place that served traditional New Mexican food, but what they liked best was the stuffed sopaipilla with green chili. They also had interesting desserts that may be rooted in the area’s Indian history.

Woolworth’s–58 E. San Francisco, Santa Fe.  Apparently they take a local favorite, Frito pie, and turn it into an art form. Most people take it outside and eat it on the square. A bag of Fritos is torn open where they pour in red chili with hamburger meat and cheese. You will need a spoon because the Fritos become soft when saturated by the chili.

Some Comments
For some of these eating places I have written the narrative in the present tense as they are in the book. I did not research which places are still open, and whether I write in the past or present tense is not indicative of whether the restaurant is still in business or not.

There are only a very few points over which I disagree with the Sterns about these restaurants. I would say the Sterns are are correct about some major points such as (1) Red chile usually seems to be a better choice than green for items such as enchiladas, (2) Stuffed sopapillas are a better choice than enchiladas at many restaurants–mainly when they really know how to make the stuffed sopapillas the right way, (3) Blue corn enchiladas are usually preferable to ones made with regular tortillas. The Sterns did a very good job of trying different New Mexican items, and identifying which restaurants served the best versions.

I know that some restaurants have changed over time. I think the New Mexican food in Las Cruces was a lot spicier in 1992 than it is now, except at a few restaurants that are very local and do not attract a lot of out of town visitors. The Sterns comment on several restaurants throughout the state that the flavor is just as good if you get the milder version, and I believe that is the case now with Las Cruces restaurants which serve milder chile than in the past (I am now using the correct spelling of “chile” rather than the Stern version, but of course it is still good no matter how you spell it).

When I ate at La Tertulia it must have been when it was still “spectacular and hot,” because I remember it as being some of the best New Mexican food I have ever eaten.

I don’t know how the Sterns missed El Modelo in Albuquerque, which has been around since well before 1992, but for the most part I think they found and described the truly good New Mexican food that existed at the time.

Karam’s–San Antonio, TX

Karam’s Mexican Dining Room (Closed)
121 N. Zarzamora St.
San Antonio, TX
Date of Review: Jan. 2005

Karam’s has been around for so long it is one of the few restaurants I can say I have gone to for more than 30 years. I also think it is one of the best examples of Tex-Mex food there is. So far, in fact, it has turned out to be the restaurant by which I judge Tex-Mex food. Many restaurants in Austin came close, and some had specific items that were better, but Karam’s seems to have captured the essence of Tex-Mex cooking to a point that it is almost equal in quality to other styles of Mexican cooking.

Known for its Cheese Enchiladas, I think they are some of the best I have had that are not New Mexico or El Paso style. They are interesting because the tortillas are soaked in a sauce that turns them the signature red of true Tex-Mex style.

Although the enchiladas themselves are good, a combination dinner is even better– there may be no better examples of Tex-Mex style Tamales than at Karam’s. These have a masa that is soft and seems to break away the moment a fork touches it, with a flavor that I could almost imagine all the times I had fast food and TV dinner tamales while on a student budget, but which even most Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin could not duplicate.

Karam’s is popular enough to have required building a parking lot across the street. In addition to the restaurant, Karam’s Catering, a separate portion of the building dedicated exclusively to take-out orders, does a brisk business. With the mild weather found in south Texas, the outdoor patio with a fountain is an added attraction.

I think that unless you are specifically hungry for meat items such as the fajitas at Mi Tierra, you really owe it to yourself to make Karam’s your one special San Antonio Tex-Mex meal. It is a San Antonio institution for a reason.


Cuisine: Mexican Tex-Mex
Cost: $$
Alcohol: Beer
Special Features: Catering

Chile Index: chile 3

Most Recent Visit
Jan. 6, 2005

Number of Visits: 4

Best Items
Cheese Enchiladas, Tamales, Tacos

Special Ratings

star 5 Cheese Enchiladas
star 5 Chicken Tacos
star 5 Tamales
star 3 Refried Beans
star 5 Chips
star 4 Salsa

Menu (Date Unknown):

Menu courtesy of Eugene F. Michael El Paso Menu Collection, MS499, C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department. The University of Texas at El Paso Library.

