Good Luck Cafe–El Paso, TX

Good Luck Cafe
3813 Alameda Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 532-9039
Good Luck Cafe

Good Luck Cafe

Sometimes it is difficult to compare one cuisine to another in terms of giving them a rating because it is quite subjective. It occurred to me, though, that good Mexican food can be quite similar to good Italian cuisine because of the fact that they have bold flavors matched with a starch base (pasta for Italian and rice, beans, tortillas, etc. for Mexican food). My eating satisfaction is quite similar for both of these, both are very much garlic based, and both are usually moderately spicy but occasionally very high on the Scoville Heat Level.

I say this because the very good restaurants in El Paso such as Good Luck Cafe remind me very much of the good Italian restaurants in Oklahoma. People can make their own comparisons between Mexican restaurants and other types of food, but I do think that those who are only familiar with Tex-Mex or American style Mexican food have not fully experienced what Mexican food has to offer, and Good Luck Cafe would certainly be one of my suggestions for a place to find out how more traditional Mexican food can taste.

Good Luck Cafe is a popular diner with somewhat spartan seating (or you can sit at the counter). As such, you get a different ambiance than you would at a good Italian restaurant. Some of the perks of a diner, though, include much lower prices and a varied menu that includes a range of breakfast items.

Mexican Plate

Mexican plate

Mexican plate

One drawback of Good Luck Cafe is that it only has one combination dinner, called the Mexican Plate. The upside is that it is very good, and if you particularly like one particular item you can order this one on its own plate. The only choice I had was between a ground beef taco and one with shredded beef (deshebrada). Either way, I would recommend trying this plate.

I thought the best item was the Deshebrada Taco, although all three of the main items were just about equally good. The taco was slightly soft but fried enough to have a good flavor, and the meat was flavored in a way that made it one of the best in the city.

The Enchiladas had a classic flavored red chile sauce, and I liked the fact that they did not taste greasy.

The Chile Relleno had a more obvious oil flavor than the other items, but was by no means swimming in grease as some chile rellenos are, and had a very good flavor. Most of the seeds had been removed so that it was not super spicy.

Chili Dog

Hot dog with chili

Hot dog with chili

I did not sample the Hot Dog with Chili so I cannot give a review of it, but it is one of the “diner” options available along with the Mexican food. It is interesting that the custom in El Paso is to serve hot dogs on a round bun.

Other Impressions
When I came here for Sunday lunch the restaurant was completely full, and is obviously very popular. I do not understand the popularity of some restaurants, but the flavor of the food and lack of grease made it obvious to me why Good Luck Cafe has so many loyal patrons. It seemed to be particularly popular with families who had come here for one of their special meals of the week.

Spanish is the predominant language here but it is not necessary for ordering or asking questions about the food. I think the restaurant would be totally comfortable for tourists provided that they are OK with diner type seating.

There are so many good Mexican restaurants in El Paso I could not say that this one especially stands out, except for the fact that everything on the plate was uniformly good. Some other restaurants are the same, but really not as great a number as one might think.

They do not serve chips here (I think this is one of the reasons they have such low prices). The salsa was in a bottle as was so spicy I did not find it advantageous to add it to the items on my plate.

I do not think they have horchata or other aguas frescas, but I actually seldom find these drinks in the restaurants located south of Interstate 10.

Good Luck Cafe has been very popular on Yelp and other sites, letting me know that my one good experience was not just a fluke.


Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $
Hours: Closed Wed.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Mar. 18, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Deshebrada Taco, Chile Relleno


Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A


Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Deshebrada Taco
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Beans
star 4 Rice
star 5 Flour Tortilla
star 5 Salsa

Tommy’s–Oklahoma City, OK

Tommy’s Italian-American Grill
5516 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 470-5577


Writing restaurant reviews has been a good discipline for me, requiring me to analyze different food and to put them on some type of objective rating scale. Of course I know it is an inexact science, but I am very sure about the things I like.

Back in the days when my restaurant visits were for the sole purpose of enjoying the food, one of the places where this was most easily accomplished was at the old Tommy’s in Northpark Mall (at N.W. 122nd and May). The owner of Tommy’s also opened Bellini’s (which is now under different ownership), but the concept of Tommy’s was a little more downscale than Bellini’s. I enjoyed both restaurants, but somehow the food at Tommy’s was more appealing to my tastes, and I particularly thought the the pizza was unmatched in the city for flavor and quality.

