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.

Austin Mexican Restaurants 1985

This list is a transcription of notes I took about the city’s Mexican restaurants when I lived in Austin, Texas.  The full list includes restaurants I copied from the telephone directory (and which were listed as “Mexican restaurants” in the yellow pages).  Star ratings are for the ones I visited (and in the process verified that they were in business at that time).

Many of the restaurants rated with three or four stars are ones to which I made return visits, so really the desire to enjoy good food was the purpose for making the list.  Today it may also be of some historical value, or it may be of some interest for nostalgia.  Only a few of these restaurants are still open today, and I think this is to be expected.

At the time most of the restaurants in the city were Tex-Mex.  I made some notes about places that were New Mexico style, but this mostly means that the enchiladas had red or green chile (and were not Tex-Mex).

Fonda San Miguel was a restaurant that I visited later and discovered that it was a very good interior style Mexican restaurant.  This was one of the city’s earliest non-Tex-Mex four star restaurants, and I believe was one of the earliest of its kind in the United States.

All of the restaurants rated four stars were excellent, but I particularly thought Carmen’s La Tapatia and Mexico Tipico were among the best Tex-Mex restaurants I ever tried (both of these were east of IH-35).

South Austin was pretty much the center of authentic Mexican food, and for this my favorite place was La Reyna (at least it was the place I visited most often).  Now I think there are probably several hundred taquerias and similar interior style Mexican restaurants, taco stands, food trucks, etc. in the city.

My favorite place for tacos was not at any of the restaurants listed, but it was at the food counter in Whole Foods on N. Lamar.  This was part of another trend which is quite popular today, but which was relatively rare in 1985.

In 1985 El Chico seems to have closed all its Austin location (at least this is what I think from reading my notes).  Other chains such as Pancho’s and Monterey House were also pretty close to their ultimate closing in Austin and other cities at this time.

In 1985 Chuy’s (which is now a chain) was operating its original location on Bee Caves Rd. in Austin.  I was never a big fan of it, but I went there because it was close to my house.

For a city of its size, Austin had a very good choice of Mexican restaurants, and more of them were “real Mexican” than in most other cities.  I believe today Austin is one of the foremost cities for Mexican restaurants in the United States, and even in 1985 it was building up to this position.

RATING RESTAURANT ADDRESS PRICES COMMENTS
DOWNTOWN & WEST
Acuñas 511 E. 1st
Casita Jorge’s 1507 Lavaca
Chimichanga 121 W. 5th
El Arroyo 1624 W. 5th
JC Garcia’s 1402 N. IH-35
star 3 Jaime’s Spanish Village 802 Red River Exp Hot sauce is terrible
Julio’s 1005 West Lynn
Las Mañitas 211 Congress
star 2 Manuel’s 310 Congress Very Exp Food is OK, but not Mexican
star 3 Matt’s El Rancho
301 E. 1st Exp Very good, but too expensive
Pinch-a-Pollo 605 Sabine
Santiago’s 604 Neches
Texas Chili Parlor 1409 Lavaca
UNIVERSITY & CENTRAL
Abuelita’s 2323 San Antonio
Austin’s Tamale House 2825 Guadalupe
Chef Lupe’s 2804 N. IH-35
star 4 El Patio
2938 Guadalupe Cheap Best bargain in town
star 2 Fajita Flats
2830 Rio Grande Mod Just fajitas
Las Casas Hancock Shopping Ctr. Formerly El Chico
star 4 Los Tres Bobos 1206 W. 38th Exp Fajitas are excellent
star 2 Trudy’s Texas Star
409 W. 30th Mod New Mexico style
Tula 608 W. 24th
EAST
Alejandro’s 3701 Airport
star 3 Amaya’s Taco Village 4821 E. 7th Mod
Austin’s Tamale House 3518 E. 7th
star 4 Carmen’s La Tapatia 1501 E. 6th Exp Good, but expensive
Cisco’s 1511 E. 6th
Danny’s Mexico Garden 1402 E. 6th
Don Juan’s 2300 E. 1st
star 3 El Azteca
2600 E. 7th Mod
star 3 Gilberto’s 1500 E. 1st Exp  Excellent enchiladas
Hernandez Cafe 1300 E. 6th
star 3 La Cabana
2101 E. 1st Exp  Good food, but expensive
star 4 Mexico Tipico
1707 E. 6th Mod
Nuevo Leon 1209 E. 7th
Peak of Tacos 1132 Airport
Su Casa 2201 Manor
Tio Tito’s 105 Tillery
NORTHEAST
Chef Lupe’s 7100 Hwy. 290 East
El Menudito 7213 Cameron Rd.
El Taquito 5849 Berkman
star 3 El Torito
6134 Hwy. 290 East Exp Some dishes are very good
La Palapa 6640 Hwy. 290 East
star 2 Tres Amigos
7535 Hwy. 290 East Exp Okie style
NORTH
Austin’s Tamale House 5003 Airport
Casa Daniel 11835 Jollyville Rd.
Casita Sanchez 834 E. Rundberg
Cecilia’s Tacos 9614B N. Lamar
Chi Chi’s 8833 Burnet Rd.
El Matador 5343 Burnet Rd.
El Rio 4800 N. IH-35
Fonda San Miguel 2330 W. North Loop
La Fiesta 2190 North Loop
La Fiesta 7032 Woodhollow
Lala’s 2207 Justin Ln.
La Mesa 11606 N. IH-35
La Morada 13450 Research
star 2 La Ronda
Research & Fairfield Mod- Exp
La Talavera 6505 N. IH-35
Lupita’s 8127 Mesa
star 3 Mario’s 7113 Burnet Rd. Mod More NM than Tex-Mex
Mexicali Rose 2113 W. Anderson
Mi Burrito 9428 Parkfield
Monterey House 8600 Burnet Rd.
Pancho’s 5800 Burnet Rd.
star 2 Pinch-a-Pollo
7915 Burnet Rd. Mod Chicken only thing on menu (is good)
San Miguel 2330 W. North Loop
SOUTH
star 3 Alberto’s Tapatia 1909 Wm. Cannon Exp Not worth the price
BB Mexican Food 2210A S. 1st
star 4 Casa Ramirez 3632 S. Congress Mod Good food– good prices
star 2 Chuy’s
1728 Barton Spgs. Mod
star 4 El Gallo 2910 S. Congress Exp
El Sombrero 3116 S. Congress
Jalisco Bar 414 Barton Spgs.
star 2 La Fuentes
6507 Circle S Rd. Exp
star 4 La Reyna 1816 S. 1st Mod
Las Casas 2610 S. IH-35 Formerly El Chico
Las Palomas 3219 Bee Caves Exp Too expensive to try
Mi Tierra 6863 Hwy. 290 West
star 2 Monterey House
1202 E. Ben White Mod Better than the one in OKC
Noemi’s Taco House 5607 S. Congress
Pancho’s 102 E. Oltorf
star 2 Salsa’s
4308 Manchaca
Tamales by Bargas 2448 S. 1st
Tres Amigos 1811 Capital of Texas
SOUTHEAST & MONTOPOLIS
Casa Acapulco 1705A S. Lakeshore
Casita Jorge’s 2538 Elmont
star 3 El Corral 336 Bastrop Hwy. Mod
El Sombrero 3502 Burleson Rd.
La Reyna 2205 E. Riverside
Montopolis Taco Inn 901 Vargas Rd.
ROUND ROCK
El Matador 111 W. Main

 

The four-star rating system was as follows:

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