Note to Readers:

This review is reprinted from my original web site (Steve’s Gastronomic Home Page) and the newer site (OK Gourmet).  By putting it on Steve’s Food Blog I hope to keep it accessible to readers and to preserve the information as something that I think is of historical importance for Tex-Mex restaurants.

Karam’s was quite possibly the best Tex-Mex restaurant I ever found in Texas (there were a couple in Austin that were close).  Unfortunately when I discuss Tex-Mex restaurants I often have to refer to ones that are now closed (of which Karam’s joined the ranks in about 2005).  I wrote a blog post about why I do not think the Tex-Mex food served now is as good as it was at these former restaurants which were considered leaders of the Tex-Mex restaurant world:

Why Does Tex-Mex Not Taste the Same as I Remember Growing Up?

The Karams’ daughter wrote a very informative comment about the restaurant, and it is certainly relevant to this review as well as a discussion of Tex-Mex food in general.


Pamela Karam’s Comment (Dec. 10, 2015):

Dear Steve,
Karam’s Mexican Dining Room of San Antonio had the absolute best Tex-Mex in the country.
My parent’s invented the style that chefs tried to copy without much luck.
All over the country to this day when I say I’m from San Antonio, strangers will ask me if I ever ate at Karam’s. Of course they go crazy about the food when I tell them who I was lucky to be.
My dad started me in the kitchen and I know the secrets to the taste of our food.
I miss a Deluxe Dinner as much as the next person.
Thank God I can whip one up when necessary..
I’m glad you enjoyed our place.
I loved it and miss it every day.

Current Day French Culture in Lafayette, LA

While growing up, my dad and uncle shared their household with my great grandmother from Belgium, giving our family a very strong link to the French culture. My dad’s generation had never attempted a serious study of French that I know about, and French conversation in the household consisted of a few phrases.

These stories, though, prompted an interest on my part to become at least a little familiar with this part of my family tradition. An obvious place of interest to me is Lafayette, the unofficial capital of French Acadiana where French families settled after they had been “kicked out” (I believe that is the technical term) of Nova Scotia and surrounding provinces by the British settlers during the “Great Expulsion” from 1755 to 1764. Some of these refugees found homes in the Thirteen Colonies, but a large number arrived as a group in 1765 in what was then the Spanish ruled colony of Louisiana. Because of their numbers, though, they and other French colonists preserved French as the predominant language of the area, and Louisiana fell back under French control shortly before the time it became the American “Louisiana Purchase” in 1803.

Remarkably, French remained the primary spoken language in Acadiana through at least the 1930’s and early 1940’s (the boundaries of Acadiana being based on the areas where French was spoken). When I visited in 2017 I can say that I really never heard any French spoken by the residents there. I was searching for it (such as listening to French radio stations, etc.), and I know it exists, but today this is not a French speaking area.

Through sources such as YouTube you can find videos of Cajun French, and it is obvious that the expert speakers are primarily of the older generation. In the short term the language has not died out because there is a diligent effort by much of the younger generation to keep it going. In the long term, though, it is hard to know what is going to happen.

This narrative is meant to give a background for some things you can see when you are in this beautiful and totally enchanting area.

Hotels along Pinhook Rd.

Hotels along Pinhook Rd.

An area that may at first look like downtown is the “commercial district” along Pinhook Rd. located just south of the historic city center. This area has a wide choice of hotels and is away from the Interstate traffic (Interstate 10 is about four miles to the north).

Rosa Parks Transportation Center

Rosa Parks Transportation Center

A good place to start an exploration of downtown Lafayette is at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center at Jefferson St. and Cypress St. To get here from Pinhook Rd. go east to the Evangeline Thruway where you turn north, turn left when you get to Jefferson Boulevard and go about four blocks until you see the large public parking area (parking is free). This is also the parking lot for Amtrak, Greyhound Bus, and several city and parish offices.

