Some of My Favorite El Paso Lent Specials

Many restaurants in El Paso (particularly Mexican restaurants) offer Lent specials in the days leading up to Easter. These are usually served on Friday, but some restaurants have them for other holy days as well.

I found out a long time ago that this is some of the best Mexican food served, and rather than Lent being a “fast” I always found it to be a treat to enjoy the food served by these restaurants. Most Lent specials are served with fish or shrimp, but some vegetarian dishes are also available such as enchiladas (they frequently use some special sauce that is not normally served on enchiladas). The Lent specials at restaurants can really be anything as long as there is no meat.

Lentil soup

Lentil soup

My favorite Lent specials are ones that include a vegetarian lentil soup (lentejas) and the traditional bread pudding dessert (capirotada). The main plate on traditional meals usually includes mashed potatoes and either rice or bread. I usually like to get fish because the restaurants usually prepare it so well, but I think I see about two shrimp specials on the menu for every one that is fish.

Capirotada

Capirotada

The following list includes recent places I have visited, with two of them (El Jacalito and Carnitas Queretaro) being long time favorites:

 

San Isidro Mission Cafe

1071 Country Club Rd.
El Paso, TX

This restaurant seems to be well known for its Lent special, although I just tried it for the first time this year.

Pescado Marinero

Pescado Marinero

Unlike other restaurants, though, San Isidro only has one Lent special. It is called Pescado Marinero, and is cooked in foil with a fish fillet, clams, squid, and shrimp all cooked together. Frankly, I went with a friend who shared this dish with me, and we both got full. We were both very happy with the food as well. The dinner came with lentil soup and capirotada (the only down side with sharing the meal is that you only get one of each of these side dishes).

The up side of this meal was that the fish was good and the seafood and vegetables mixed in were a nice added touch. The down side was that there were no other items on the Lent menu–this was the only special available. The lentils were prepared in a different style than the others I tried (heavy on the cilantro) and were very good. The capirotada was moist to the point of being soggy (more like an actual pudding than the others). Although different, this was also a worthwhile experience.

Edit: I should mention that we got an extra order of lentils and that is the reason both of us were full.

 

Carnitas Queretaro

7410 Remcon Circle
El Paso, TX

Carnitas Queretaro is the only restaurant I have found which serves Filete Veracruzano (fish with Veracruz sauce) on a regular basis, meaning every Friday during Lent. Thus, I got to try the one dish which is probably my favorite during Lent.

Filete Veracruzano

Filete Veracruzano

I loved the sauce here, but the fish fillet was probably the most disappointing out of the ones I tried this year. I also know that it was not up to the standard I experienced in previous years at Carnitas Queretaro. This was quite an expensive meal, and I just do not understand why this restaurant has changed so much (even so it was almost worth it to get such a good veracruzana sauce).

The lentil soup and capirotada were both excellent, and Carnitas is excellent on items such as the chips and salsa. The main plate came with mashed potatoes, rice and bread. To me this is overkill on the starchy items, although I enjoyed the mashed potatoes very much.

 

Delicias Cafe

865 N. Resler Dr.
El Paso, TX

Delicias Cafe had good fish and an excellent poblana sauce. Several shrimp items were on the menu, and the staff explained that the owner and chef decide the night before what items to put on the Lent menu (so it changes weekly).

Filete with poblana sauce

Filete with poblana sauce

The lentils here were probably my least favorite of the ones I tried, but the capirotada was one of the best. The meal was a little bit strange because they had put “Filete a la Veracruzana” on the menu but the meal they brought me had a different sauce (the poblana sauce). When I asked about this they gave me some veracruz sauce to try, but I found that the poblana sauce was actually much better. In any case, if you are all right with being surprised (in a good way) then this is a good place to come.

Edit: I returned to Delicias on Good Friday and ordered the Filete a la Veracruzana. It confirmed my previous observation that the poblana sauce was better (and at Delicias I would probably skip the veracruzana sauce).

 

El Jacalito

2130 Myrtle Ave.
El Paso, TX

El Jacalito is one of the restaurants that changes the menu weekly, and like most of them offers both fish and shrimp. This is my favorite restaurant for the veracruz style fish (which I did not have this year), but it is also my favorite for breaded fish (empanizado). In fact, this is really my favorite place for Lent specials.

Pescado empanizado

Pescado empanizado

One reason it is good is because of the price, but where the food is concerned I really like everything I have tried. The breaded fish had a very good sauce which was not quite like the veracruz sauce I had hoped to try, but what I had was very enjoyable. The fish itself was very fresh, and was the best I tried at any restaurant (although San Isidro was very close). The lentils and capirotada are always my favorites here, and this year was no exception.

El Jacalito is only open for lunch (as is San Isidro) but it is a great place for Lent specials if you can make it. Sometimes they do not have either the breaded or the veracruz style fish, but others may be happier with the shrimp options than I am, and there are other items on the menu you can also choose (enchiladas, etc., or even a meat item if you are not following a Lenten diet). In any case, I think it is worth coming here just for the lentil soup and capirotada.