The new Tommy’s on Memorial Road (just east of MacArthur) opened in May 2014. The outdoor patio was not yet open at this time, and it did seem as if they had been starting slow, with a “soft opening” taking place in advance of the official one. It is a somewhat casual restaurant where one would feel comfortable dressing up, and the service certainly seems to be on par with the city’s other upscale Italian restaurants. At first I was a little apprehensive that they were trying to be more upscale than the original Tommy’s, but it seems that they have struck the appropriate balance of having good food but not making it so expensive that I have few chances to enjoy it.

Tommy's wood fired oven

Tommy’s wood fired oven

Tommy’s has built a wood fired oven for the pizzas, and the large pizza menu leads me to believe that this is a large part of their business. Even though the pizzas are excellent, they are competitively priced and are a way you can come to the restaurant on a more modest budget.

The restaurant was not trying to sell me drinks, appetizers, or other items which frequently run up the cost of a meal; instead it just seemed that everything was good quality and you could pay a little more if you wanted to go that way.

Salads and Appetizers

Complimentary bread

Complimentary bread

The meal started out with complimentary Bread, and I thought it was about as good as I find in other upscale Italian restaurants. I do not know if they give free refills because I am never able to eat all of the original serving.

House salad

House salad

Salads cost extra, including the House Salad I ordered. The salad was fresh, but to me it seemed “busy” with so many ingredients it really did not have a distinguishing flavor. I do not remember the salads being particularly notable at the old Tommy’s, and probably the same is true here. It is a good filler, though, if you do not think the dinner will be enough for your appetite.

Santa Fe chicken soup

Santa Fe chicken soup

The Santa Fe Chicken Soup was a very good start to one of my meals, with a fresh flavor and large chunks of chicken. The soup contains green chile, although not very much and it is not particularly spicy.


Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

I was very anxious to try the Margherita Pizza, which I remember as being one of the best I have had at the old Tommy’s. This one was as good as I remembered, with excellent cheese and crust (the components of a pizza which I many times find lacking at restaurants). The toppings did not seem any better or worse than at most Italian restaurants, with the exception that it had a rather small amount of basil, but what was there was very aromatic and flavorful (thus the pizza overall still rates as one of my favorites).

Pizzas come in only one size (I believe they told me it was 14 inches), and the one I had was just about right for two people provided they both ordered salads (thus my instinct about ordering the salad was correct). The waiter told me that this pizza had a little different flavor that at the old Tommy’s because of the wood fired grill (considering how good the crust tasted, I would say this was a very good move to make at the new restaurant).

Tommy's New York pizza

Tommy’s New York pizza

Tommy’s New York Pizza is a good choice if you want meat toppings. I thought the pepperoni was best, though, and next time I would skip the sausage. For my taste I would say the Margherita pizza is better because while its toppings are on the sparse side, the New York pizza is a little over the top, particularly with the spicy sausage. The components of Tommy’s pizza I really appreciate are the crust, cheese, and sauce, and I like the pizzas that do not overwhelm these flavors with the toppings.




While I thought the sausage was a little much for the pizza, it is a good mix in the Lasagna (along with the beef). This was one of my favorite dishes at the old Tommy’s, and is less so now because I am not as much of a meat eater (otherwise, though, it is as good as I remembered).

Parmigiana Dishes

Chicken parmigiana

Chicken parmigiana

Chicken Parmigiana so far is my choice as the best meat item at Tommy’s. What I like most about this dish is not that it has a unique style that differentiates it from other restaurants such as Papa Dio’s or Vito’s, but that it is very much the same. The side dishes might be a little more interesting than at the other restaurants, though.

The Eggplant Parmigiana had what to me was a fatal flaw–the eggplant tasted like eggplant. This is somewhat of a joke, but I do think the eggplant is better at some other restaurants.

Chicken Picatta

Chicken picatta

Chicken picatta

The Chicken Picatta was somewhat of a surprise to me because of the fact that it was one of the best dishes I have experienced at Tommy’s (at most restaurants this would not be the case). For me the sauce had the right amount of lemon flavor and the chicken was very good as well. I always consider it a gamble when I order something that does not have red sauce, but in this case it definitely paid off.

Other Comments
I do not know the best dishes here because I mainly stick to the ones I used to order at the old Tommy’s. Having tried the chicken picatta, though, I know it is worth exploring the menu to try other items.