Entranceway to downtown

Entranceway to downtown

While headed west on Jefferson you will also notice this entrance sign to downtown Lafayette (this is the historic downtown area). This view is looking west from the parking lot shown in the last photo. The building at the left edge of the photo is Dat Dog, a casual restaurant that I went in to investigate, and found that it could be of interest to foodies (although I was not able to try it at that time).

Along Jefferson St.

Along Jefferson St.

Along Jefferson Street are some shops, restaurants, bars, etc. that could be of interest to visitors. Mainly I thought it was very visually appealing, and not typical of what you would see in a city’s downtown (just south of this area is the main part of downtown with more traffic, parking lots, etc.).

Dwyer's Cafe

Dwyer’s Cafe

I wasn’t there at the right time, but Dwyer’s Cafe (323 Jefferson St.) is known as the home of the “French Table” where people gather at 7:00 am to enjoy breakfast and speak French. Of course I think Dwyer’s also has good food (which I also was not able to try on this visit).

There is a YouTube video in French showing the group who meet at Dwyer’s as well as other efforts to promote the French Language: Louisiane 2010 – Parler français. The video caption says some of the people who come learned the language from their grandparents but did not know where or when they would have a chance to practice it today (and the meeting at Dwyer’s gives them the opportunity).

In fact, if you wish you can find a multitude of videos about Cajun French on YouTube. My big takeaway from visiting Lafayette, though, is that they speak English. If you want to practice your French you may have to seek out someone who can converse with you.

For those not interested in the language the Cajun food is reason enough to visit Lafayette (but I think there are opportunities to experience the language as well). Most of all, though, this is a very livable mid-sized city with plenty of food choices of all types, and it is a good base from which to explore the surrounding area.

This area of Louisiana certainly seems to rank with northern New Mexico as being one of the most unique cultural areas of the United States. One commonality of these two areas was the homogeneous language and cultural group each had that allowed their native language to survive, and which to some extent is present today.

My Restaurant Guide lists some restaurants I tried as well as ones that look good and would be on my list for future visits: Louisiana Restaurant Guide.

I want to be sure to mention Poche’s, in Breaux Bridge a few miles east of Lafayette, for excellent home style Cajun food.

“Lagniappe” (Additional Information Available on the Internet)
While Lafayette and the surrounding area may not always exude an obvious French culture in its day-to-day life, there is much to discover just below the surface, or simply by knowing where to look. An excellent source seems to be the Lafayette Travel web site, with links to events, attractions, food, and any other information that might be of interest to residents and visitors (I compliment them on the amount of information that is available on the site).

Outdoor concert series are often scheduled multiple times per week (with the most taking place during the best weather seasons of spring and fall or at the appropriate time of day for the musicians’ and audience comfort). Indoor concerts and dances are also available on a frequent basis.

Much of the local music is performed in Cajun French or has French roots, and this music has continued through the generations at dances and just about anywhere people got together for a social occasion or to have a good time. The Lafayette Travel web site seems to provide information about the easiest ways to find whatever musical event is going on.

Lafayette and all the surrounding cities celebrate their French roots through the local cuisine, and the Lafayette Travel site offers a multitude of suggestions. My experience is that a little bit of searching on web sites can result in very positive results in finding Cajun food or other types of local cuisine. In fact, even many people in New Orleans say the best Cajun food is not there, but in Acadiana.

The web site even has a list of places with a “French Table” where people can get together to practice French (and usually enjoy food at the same time). I was unable to find this list through the web site’s menu, but located it through a Google search which I will share:

French Tables (for Practicing French)

According to the list Dwyer’s Cafe has their meeting every Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. This is only one of nine places currently listed in Lafayette which have a French Table, with others available in surrounding cities.

