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.)

Pralines are Alive and Well in Louisiana

I think of pralines as something that used to be served for dessert at Tex-Mex restaurants, but now they are so scarce I doubt if there is anybody who has them anymore. To me the sopapillas they serve in many Mexican restaurants are a poor substitute, and is the trigger that usually reminds me that I would really like a praline.

Pralines also seem to be very hard to find anywhere, except in a few places such as Louisiana. Listed below are three places where I found them, but I passed by many more with signs advertising them for sale. With the prices they charge, I think this is a lucrative business for many people. For me, though, they are really worth the price.

Louisiana pralines

Pralines from three of the best places in Louisiana

The top two boxes are from Aunt Sally’s, probably the most famous place in the French Quarter for this candy treat. They offered free samples in the store, and all this did was make me spend more money on ones to take home. The original is the kind of praline I remember from the Mexican restaurants, so naturally I had to have this. I really think, though, that the creamy praline is probably better. It is smooth and gives you more flavor than the almost pure sugar you get from the original variety (both, of course, have pecans inside the candy).

Aunt Sally’s
810 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 524-3373

Still being happy to stick with tradition, though, I also bought a box of original style pralines from Cafe Beignet (lower right), also in the French Quarter in New Orleans. I thought these were equally as good as Aunt Sally’s, and perhaps a bit less expensive (but I do not remember the exact price). This was my first indication, though, that you could buy pralines almost anywhere and expect good quality from them.

Cafe Beignet
600 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA

The praline on the lower left was from Poché’s in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, just outside Lafayette. Poché’s is a meat market and grocery store that has tables for those who want to eat on site, and among the grocery items are their own home made pralines. I noticed that no two of them had the same shape, and that some appeared to be larger than others (but actually they were just more flattened out). These were also the traditional variety, and I enjoyed them tremendously. I think perhaps they had more pecans than the others, but I could not swear to this. Unlike the others, these are sold individually.

3015 Main Highway
Breaux Bridge, LA
(337) 332-2108

Poché’s is not as big of a tourist mecca as the ones in the French Quarter, but it showed me that pralines are popular throughout the state, and that they are fairly easy to find. I did not try to find pralines in Shreveport, which I also visited, but at least in South Louisiana I think the quest for good pralines is not a difficult one at all.

Christmas in Southern New Mexico–Tularosa, NM

For those who might be in the Alamogordo or Ruidoso area at Christmas, one way to experience a traditional New Mexico Christmas is to see the luminarias at the Catholic Church in Tularosa, a historic town about ten miles north of Alamogordo.

Setting up luminarias

Setting up luminarias in Tularosa, NM

These photos were taken during the afternoon of Christmas Eve when it seems that practically the entire town participates in setting up luminarias. Hundreds of luminarias are set up outlining the church, lighting up the church grounds, and following the main street in town leading to the church. They are lit at nightfall in preparation for the the special Christmas Eve service which takes place at the church.

The Catholic Church in Tularosa

Saint Francis de Paula Church

The church in Tularosa has the typical Spanish style architecture that is found in New Mexico, and this one dates from 1869. Even without Christmas decorations the town is quite photogenic, and is worth a stop if you are in the area. With the Sacramento Mountains as the backdrop, the White Sands to the west, and extensive pistachio orchards to the south, this is one of the most scenic spots in New Mexico any time of the year. I will say from experience that usually the weather in this part of the state is agreeable enough to enjoy the celebration and possibly a few outdoor activities during the daytime.

The manger scene

The manger scene

The tradition of luminarias signifies lighting the way for Mary and Joseph to find their way to the stable where Jesus is about to come into the world. The tradition of lighting luminarias is found in towns throughout New Mexico, but I find the light show in Tularosa to be one of the most impressive I have seen.

Casa de Sueños

Casa de Sueños Restaurant in Tularosa

Of course most restaurants are closed late on Christmas eve and on Christmas day, but at other times visitors to Tularosa can enjoy traditional New Mexican cuisine at Casa de Sueños on the south edge of town. I particularly liked the red enchiladas with blue corn tortillas (the blue corn variety is not normally served in southern New Mexico). Casa de Sueños is not particularly spicy, but it is spicy enough to be what I would call “real” New Mexican food that is not dumbed down for tourists. Quite a few tourists stop here, though, because of its reputation for serving delicious New Mexican style food.

I also discovered another stop a few miles south of Tularosa on U.S. 54 and 70 where the McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch has its store and winery at 7320 US 54/70 (but don’t worry about the address, just look for the giant pistachio on the west side of the highway).


The giant pistachio at McGinn's

The giant pistachio marks the location of McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch


Of course one of the main items for sale is the pistachios grown on the McGinn Ranch, and these come in different sized bags according to how many you think you might need. They have a number of different flavored nuts, but after trying several of the free samples I decided to go with the plain ones.

Quite a number of other items are also available, including New Mexico salsas.

McGinn’s is open daily according to the web site, but of course there may be special hours around Christmas.

Young Vin Express–El Paso, TX

Young Vin Express
11335 Montwood Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 525-2100
Young Vin Express

Young Vin Express on Montwood

Young Vin was one of the oldest (if not the oldest) Korean restaurants in the city, but the original restaurant on Dyer Street no longer exists. In its place, though, is the recently opened Young Vin Express in far eastern El Paso. I only know of it through information on the Internet, but I believe this is an important development in El Paso’s restaurant scene. Rather than saying that one of the the city’s most well known restaurants is gone, I can instead say that it has merely adapted and moved to a location that is more convenient for a large segment of the city.

My review of Young Vin on the web site is available for viewing, and reflects my years of dining experience there. For most of these years I had no thought about reviewing the restaurant or trying to analyze the food–I simply went because I enjoyed it. My first experience with Korean food was at Young Vin, and I kept going back for more, as well as visiting the other Korean restaurants in the city.

As the review indicates, the Korean barbecue has always been the main draw of the restaurant. Over time I came to enjoy the side dishes as much or more, but in any case there was plenty to bring me to the restaurant.

I do not know how Young Vin Express is set up, but I am sure that much of the food remains the same. It sounds as if it is now a fast food restaurant, and would not provide the same experience of having an overabundance meat and side dishes to the point that they did not expect anyone to eat all of it. Still, with food this good, it would be difficult not to have a good experience with it even if the portions are smaller.

At Young Vin I always enjoyed the food, but my main issues were with questions such as what you got for your money. The Express restaurant seems to be informal and low priced, so I think this is a good way for people to try Korean food that may not be very familiar with it. In my opinion the barbecue beef is usually a good place to start in experiencing Korean cuisine, and the one here was never disappointing.

Cuisine: Korean
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun

Filipino Fusion–Oklahoma City, OK

Filipino Fusion
Food Truck
Oklahoma City, OK

Status: Open as of Aug. 26, 2016

I am happy to report that the Filipino Fusion food truck is now open for business and receiving excellent reviews. It joins Chibugan Restaurant as places in the Oklahoma City metro where Filipino cuisine is available.

The Filipino Fusion Facebook Page lists the locations where the truck can be found. These include the following:

  • OU Children’s Hospital
  • Anthem Brewing–908 S.W. 4th St.
  • Mustang Brewing Company–520 N. Meridian Ave.
  • Cactus Jack’s (at the Family Fun Center)–1211 N. Council Rd.
  • The Patriarch–9 E. Edwards St. in Edmond

Some popular dishes include adobo, rice balls, lumpia, pancit, and desserts.

My previous Filipino Food Revisited blog post discusses the Filipino fusion food movement, and I will also list the various places in Oklahoma City that serve Filipino food.