Las Palmas–El Paso, TX

Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant
1605 George Dieter Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 629-9898
Las Palmas

Las Palmas


I received a tip that Las Palmas was one of the most flavorful Mexican restaurants in El Paso, but that the albondigas served as a Thursday lunch special was the one dish that I really needed to try. Of course I had to try the albondigas, and based on the fact that they fully met my expectations I have reason to believe that the other things I heard about the restaurant are true. I believe this is a restaurant people will want to put on their rotation for Mexican food.

There are different lunch specials each weekday, but rather than regular menu items served at a lower price, they are items that are only served on that day (and only for lunch). These seem to be items that take longer to prepare than most dishes, and include such items as mole (also available on Thursday). Of course I do not know if these are the best items at Las Palmas, but I know that they are not typically available at El Paso restaurants.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The chips and salsa were a good indication that the food would be very good here, particularly because of the fresh and flavorful salsa.

Albondigas

Albondigas

Albondigas is a special on Thursday

The Albondigas served Thursdays as a lunch special are a little deceiving because a bowl of soup like this does not look as filling as it actually is. It actually has several beef meatballs that make a very substantial meal, and the broth is so flavorful I could tell the restaurant really knows what it is doing when it comes to Mexican food. Albondigas are not typically one of my favorite Mexican foods, but I always enjoy something that is among the best in its class, as the one here proved to be.

Other Notes
The restaurant is very busy at lunch time, and the service is a little slow by the standards of when I was working in an office and only had an hour for lunch. After the usual wait for a table, though, things go pretty smoothly from that point forward.

From what I tried I believe this is one of the better Mexican restaurants in El Paso, but I am only working from a sample size of one dish (and of course the chips and salsa). I think the crowd at lunch says something about what the locals think about the food.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open daily (breakfast Fri-Sun.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 1, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Albondigas

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Albondigas
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Viet–El Paso, TX

Viet Restaurant
1700 N. Zaragoza Rd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 855-8888
Viet Restaurant

Viet Restaurant


When I visited Viet Restaurant for the first time I had not realized it was recognized by Texas Monthly as one of the best new restaurants in the state. Instead, I just knew that it had good reviews and I wanted to try one of the few choices in town for this delicious cuisine.

I was confused at first about the name–it went by both “Viet” and “Nhà Hàng Viet,” but the owner told me the longer name was simply the Vietnamese translation of “Viet Restaurant.” Many people seem to love Vietnamese food as much as I do, as evidenced by the fact that the cuisine seems to be almost as common as Chinese food throughout the United States. Like Chinese food, there is a form of Americanization happening with Vietnamese cuisine, although to me it seems that the standard dishes served in most Vietnamese restaurants retain the true form of the authentic cuisine much more than was the case with truly Americanized Chinese dishes such as General Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour pork, broccoli beef, etc. at Chinese restaurants.

Unlike Chinese food, Vietnamese restaurants generally prepare the same dishes the same way everywhere, and the “Americanization” factor has mostly to do with which dishes are available and whether the local population will support the restaurant offering some of the more exotic food available from Vietnam. Although El Paso is like most cities in mainly having the most common dishes available at the Vietnamese restaurants, Viet Restaurant’s menu is one of the most varied in the city, as well as (in my judgment) having an authentic presentation of the food in another way that many restaurants make it more “Americanized” without many people realizing it. The ingredients and flavors used are as important as the dishes themselves, and Viet does not cut corners here.

I do not go along completely with the idea that less authentic means less flavorful, but for some dishes such as pho and the vermicelli bowl, I generally want it as authentic as possible.

Vermicelli Bowl

Vermicelli with lemongrass chicken

Vermicelli with lemongrass chicken

The standard vermicelli bowl is served at almost all Vietnamese restaurants, but in El Paso it seems that every restaurant serves it on a plate instead. This does not affect the flavor, but the way it is prepared and the ingredients used do vary from one restaurant to another. At Viet the Vermicelli with Lemongrass Chicken is the best I have tried in El Paso, and I have been able to use my favorite Vietnamese dish as a benchmark to compare the different restaurants. Viet Restaurant has good chicken with a very good flavor, and this is about all one can expect at any restaurant.