My Overview of All of This
I really have a couple of takeaways from visiting the area: (1) If you are interested in exploring any aspect of French culture in Louisiana it is easy to find with a little bit of searching, although it will definitely not be a situation where you will feel like you are in a foreign country and do not know the language, and (2) If you are coming primarily for Cajun food I think it will definitely be worth the trip–any cuisine is its best at the source, and I definitely found that to be true here.

A Walking Tour of the Asian District–Oklahoma City, OK

Note: This is a narrative of the original walking tour on Jul. 18, 2016 which covered the east side of Classen Blvd. from N.W. 30th St. to Lang’s Bakery at 2524 N. Military Ave.

I thought I would give an update about what is going on in the Asian District, located along Classen Boulevard in Oklahoma City. The title should really be the Asian District on the East side of Classen from N.W. 30th to N.W. 23rd, but that is far too long. In any case, I was not able to cover everything in what is known as the Asian District, but this is a start.

The east side of Classen could be considered the heart of the district because it is where the two major super markets are located–Super Cao Nguyen and Chinatown. A number of important restaurants are also here, but a good number are located in the area I could not cover by foot, namely on the west side of Classen and along N.W. 23rd St.

I also recognize that there are some important restaurants north of N.W. 30th, such as Lee’s Sandwiches at 3300 N. Classen. In addition there is an area near N.W. 23rd and Pennsylvania (about a mile west of Classen) that is a spin-off of the Asian district, and which contains several notable Asian and other types of restaurants.

Pho Cuong
3016 N. Classen Blvd.

Pho Cuong

Pho Cuong

My walking tour began at Pho Cuong at the southeast corner of N.W. 30th and Classen. This is arguably the best pho in town (although this title has some serious competition by other restaurants such as Pho Kim Long at 1121 N.W. 23rd St.).

My favorite dish at Pho Cuong, though, is actually the Bánh Tam Tom Thit Nuóng, a vermicelli dish with grilled pork skin and shrimp (but it is especially interesting because of the coconut syrup that is served with it).

This is a very interesting restaurant for the menu items other than pho, and would be one of my first choices for this type of food.

VII Asian Bistro
2900 N. Classen Blvd.

VII Asian Bistro

VII Asian Bistro

VII (“Seven”) Asian Bistro is a very recent addition to the Asian District, and has an upscale interior (in the Asian District, having “Bistro” in the name is a giveaway for this).

I went inside and looked at the menu. It seems to cater to non-Asians in a good way (having menu items and food descriptions that can be easily understood). I thought the food looked like “real” Vietnamese food, but they just didn’t have a large selection of unusual or hard to find items.

Golden Phoenix
2728 N. Classen Blvd.

Golden Phoenix

Golden Phoenix

Golden Phoenix had a major fire a few years ago, and they used the opportunity to upgrade the restaurant when they rebuilt. I have not eaten there since the fire, but I did go in to take a look. The menu is much more extensive than before, they have upgraded the interior to a “bistro” style, and they are now open daily (it used to be closed on Wed.).

As far as the food, I thought this was the best Vietnamese restaurant in Oklahoma City before the fire, and I expect that it still is. Of course, there are certain dishes at other restaurants that I like better. Also it seems that other restaurants are upping their game to serve more traditional style dishes than before. one thing that impressed me about Golden Phoenix was that they served the Bún Bò Huê with the congealed blood balls, and so far no other restaurant in town that I have tried has done this. Although this may not be everybody’s idea of good Vietnamese food, I thought it was good but probably not my favorite dish. One that I would really recommend, though, is the Vietnamese pork chop (something that is very good but does not contain any mystery ingredients).

Golden Phoenix also has a Chinese menu. I did not find it quite as impressive as the Vietnamese menu, but the food I had was authentic Cantonese cuisine, and I certainly would not complain about the Chinese food here.

Chinatown Supermarket
1228 N.W. 27th St.

This super market is next door to Golden Phoenix, and was also rebuilt after the fire. It is more small scale than the Super Cao Nguyen, but people say some things are better here.