In past years I always included their horchata as part of the Lent tradition. This year I decided on iced tea, but the horchata really is one of the best I have found anywhere.

 

Hatch Chiles at Crest (2016)–Oklahoma City, OK

This notice is being given to customers at Crest Grocery Store in Oklahoma City for Hatch chiles:

Hatch chiles

Hatch chiles available at Crest Grocery

Store 6 (highlighted in yellow) is the one at N. Rockwell and Hefner. For two stores it is already too late, but others will have them for sale either this week or next.

The Crest web site lists the following addresses for these stores:

No. 6 — 11120 N. Rockwell

No. 7 — 10601 S. May Ave.

No. 2 — 249 N. Douglas (Midwest City)

No. 4 — 1315 N. Eastern (Moore)

No. 5 — 4503 N.W. 23rd St.

El Paso Mexican Restaurants 1980

This list is presented for anyone who is interested in the Mexican restaurants which were in El Paso in 1980.  It grew out of a project I did to write down a list of all the Mexican restaurants from the telephone directory and then to make notes about the ones I tried.

Although the list was strictly for my own benefit, I think it might be of some historical use today.  It certainly provides a clue about the longest running restaurants in the city, since very few of the restaurants which were open in 1980 survive today.

These restaurants were listed under the “Mexican restaurants” section in the telephone directory. I believe that it is not a complete list of all the Mexican restaurants which existed, but it is at least 80 to 90 percent complete.

Many restaurants served the style of food I call “El Paso” style. This is a modification of New Mexican cuisine (the enchiladas are similar) combined with Chihuahua style Mexican food (such as tacos, chicken mole, caldo de res, and breakfast dishes, to name a few).

Looking back, I think I rated some of the restaurants too low, but this was mainly due to having very high expectations (and at some restaurants I may have tried the wrong thing).

The restaurants I visited are in bold.  All others were simply copied from the phone book to give me possible places to try.

RATING RESTAURANT ADDRESS PRICES COMMENTS
EL PASO
Acapulco 219 S. El Paso
Alberto’s 109 Castellano
star 3 Alexandro’s 309 E. Overland Cheap
Alexandro’s II 7720 North Loop
star 2 Arnold’s 2030 E. Yandell Mod
Bernadette’s 412 E. San Antonio
Burger Boy 5500 El Paso Dr.
Caballero 6400 Montana
star 2 Carmen’s Cafe 8257 Alameda
star 4 Casa Calderon 8450 Alameda Mod
star 4 Casa Jurado 226 Cincinnati Mod
star 2 Chicken Fiesta 3701 Montana Mod
Chico’s Tacos 4230 Alameda
star 2 Chico’s Tacos 5305 Montana Cheap
star 2 Chico’s Tacos 3401 Dyer Cheap
star 1 Chico’s Tacos 1235 McRae Cheap
Ciro’s Flautas 3203 Alameda
star 4 Cocina Arrambide 5908 Alameda Mod Also known as “Pepa’s”
Conchita’s 6933 Alameda
Coney Island 4121 N. Mesa
star 1 Del Camino 5001 Alameda Exp
Delicious Mexican Food 3314 Fort Blvd.
star 3 El Abajeno 9639 Dyer Mod
El Carioca 2104 E. Yandell
El Conquistador 4950B Hondo Pass
El Delfin 4822 Montana
star 3 Elmer’s 6305 Montana Mod
El Nido 6932 Gateway East
El Nopal 2314 Wyoming
El Palenque 705 1/2 S. El Paso
star 3 El Paseo 1611 Montana Cheap
El Ranchito 2030 E. Paisano
El Rancho Escondido 14549 Montana
El Rapido Cafe 617 S. El Paso
El Taquito Place 909 N. San Marcial
El Zarape 819 S. El Paso
star 3 Forti’s 321 Chelsea Mod
star 3 G & R 401 E. Nevada Mod
Grandma’s Tamales 7682 Alameda
Grandma’s Tamales 6041 N. Mesa
Grandma’s Tamales 1212 Yarbrough
star 4 Griggs 5800 Doniphan Mod
star 4 Griggs 9007 Montana Mod
Hamburger Hut 3700 Alameda
Hamburger Hut 8764 Alameda
Hamburger Hut 8541 Alameda
star 1 Imperial Cafe 510 Myrtle Mod
star 2 Jasper’s 2200 Yarbrough Mod
star 3 Julio’s 1201 N. Mesa Exp
star 4 Kiki’s 2719 N. Piedras Mod
La Casita 3333 Yarbrough
La Feria 419 S. Mesa
star 4 La Hacienda 1720 W. Paisano Cheap
star 2 La Paloma 1017 Delta Cheap
star 3 La Paloma 9415 Dyer Mod
La Pastora 7705B North Loop
La Posada 307 E. Overland
Las Casuelas 1310 Magruder
La Tapatia 8941 Old County
star 2 La Terraza 315 Mills Mod
Leo’s 7872 North Loop
star 2 Leo’s 6232 N. Mesa Mod
star 3 Leo’s 5103 Montana Mod
star 1 Leo’s 5003 Alabama Mod
star 2 Leo’s 5315 Hondo Pass Mod
Leo’s 2285 Trawood
Lily’s 4315 Dyer
Linda’s Jet 6211 Airport
Los Compadres 800 N. Zaragoza
star 2 Lucky Boy 4130 Montana Cheap Also called “Beto’s”
star 2 Lunch Box 527 Giles Cheap
Lupe’s Coffee Shop 2919 Pershing
Lupe’s Rushfair Center
Lupita’s 8929 Alameda
star 3 Lupita’s 1230 Myrtle Cheap
star 1 Mexican Cottage 904 Texas Mod
Mi Amiga 501 1/2 E. 3rd
star 1 Michael’s 122 S. Mesa
Miguelito’s 1500 Lomaland
star 4 Moe’s 6298 Alameda Exp
star 2 Montezuma 211 1/2 S. Kansas
Palmera Cafe 2301 Olive
star 3 Pancho’s 5229 Sanders Mod
RB’s 3905 Broaddus
Rachel’s 2138 Cypress
Raphael’s Missouri & Kansas
star 2 Riviera 5218 Doniphan Mod
star 3 Royal 2905 Alameda Cheap
Sarita’s 5541D Alameda
Sierra’s Cafe 3027 Alameda
Sixto 7227 Alameda
Sunset Inn 4532 N. Mesa
Super Burro 5901 Dyer
Taco Burger 1414 Airway
Tampico 119 W. Paisano
star 2 Tenampa 310C S. Florence Cheap
Taquito House 915 Myrtle
star 2 Tony’s 706 N. Piedras
star 3 Victor’s 5000 Doniphan Cheap
Villa Taxco 205 S. El Paso
ANTHONY
Adrian’s Anthony
CANUTILLO
Canutillo Tortilla Factory Canutillo
SOCORRO
Old Adobe Socorro
star 4 Riverside Saloon Socorro
AREA WIDE
star 1 Taco Bell 9 Locations

