Barrigas–El Paso, TX

Barrigas Restaurant
(Closed)
664 Sunland Park Dr.
El Paso, TX
Barrigas on Sunland Park

Barrigas on Sunland Park


Note Jun. 2019: All of the Barrigas locations in El Paso have now closed but it is reportedly still open in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

This upscale Ciudad Juarez restaurant has recently branched out into El Paso, and provides some of the most authentic Mexican food around. Probably the best feature of Barrigas is the varied menu, with many items not traditionally found in the U.S. Mexican restaurants (although this type of menu variety is increasingly found in El Paso restaurants).

Barrigas seems to specialize in meat items, particularly in finding flavorful ways to combine meat, cheese, and other ingredients. It is also a good place to go if you like a variety of salads, appetizers (such as queso fundido), desserts, and shrimp. Margaritas and other drinks are served.

The background noise and music at Barrigas can sometimes be at such a high level it is hard to hold a conversation. When they have had live mariachi bands, though, the quality of the music has been such I have not minded the temporary inconvenience in trying to converse with others at the table.

Chips and Salsa
The Chips are somewhat greasy and the Salsa has sometimes been too spicy with jalapeno peppers, but the salsa seemed to improve a lot starting about 2006. In fact I would say it is now very close to the classic El Paso and Ciudad Juarez style salsa that is spicy and flavorful, and perhaps a little heavy on extra spices that are thrown in.

The Pico de Gallo that is sometimes served in addition to the salsa is quite good, but it is usually not offered.

Enchiladas
The Red Enchiladas are good, but they are not my favorite in El Paso and I prefer them on a combination plate with other items. While they are a good example of Ciudad Juarez style enchiladas, I prefer the New Mexico style chile that does not have as many spices that modify the flavor as the Mexican style red chile. These enchiladas may be more suitable than the New Mexico style, though, for people who do not like them extremely spicy.

Chicken enchiladas

Chicken enchiladas

Green Enchiladas are made with puréed green chile that is normally very easy to make too spicy and not very flavorful, but the ones at Barrigas are an exception. I find the green chile here to have a flavor that is very similar to the New Mexico style green chile, although milder. These enchiladas also use melted Mexican cheese on top of the chile as well as inside the enchilada, adding to the flavor and making them among the best green enchiladas in El Paso. The green enchiladas seem to taste better with chicken inside and a side order of sour cream to make Enchiladas Suizas, not on the menu as such but is one of the better versions of this dish.

Flautas
Flautas here are well above average using thick, flavorful chunks of chicken and a large quantity of guacamole in which to dip it.

Mole
Chicken Mole is served the traditional Ciudad Juarez style, with chicken mixed into the mole, and Barrigas is one of the best. The mole sauce is not too sweet and I think has a very smooth and delicious taste. Some say mole is an acquired taste, but the one here is a good place to start if you want a more authentic version.

Enmoladas

Enmoladas

Enmoladas, or mole enchiladas, are a way to enjoy the sauce without the chicken (enchiladas are served either with cheese or chicken). With a side order of flour tortillas I really like the mole sauce just as well as on the chicken dinner. To me, though, the enchiladas have a strong corn oil flavor that makes this a less desirable dish than the chicken mole dinner. I am tempted to go on a rant here about the less nutritious and less well balanced food customers frequently receive when they try to order vegetarian dinners, and this is a clear example. One alternative would be to order a mole burrito which is not fried (and would probably have little or no corn oil). In my opinion, though, the best flavor comes with the chicken mole dinner. Mexican food seems to be at its best when you order it with meat.

Chile Relleno
The Chiles Rellenos have been quite greasy at times but other times have been quite good. The yellow tomato sauce served on top of the relleno is flavorful. For the most part I would recommend against ordering it here–other restaurants have much better rellenos.

Puntas de Filete

Puntas de filete

Puntas de filete

Puntas de Filete is a dish of sirloin tips that is served with a choice of several sauces. I enjoyed it not only because of its flavor, but because it is something that is not served in a great number of restaurants. I suspect all the sauces are good, but if you have a hard time deciding I think the waiters will give their suggestions.