About fifty percent of the reason I like Tommy’s, though, is the pizza. I think it has the best crust in OKC, and the other components are good enough to make this overall one of the best in the city.


Cuisine: Italian
Cost: $$$ (but pizza is cheaper)
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, Wine

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 14, 2017
Number of Visits: 6
Best Items: Margherita Pizza, Chicken Parmigiana, Lasagna, Chicken Picatta, Santa Fe Chicken Soup

Special Ratings
star 5 Margharita Pizza
star 5 New York Pizza
star 5 Chicken Parmigiana
star 5 Chicken Picatta
star 5 Lasagna
star 4 Eggplant Parmigiana
star 5 Santa Fe Chicken Soup
star 4 House Salad

Johnnie’s (NW Expwy.)–Oklahoma City, OK

Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler
6629 Northwest Expressway
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 721-9018
Johnnie's on NW Expwy.

Johnnie’s on Northwest Expressway

Johnnie’s has been my favorite place for hamburgers in Oklahoma City since the demise of the Split-T and The Patio, and follows these restaurants’ formula of serving charcoal broiled hamburgers with hickory sauce. “Johnnie’s sauce” is based on the one at Split- T, with a tangy flavor very similar to some of the sauces served at various barbecue restaurants . It is a difficult task for any restaurant to live up to someone’s childhood memories, and I still think the Split-T and Patio had the best hamburgers ever, but Johnnie’s has been doing a good job of continuing the tradition of what I consider to be “Oklahoma City style hamburgers.”

Photo of the old Split T

Historical photos at Johnnie’s pay homage to some of the city’s early restaurants, including this one of the Split-T

I understand that the hamburgers at Johnnie’s are cooked partially over charcoal (giving them a distinctive flavor), and partially on a gas grill (making sure they are thoroughly cooked). I think it has an excellent result, and is even better with Johnnie’s sauce. I still think this is the best burger in Oklahoma, based on a subjective scale of the burger being important but the sauce being crucial (and I think no one else has a better sauce).

To me the veggie burger is equal in enjoyment to the hamburger, although with the provision that I get it with Johnnie’s sauce. To be honest, most veggie burgers are a real letdown, but the one here is a genuinely good patty with an even better sauce.

I think since about 2012 this location of Johnnie’s has been working hard to maintain its quality control, eliminating the gap I used to see between this restaurant and the Britton Road location. I have not tried the food at all of Johnnie’s locations, but I do believe this restaurant is a good one to sample Johnnie’s food.


Number 5 hamburger

Number 5 hamburger

One of the main attractions here is the No. 5 Hamburger, a charcoal broiled burger with Johnnie’s sauce, pickles, and onions. The sauce is cooked each day for about five hours, and is made with a secret blend of ingredients. It is much like a barbecue sauce, but this one is better than any similar sauce I have tried in the barbecue restaurants. The theta burger (which includes mayo and Johnnie’s sauce) is also quite popular, but is not a favorite of mine.

These hamburgers are good regardless of the toppings. The meat patties are made with chuck, and are higher quality than the average hamburger. Hamburgers are not on my regular diet any more, and I have only tried a few recently, but out of these I thought the ones at Johnnie’s and the old VZD were at the top of the list in terms of quality.

The buns with sesame seeds comprise the third feature that makes this hamburger so enjoyable. Johnnie’s has burgers available without the bun for those who want it this way, but for me the best choices are to get a veggie burger or hamburger on a bun.

Veggie burger

Veggie burger

At Johnnie’s a Veggie Burger is a good alternative to the hamburger, although I would say this would not be the case at most restaurants. Here the meatless burger seems to have a better flavor than others, even though several others match Johnnie’s “Southwest” style with black beans and other ingredients. The veggie burger does not come with Johnnie’s sauce as a default, but I think this is the way to order it.

Johnnie’s offers some other choices if you are not in the mood for a burger. One popular item is the Frankfurter with chili and cheese, similar to the coney hot dogs served at many of the local hamburger restaurants. The frankfurter seemed to be better quality than most, with more meat and less “filler” than many hot dogs, as well as a good flavor. The chili, though, was disappointing compared to the “other” Johnnie’s in El Reno (this is a separate restaurant, not related to Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler). The chili is Texas style–spicy and brown colored (Texas chili can be very good, but I just don’t care much for the one here).