The thing I always try to buy here is the Pearl Soybean drink by Mong Lee Shang (I like the strawberry flavor). This is a drink from Taiwan that has tapioca balls at the bottom, and is the best of about two dozen drinks I have tried from both Asian super markets.

Gia Gia
2624 N. Classen Blvd.

Gia Gia

Gia Gia

Gia Gia (pronounced like the word “jaw” said twice very quickly) is another new restaurant that I have not yet tried. I actually went in and was intending to eat here, but there was a communication difficulty and I could not find out if the food had MSG.

I read that they have banh xeo, a dish I have been trying to find at a number of different restaurants. At Gia Gia it is an appetizer, though, and combined with the fact that I didn’t know whether it contained MSG, I decided to pass (but I plan to go back and see if I can find out). The good thing about the Asian district is that you can always find another place to go, but the bad thing is that I can’t possibly try all the dishes at all the restaurants that I would like.

Super Cao Nguyen
2668 N. Military Ave.

Super Cao Nguyen

Super Cao Nguyen

This is the oldest and largest of the Asian super markets in the area, and is located one block east of Gia Gia (Military Ave. runs parallel to Classen). Outside of the one drink I buy at Chinatown, I get almost everything I want here. In fact, my only experience with a better Asian market was in Seattle (but even in Seattle there is a limited choice of Asian super markets as there is in OKC).

One thing that has never looked very appetizing to me here has been the food stalls. This is another example where I think someone from Asia might be better able to find the good items than I would.

The tea selection at Super Cao Nguyen is quite good, but the choice of specialized teas is not the same as can be found in Seattle.

Super Cao Nguyen also has a good selection of chopsticks, cookware, and teapots. The candy selection is very good, and overall the drink selection is much better than at Chinatown.

Some of my friends who buy Asian vegetables have indicated that they like Chinatown, but I think sometimes they also come here.

Mr. Pho
1133 N.W. 25th St.

Mr. Pho entrance

The entrance to Mr. Pho, Banana Island, and Cafe Oasis next door to Super Cao Nguyen

Mr. Pho is one of the restaurants located in a small building adjacent to Super Cao Nguyen (go to the door just south of the super market’s main entrance). The reason I have not visited Mr. Pho often is that I have had more than one MSG reaction from the food. The food is very good, and of course the reason restaurants use MSG is for the flavor. Mr. Pho is also a very friendly place for English speakers, and they will tell you the food has MSG (along with anything else you would like to know about it). I certainly think this is a good restaurant for many people, but just not the ones with MSG allergies.

Banana Island
1117 N.W. 25th St.

N.W. 25th St. entrance

Banana Island’s side entrance on N.W. 25th St.

This Malaysian restaurant is located in the same building, and is one of the restaurants I am very anxious to try. I would not really expect it to have Malaysian food that is the same I have had in other cities, but since I have never had a bad dish at any of these places I come with the assumption that all Malaysian food is worthwhile.

Banana Island changed owners a few years ago, and the reviews have not been as good since then. All I can say is that I went by the restaurant, looked inside, looked at the menu, and looked at the photos they had of the food. It looks like a very good restaurant, and I would assume the best instead of the worst here (it is possible they have already made some adjustments since reopening that addressed some of the customer complaints).

Cafe Oasis
1135 N.W. 25th St.

Cafe Oasis upstairs

Cafe Oasis on the second floor

The sign outside indicated that this was a juice and tea place, but only afterward did I find out that they have a food menu (mainly rice and noodle dishes). The menu is in English and Chinese, and it seems that the food is Chinese style. Still, most people say that if you come here you should be sure to get one of the drinks.

Cafe Oasis is open daily except Sunday evening, and is on the second floor (it is accessible by an elevator).

2518 N. Military Ave.

Lido entrance on Military Ave.

The entrance to Lido and Lang’s Bakery on Military Ave.