Side Dishes
Rice and beans are very good, and overall you should expect a good meal here. Barrigas does not take the time to make Mexican style agua fresca drinks, but I have been pretty happy with the food, and the prices are not bad.

More About the Restaurant
Barrigas is open late (10 p.m.) on weekdays, and later on weekends. The outdoor patio is an excellent idea to take advantage of the El Paso weather, but smoking is allowed making it unusable to me. Because of this, the usually cold air inside, and frequent loud noise, I would have to give low marks for the restaurant’s atmosphere. Still, though, it is one of the better places to get good Mexican food in an upscale setting.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, drinks

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 27, 2008
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Flautas, Chicken Mole, Green Enchiladas

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Green Enchiladas with chicken and sour cream
star 5 Flautas
star 5 Mole
star 4 Enmoladas
star 3 Chile Relleno
star 5 Puntas de Filete
star 4 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 4 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 3 Lemonade

El Meson de Oñate–Socorro, TX

El Meson de Oñate (Closed)
9993 Socorro Rd.
Socorro, TX

The Mission Trail in the Rio Grande valley east of El Paso is one of the area’s biggest attractions, bringing visitors to the historic churches in Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario. The Socorro Mission forms the heart of the community and incorporated area of Socorro, and next to the mission can be found El Meson de Oñate, a small restaurant that provides a gastronomical experience to complement the cultural one.

Serving comida de corrida lunches, El Meson relies on local patrons to stay in business (a sign that the food is authentic), yet the ambience and the food will please even the most discriminating visitor. The owner used his carpenter skills to construct the entire building in 1999, ensuring that the architecture blended into the historic neighborhood.

When you enter, it looks as if they are serving a buffet– different items are covered in serving trays with a glass window in front. Actually, this is the kitchen which is open to view. On my first visit in March 2005 I was very impressed that the food tasted home made, and the flavor far surpassed the normal “restaurant food.”

Mexican Plate
My inagural meal started out with a complimentary Sopa de Fideo, a soup made with a spaghetti-like noodle, chunks of chicken white meat, and Mexican spices. When I tasted it I thought it must be the highlight of the meal, since it is the best I’ve ever had, but I thought the same thing about the Pico de Gallo served with chips (I liked the regular salsa also, but not as much).

The Mexican plate offered the variety I like and allowed me to review more items. The Red Enchilada was excellent– not the best in El Paso but possibly had the best cheese. I ordered a Flauta that is not normally one of my favorite dishes, but this turned out to be the best item on the plate. Perfectly fried with large chunks of meat, the crema was excellent, and the guacamole turned out to be the highlight. I saw another party who had an order of Guacamole, and I would recommend this if you are not ordering flautas or another dish that comes with guacamole.

Changes in Management
In summer 2005 the restaurant was closed for remodeling, and when I returned after that time I did not find all the food to be the same as before. The fideo and flautas were still excellent. The enchiladas, rice, beans, chips, and salsa tasted more like mass-produced “restaurant food” that you can find almost anywhere in El Paso, and I did not even get the pico de gallo that I had liked so much on my first visit. The Chile Relleno was the biggest disappointment– I had enjoyed it on my first visit but the second time it was bland, greasy, and not very flavorful (although the cheese was still good).

The Latest Information from Other Sources
Other sources said that the owner sold the restaurant after my first visit in 1999, and that is the reason the quality went down. Now, though, the original owner is back (as of 2007). Yelp reviews as of 2015 and 2016 are mostly excellent (as I would expect they would be). I am increasing my rating of the restaurant based on this new information, and I think my first visit was more indicative of the way the restaurant is now.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $$
Hours: Open daily except Sun. dinner
Accessible: No handicapped parking
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 3, 2005
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Flautas, Guacamole, Fideo Soup

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 4 Chile Relleno
star 5 Flautas
star 5 Sopa de Fideo
star 4 Chips
star 5 Pico de Gallo