Basil chicken flat bread sandwich

Basil chicken flat bread sandwich

In recent years Johnnie’s has expanded its menu to include items other than its signature hamburgers. Although I was skeptical about ordering any of them, the Basil Chicken Flat Bread Sandwich was surprisingly good. Made with grilled chicken breast meat, provolone cheese, balsamic basil vinaigrette dressing, and herbed flat bread, no one of these components was really a weak link in the sandwich. I cannot say that the balsamic vinaigrette dressing was comparable in flavor to the Johnnie’s sauce used on hamburgers, but I still thought the dressing used on the chicken sandwich was good quality and had a good flavor. The home made chips that came with the sandwich were quite good, and overall the sandwich was a positive addition to the menu. Note: I do not see this on the current menu but the menu changes from time to time and it may come back.

Chicken sandwich

Chicken sandwich with baked beans

The Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich had less flavor than the previous flat bread sandwich but it is a good alternative if you do not want a burger. I frankly prefer the chicken at several barbecue restaurants, though, such as Swadley’s or Billy Sims.


Chicken fried chicken

Chicken fried chicken

The Chicken Fried Chicken did not really stand out to me except for the fact that the gravy was very good, and of course it comes with Johnnie’s french fries (you can also get a baked potato or onion rings instead).

Side Dishes
The French Fries are almost addictive with just the right amount of grease. The large order is probably appropriate only for a family with hungry kids (if you can eat an order by yourself, I would seriously worry about you!).

Baked Beans are a healthier side dish, and just about as good as the fries. Because of tradition, though, I usually order the fries.

Soup and Salad

Vegetable soup

Vegetable soup

The Vegetable Soup is a very worthwhile side dish, not only to make a healthy meal but also for the flavor. I cannot verify this information, but the soup seemed to be made from scratch using fresh ingredients, and I was quite impressed.

Chicken noodle soup

Chicken noodle soup

The Chicken Noodle Soup was also quite good except that I thought it was too salty.

Chef salad

Chef salad

Salads are also available such as a chef salad, Mandarin cranberry, and strawberry spinach (which the menu says is seasonal).

The Iced Tea is very good, partly because the crystal clear ice is much better than the ice I can make at home from tap water.

When I really need a Milk Shake (such as after a visit to the dentist or other traumatic experiences) I head to Johnnie’s. As strange as it may sound, it even goes well with a hamburger (I tried it myself just to make sure I could make this statement). I think the one here is better than at Braum’s, but others are welcome to make their own taste test.



Blackberry cobbler

Blackberry Cobbler was less sweet than those I usually find at restaurants (and I think this is a good thing). Like other items here, the cobbler tasted fresh and made from scratch. The only negative was that the crust was not my favorite.

Apple dumpling

Apple dumpling

The Apple Dumpling was good, but somehow I never had the desire to try it a second time (to me, eating something with Johnnie’s sauce is almost a dessert to me).

Chocolate pie

Chocolate pie

Chocolate Pie always looks like the best dessert in the display case, yet I have found it to be disappointing. It seems to be mostly cream and there is not much chocolate flavor to it.

Summing It Up
Johnnie’s sauce is something that allows me to relive some of my pleasant experiences from childhood, and because of this I am a very loyal customer here. Although eating it with a veggie burger may be an acquired taste, I really enjoy it and actually prefer it to the regular burger. I do believe Johnnie’s has one of the better hamburgers but there are undoubtedly better ones in terms of the meat flavor. I do not worry about it much, though, since my favorite “everyday” eating is the veggie burger with Johnnie’s sauce.

For out of town visitors I might say the Johnnie’s on Britton Road offers more of an “experience” with a larger dining room and usually a larger crowd. Otherwise, though, this location should give a good idea of what Johnnie’s is all about.


Cuisine: Hamburgers
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 22, 2017
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Veggie Burger, Hamburger, French Fries, Cobbler, Milk Shake, Tea

Special Ratings
star 5 Hamburger
star 5 Veggie Burger
star 4 Chicken Fried Chicken
star 4 Grilled Chicken Sandwich
star 4 Frankfurter with Chili and Cheese
star 5 French Fries
star 5 Baked Beans
star 4 Chicken Noodle Soup
star 5 Vegetable Soup
star 5 Cobbler
star 4 Apple Dumpling
star 3 Chocolate Pie

Menu (May 2017):