This may be the oldest Vietnamese restaurant in the city, and has probably been more famous for its vermicelli dishes than for the pho or other items that are popular at other restaurants. Personally I think the vermicelli dishes may be the best in town if you stick to the basics (pork, chicken, egg rolls, etc.). The only thing is that the fish sauce seems very Americanized to me (still good, but I think a more authentic one is on the other side of Classen at Pho Ca Dao).

Lido Restaurant

Lido Restaurant

Lido has always been one of the best restaurants for Vietnamese food initiates to try the food and find out what it’s all about. Lately I think it has become more than this by expanding the menu, and I think there are more exotic dishes to try if you wish. Personally, I usually stick with the vermicelli bowls here because it is hard to find anything better at other restaurants.

Lang’s Bakery
2524 N. Military Ave.

Lang's Bakery

Lang’s Bakery

Lang’s Bakery has been on my radar for a long time, and I finally got a chance to eat here on my walking tour. I think it was a fitting choice among all the other good alternatives that are nearby, and certainly one that I would recommend. Banh mi sandwiches are the most popular item, but they also have more authentic versions of noodle bowls and noodle dishes than are found at Lido and some of the other “tourist” restaurants. The dish I tried was something that I think many people would like as well (No. 19 “Banh Uot Cha Lua). This was a rice sheet topped by a delicious Vietnamese ham.

The people here speak excellent English, and it can be an excellent choice for those who want something a little more authentic. If you would rather skip lunch, though, it is still an excellent place for desserts and baked goods. I paid $2 for a delicious French style flan, and the restaurant cited this as one of their best and most popular items.

General Comments (Jul. 2016)

The east side of Classen (outlined in this article) is the greatest concentration of Vietnamese restaurants in the city, while several large and well known Chinese restaurants are on the west side of the street. This is called the “Asian District” precisely because there is a mixture of different cultural traditions in the area, even including some Guatemalan and Middle Eastern restaurants. Other Asian cuisines (such as Thai and Indian) are located primarily along N.W. 23rd St.

The earliest tenants in the area, though, were Vietnamese refugees who came here after the Vietnam war. A recent Smithsonian article recounts the history of the Asian District, and I wrote a short summary of it in a post about Oklahoma City’s “Little Saigon.”

This post includes a few tips about a few restaurants, but this just scratches the surface. New restaurants are opening all the time, and many restaurants have so many menu choices that this is as much a dilemma as an opportunity. I have only covered a portion of the geographic area, and each time I go I seem to discover something new. For me, always having new places to try is a good thing.

Update Feb. 2019

The restaurants mentioned in this article have remained remarkably stable considering the change I noticed in 2016 compared to three years prior. Banana Island has now been replaced by Tsubaki Szechuan Restaurant (the address is 1117 N.W. 25th St.). I have not eaten there, but I have been a somewhat regular patron of Tsubaki Sushi & Hibachi on Memorial Road, and have found good quality food (Tsubaki Sushi was passing out menus for their new restaurant, Tsubaki Szechuan). I also found out from 405 Magazine that Mr. Pho has closed.

I have been to Golden Phoenix several times since 2016 and an now have some additional favorite dishes there. Most notably the curry on rice is the best I have found at a Chinese restaurant.

Also I wish to expand the article a little bit to cover some restaurants not included in the walking tour, starting at N.W. 23rd and Classen.

Pho Kim Long
1121 N.W. 23rd St.

The outside of the building says Hy Palace Asian Restaurant. Pho Kim Long is inside, along with the larger Chinese buffet which I assume is named Hy Palace. A friend brought me a takeout order of “Beef Noodle Soup” which was excellent (pho is beef noodle soup but I think this one differs in not having as much broth). In any case, I have not physically been to the restaurant but I can recommend the food.

Pho Lien Hoa
901 N.W. 23rd St.