Elmer’s–El Paso, TX

Elmer’s Family Restaurant (Closed)
6305 Montana Ave.
El Paso, TX
Elmer's Restaurant

Elmer’s Restaurant


Established in 1959, Elmer’s seems to have discovered a “time warp” whereby nothing inside the restaurant ever ages. It is still the same 1950’s era diner style family restaurant complete with leather booths, salad bar, juke box, and a pie display case. The waitresses are the only thing in the restaurant that do not look as if they are left over from the fifties. Customers are treated with the same friendliness that the ones among us who are nostalgic would have expected a half century ago.

Elmer's awards

Some of Elmer’s awards on display

The food is also a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s, when there was no such thing as “healthy” restaurant food and restaurants did not have cuisine that was as specialized as it is today. Elmer’s became popular by serving both Mexican and American food, and a wide variety of each, so each person in a family could get what they wanted. If desired a person may order a Mexican plate with a salad bar or an American dish served with chips and salsa.

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Even though Elmer’s serves just about every type of food, I have usually stuck with the specialties– red enchiladas, fried chicken, and breakfast dishes. This is probably not a great restaurant for American food– because of the fact that most things are fried this is not the type of food I would normally eat at home (but it is one of the few options for American food in El Paso). With the exception of enchiladas and a few other items it is probably not a great place for Mexican food either. It is a place, though, where both are served, and in this sense it is somewhat unique.

Mexican Food

Mexican plate

Taco, rice, chile relleno, red enchilada, beans

The Red Enchiladas served at Elmer’s are some of the best in El Paso. While there is nothing exceptional about them, it is rather strange that so many restaurants in the city fail to make enchiladas that match up with Elmer’s and the handful of other restaurants that set the standard for this dish. The red chile at Elmer’s is spicy but not overly so, and they have the deep red flavor and color that is almost New Mexico style. The cheese is Mexican style, and this is just a good all-around enchilada.

The Chile Relleno is good by El Paso standards, but still a little greasy. It is topped with green chile that is flavorful but pretty generic. The main thing I did not like about it was the chile relleno itself– the topping neither detracted nor added much to the enjoyment of the dish.

The Beef Taco was plain and lightly spiced but good quality. It comes as part of the Mexican plate, which I would recommend as a way to try a variety of Mexican items.

Refried Beans were flavorful and not greasy. I would guess that they are cooked in vegetable oil. The Rice was not very flavorful, and could have been a lot better.

Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is the most famous dish here, and the menu proclaims it is the “best in the Southwest.” I might believe it is the best in El Paso, mainly for lack of competition, but I found it dry with a thick, greasy crust (a lighter crust might be better). The main disappointment came from the side dishes, though, since the whole point of eating fried chicken is to have a “fried chicken DINNER” (not just the chicken itself). It’s cheap, though, and well worth what you pay.

Additional Comments
Mexican breakfast dishes likewise are excellent and cheap– not the best in the city, but definitely better than average.

I have been going to Elmer’s for so many years I was afraid my past experiences might cause me to overlook some of its current shortcomings. The food I have eaten recently, though, has been pretty much like it always has been, so the shortcomings of Elmer’s have probably been there from the beginning. The good thing about Elmer’s is that you get exactly what you expect– a diner style restaurant that is better than the chain restaurants and less expensive.

Pie display

Elmer’s famous pie display greets customers upon entering

To go along with the mix of Mexican and American food, customers will likely want a slice of Elmer’s pie. The pie display located next to the front door creates a double temptation, both when entering the restaurant and before leaving. Several varieties beckon the diner, and few are able to resist.


RATING: 19

Cuisine: Mexican & American
Cost: $
Hours: Open Daily 6:00 am to 9:00 pm
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Serves breakfast

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 10, 2007
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Fried Chicken, Refried Beans

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 4 Chile Relleno
star 4 Beef Taco
star 4 Fried Chicken
star 5 Beans
star 3 Rice
star 3 Mashed Potatoes
star 3 Cole Slaw