 

The four-star rating system was as follows:

star 4 Very Good.
star 3 Good.
star 2 Fair.
star 1 Poor.
 

El Paso has always been the “Mexican Food Capital of the United States” even though it has only claimed this title for itself recently.  In 1980 I would say that Mexican restaurants composed the majority, or at least a good portion of all restaurants in the city.  Most of these were mom and pop restaurants with budget prices and the standard dishes found in Mexican cuisine.  Most restaurants had at least one dish which was a standout, but the ones that had at least three or four are the ones with a three or four star rating on this list.

Today El Paso has many more Mexican restaurants than existed in 1980, but I think the number would fall far short of 50% of the city’s total number of restaurants.  There are many more styles of Mexican food available than in the past, representing several Mexican states in addition to the always popular Chihuahua style cuisine.  What has not changed very much, though, is that restaurants still tend to be mom and pop establishments with fairly low prices and food which is familiar to the general population.  There are more health conscious restaurants now, and in general I think the choices are much better now than they used to be.

Some notes about individual restaurants are as follows:

  • Arnold’s served the same food as Leo’s, but was owned by a different family member.
  • Casa Jurado–a brother opened the Casa Jurado on Doniphan (which is still operating).
  • Del Camino at one time was one of the best restaurants in the city, but in 1980 it was going through severe problems that led to its closing a short time later.
  • Forti’s is largely unchanged today from the way it was in 1980, except that I think they have added some more good dishes.
  • Griggs on Doniphan was my favorite restaurant in the city.  Other Griggs family members operated La Posta in Mesilla, NM and El Pinto in Albuquerque.  However, I thought the food at Griggs was the best of the three.  The Griggs recipes are now served at Peppe’s Restaurant in Canutillo (on Doniphan Dr.)
  • La Hacienda was another favorite of mine.  Amigos Restaurant at 2000 Montana opened after La Hacienda closed, and served the food from La Hacienda.  As far as I know this food is still available.
  • La Terraza was another “Leo’s” restaurant.
  • Lupita’s on Myrtle at one time was my favorite place for lunch because they served home style Mexican plates (it changed every day, and you had very little choice about what was served, but it was so good it changed my thinking about what was “authentic” Mexican food).  By 1980 it had changed more to the standard restaurant model, though.
  • Moe’s was great, and one of its secrets was that it used lard in the food (it still had many loyal patrons until the time it closed).
  • Montezuma was known for its breakfasts, and many people picked up burritos to take to work with them.
  • Pancho’s was good in El Paso at the same time it was bad to terrible just about everywhere else.  Once I got to eat at the original Pancho’s (that was either on Alameda or Paisano), but I’m not sure if it was still open in 1980.  The original Pancho’s had the best food of any of the locations I tried.
  • Canutillo Tortilla Factory is today known as the Little Diner, and is well known on many national hole in the wall food guides.  In truth, though, the food then and now is not much different from at least a couple of dozen other restaurants that are listed here.