Pho Hoa

Pho Hoa before it changed its name

Pho Lien Hoa is one of the oldest and most popular pho restaurants in the Asian District. It was originally named Pho Hoa, and seemed to be part of a chain of restaurants on the West Coast with the same name (I had several good meals at the one in Seattle). I have eaten at the one in Oklahoma City after the name change, and I think it is indistinguishable from the original Pho Hoa. The pho here is notable for all the different types of meat from which one can choose (and also its good quality). For the broth I could argue that other places are better but this one is good as well. They also have what they call “pork soup” that I thought had a better broth, and is my favorite item out of the ones I have tried.

Someplace Else Deli
2310 N. Western Ave.

Someplace Else Deli

Someplace Else Deli

Someplace Else Deli has been on Western within the loosely defined boundaries of the Asian District since the 1970’s (at the time the neighborhood was seeing the first influx of Vietnamese refugees that led to its unofficial designation as Little Saigon until the city recognized it as the “Asian District” in 2005). I went to Someplace Else for the first time in 2019, and found it to be an excellent sandwich shop that lived up to its reputation. Most of the sandwiches are made with Dietz & Watson meat, and I thought the house made Thousand Island dressing on the Reuben I ordered made it one of the best versions of this sandwich I have tried. The bakery part of it (brownies, etc.) is also a must try.

Taj Indian Cuisine
1500 N.W. 23rd St.

Taj Indian Cuisine

Taj Indian Cuisine

This restaurant has been a favorite of mine since it was on the Northwest Expressway in Warr Acres. Since it moved I have tried to eat here but I have found that it is mostly a buffet restaurant. At the old restaurant I almost always ordered something from the menu and had it prepared in the kitchen with my specification of a spice level. This is not possible at the restaurant on N.W. 23rd at lunch time because they only serve the buffet. It was also not possible when I recently tried to go in the evening but this was my fault (I went close to closing time). I am not knocking the buffet but I am trying to go when I can order from the menu. This is definitely on my wish list of things I want to try in the Asian District.

Pho Ca Dao
2431 N. Classen Blvd.

Pho Ca Dao

Pho Ca Dao

Here I did not try the pho, but the chicken vermicelli plate. This was prepared differently from the others I have tried in OKC, and I liked it very much (especially because the fish sauce seemed more authentic than most). I have wanted to go back and try some of their other dishes.

La Brasa
1310 N.W. 25th St.

I have not been to La Brasa, but when I found out that one of the partners operated the now closed Inca Trail on N. May Avenue, this was enough recommendation for me (I thought Inca Trail was the best Peruvian restaurant in the city, or that I have tried anywhere). Note that La Brasa is only open in the evening, and offers dishes from other areas of the world besides Latin America.

Grand House
2701 N. Classen Blvd.

Grand House

Grand House

Grand House has an extensive menu, dim sum on weekends, and is certainly one of the best authentic Chinese restaurants in the city. It is across the street from Golden Phoenix, and in many ways I think the two restaurants are similar. I think Golden Phoenix is better for “everyday” dishes such as noodles, congee, etc., as well as other dishes. For my favorite dish, though, pork and tofu hot pot, I think Grand House is probably the best in the city.

Fung’s Kitchen
3231 N. Classen Blvd.

Fung's Kitchen

Fung’s Kitchen

Fung’s is comparable to Grand House in that it serves Cantonese style food and serves dim sum on weekends. I think the dim sum here is better than at Grand House, but neither one is what I would call west coast quality (but both have certain items that are very good). Fung’s has a wide range of authentic Cantonese items (such as bittermelon), and in this regard is closer to Golden Phoenix. Really I have to say that Fung’s, Grand House, Golden Phoenix and Chow’s are the four premier Cantonese style restaurants in the city. (A fifth candidate would be Dot Wo, which recently closed its north side restaurant. The owners were related to the ones at Fung’s, and the flavor of the food at Fung’s will remind many people of Dot Wo. I understand the south side Dot Wo is still open but not having tried it, I cannot say if it is as good as its sister restaurants.)