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.

 

Mehmaan

7130 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX

Mehmaan

Mehmaan

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.

 

Poke3

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.

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.

RATING: 24

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.

Jerusalem–El Paso, TX

Jerusalem Grill (Closed)
5380 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
Jerusalem Grill

Jerusalem Grill


Jerusalem Grill joins a long list of El Paso restaurants that has made an effort to reinvent itself to reflect the changing dining scene, while keeping many of the features of the old restaurant that people liked. Jerusalem Grill was formerly located in the same building as the Market (5360 N. Mesa), but the restaurant has now moved to 5680 N. Mesa while Jerusalem International Foods (the market) is still in the original location.

Jerusalem Market

Photo showing the original Jerusalem Market and Jerusalem Grill, which used to be next door to each other

As I understand it, Jerusalem Grill is now operated by one of the children of the original owners, and it has become more upscale. I think there is really no difference in the food from the original restaurant, except that they have added a few items including a new hot tea that is very good. There is now a lunch buffet, which to me seems to be the best feature of the new restaurant.

Because the food is basically the same but is just packaged differently, I am fairly confident in merging the review of the old restaurant into this one.

Lunch Buffet

Lunch buffet

Lunch buffet

The lunch buffet is definitely the best way to try the most items at the cheapest price (the buffet currently at $12.99 is not cheap but is very competitive with lunches at other restaurants).

A serving from the lunch buffet

I served myself hummus, salad, rice, kofta, roasted chicken, and moussaka

I should first make the comment that there are not a lot of selections on the lunch buffet, but I found every one of them to be very good. Two items were really the best, one of them being the Roasted Chicken (I have also had this from the dinner menu). The Moussaka was also excellent. The only other place I have found moussaka in El Paso was at Casa Pizza, but the one at Jerusalem was vegetarian and had an excellent sauce that really made it my favorite.

The rest of the plate really reminded me of the combination plates at many Mexican restaurants–there are usually several items that I would not want to order on their own but were excellent as part of the combination. The Kofta is something that many would want to order on its own but I happen to like the chicken better.

Fruit salad

Fruit salad

The Fruit Salad served for dessert was the only choice available, but I thought it was very enjoyable and went well after the meal.

Vegetarian Dinners

Veggie sampler plate

Veggie sampler plate

Officially called an Appetizer Plate, the “Veggie sampler plate” from the new restaurant and the “Veggie combo” from the old restaurant mostly include the same items. This is enough to make a meal, and most importantly to me it includes Falafel which is probably the best example of it I have tried. Although the flavor is very good, the most important element of it is that it tastes fresh and not from a mix (I don’t know if it is made fresh, but it tastes that way).

While at most Middle Eastern restaurants the Hummus is my other favorite item, here it is not. I found this one to have an ordinary flavor compared to the restaurants in Oklahoma City, although I still like the one here. The sumac on top gives it some spice and a good flavor, but I prefer the ones that have more olive oil.

In contrast, though, the Baba Ganoush was quite good compared to ones I have tried at other restaurants.

The Grape Leaves are the only item that I have found to be not as good as at the old restaurant, although it is something I would want to try again to be sure this was not a fluke.

Veggie combo

Veggie combo from the old restaurant

The vegetarian platter has changed a little bit from the old restaurant, but the most important thing to me is that the falafel is still served.

Lentil soup

Lentil soup

Lentil Soup is not part of the vegetarian platter (appetizer plate) but it is flavorful. It is also on the spicy side.

Chicken Shawerma

Chicken shawerma

Chicken shawerma from the old restaurant

The Chicken Shawarma is an item I liked at the old restaurant but I have not tried it since Jerusalem Grill moved. Still, I think I can say it is one of the best items here

Lebanese Oven Roasted Chicken

Oven roasted chicken

Lebanese oven roasted chicken

The Lebanese Oven Roasted Chicken from the dinner menu is the same as the “roasted chicken” on the lunch buffet, but presented with more garnishes. It also would have been too much to eat, but in this case it was shared by three people (along with with the vegetarian appetizer plate). My feeling in general about the dinner menu is that the items are too large for one person, although the restaurant does not make it difficult to share and the concept of family style meals seems to be part of the Middle Eastern culture.

Tea
The Middle Eastern style tea is made with loose leaves and was very good, although it was not a mint style tea. For the lunch buffet I found the iced tea to be good and a lot cheaper.

Other Comments
I have long considered the falafel here to be the best I have ever tried. Even so, the outstanding dishes at Jerusalem are probably the chicken dishes.

The vegetarian appetizer plate (veggie combo plate) makes a good meal from the dinner menu which is not too expensive. In general, though, I consider the vegetarian items at Jerusalem to be the weak point of the restaurant compared to other Middle Eastern restaurants. Of course the exception is the falafel.

The lunch buffet is not cheap but I definitely think it is a better deal than in many other restaurants. While some restaurants give you their cheapest stuff in order to have a good price, Jerusalem seems to include their best dishes at a price that is lower than ordering from the dinner menu.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: BYOB
Special Features: Lunch buffet M-F; Sunday brunch

Most Recent Visit: Mar. 12, 2018
Number of Visits: 9
Best Items: Lebanese Oven Roasted Chicken, Moussaka, Falafel, Chicken Shawerma, Pita

Special Ratings
star 5 Chicken Shawerma
star 5 Lebanese Oven Roasted Chicken
star 5 Moussaka
star 5 Kofta
star 5 Falafel
star 5 Baba Ganoush
star 5 Spinach Pie
star 5 Hummus
star 4 Grape Leaves
star 5 Lentil Soup
star 5 Pita
star 5 Fruit Salad