The advantage of a plate instead of a bowl for this dish is that you can add your own toppings as you desire instead of having them mixed together. I like to go easy on the bean sprouts so the plate works for me as long as all the “essentials” are included. Viet has the normal vegetables along with a good portion of peanuts, so this made me happy. What made me even more happy was the excellent flavor of the sauce and the lemongrass. Missing from the vegetables was cucumber, but there were enough carrots to give a good vegetable flavor. Overall I think they did an excellent job of making this delicious as well as authentic.

One ingredient missing here was mint, an item most American restaurants omit. I later talked to the owner who said they have mint and you can request it, but most customers do not like the flavor of the dish once the mint is added. If I were not familiar with the Oklahoma City Vietnamese restaurants I probably would not even know that this dish should have mint, but I am now spoiled and I wish I had known about the mint at Viet. The fact that they even have it at all puts this ahead of the other Vietnamese restaurants in town. I also know that Viet will customize the food to a certain extent if you request it (although the non-customized dishes here are really delicious enough that I think most people will be happy).

Tea
Although the restaurant gives you a tea bag instead of loose leaves or brewed tea, this is standard for El Paso and is becoming standard in other places such as Oklahoma City. They also have boba tea, which I have not tried.

An Assessment
El Paso has at least three Vietnamese restaurants with fairly extensive menus (Viet, Pho Tre Bien, and Saigon Taste). I do not have a lot of experience yet with Viet, but the other restaurants have certain dishes which I find to be better than others. My benchmark dish (lemongrass chicken) has been best at Viet, although Pho Tre Bien is very close (Saigon Taste has other items that I like very much).

My explanation of why Viet Restaurant has the best reviews and is winning awards such as the Texas Monthly recognition is that the owner is present in the dining room and interacts with customers. My understanding of Asian restaurants is that they need a good kitchen with chefs who know what they are doing, but a good part of it is customer service where you can make special requests, get food prepared the way you want, etc. Viet has this, and I will certainly be wanting to go back.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 3, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Vermicelli with Lemongrass Chicken

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Vermicelli with Lemongrass Chicken

New Clock–El Paso, TX

New Clock Restaurant
8409 Dyer St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 751-6367
New Clock Restaurant

New Clock Restaurant


Every once in a while when visiting restaurants I like to return to some of my old favorites, such as New Clock which is located in northeast El Paso a few blocks from where I used to live. Although it has been around as long as I have been in El Paso, it was called “New Clock” back then. To find the “Old” Clock I think you have to go to the Oasis Restaurant at Pershing and Copia which was the inspiration for the restaurant and where the original owner Lyle Dautrich worked before opening what became a chain of Clock Restaurants (the one on Dyer is the only one that is still open).

The "clock" sign

The iconic “clock” sign in front

I really do not have any idea how many times I have been to New Clock, but it was enough that I knew I wanted to go back. If the food has changed at all I think it for the better, because I have memories of it being a “greasy spoon” which is really not the case now. An old menu on the wall shows that it was mainly an American family style restaurant with an emphasis on breakfast items. It still has a coffee shop concept, but the Mexican menu has been greatly expanded so that they have a wide choice of items. The Mexican food in particular seems to have lost the greasy taste I experienced before, and I think it is competitive with the best Mexican restaurants in town.

For those who would like a review in a nutshell I will compare it to other coffee shops. Good Luck Cafe, for instance, served a Mexican plate on which I thoroughly enjoyed everything that was served. New Clock, on the other hand, has hits and misses. In my opinion the good items at New Clock are really at a level that I would call some of the best in El Paso (I did not find this at Good Luck Cafe), while some of the items at New Clock are below the standard of Good Luck. I tend to go to restaurants such as New Clock because there are certain things I especially like, while Good Luck Cafe would be a good choice if my main emphasis was variety rather than one specific dish I was craving.

Breakfast

Enchiladas montadas

Enchiladas montadas

Enchiladas Montadas are a popular dish at New Mexican restaurants, but at the New Clock they are served on the breakfast menu. This is because they have an egg on top and they come with hash browns. The enchiladas are served flat and come with either red or green sauce (or it can be served half and half as I got it). The red part of the enchilada was one of the most flavorful I have ever eaten. In addition to being served flat as in New Mexico, it was spicy like New Mexican food and the flavor was very comparable as well. This is definitely an excellent choice.

I liked the Green Enchilada as well, but not as much as the red. I thought the green sauce was more of a border style with some type of filler, although the green chile itself seemed to be the real deal (and probably came from New Mexico).

The eggs are cooked the way you want and were very good as well. I thought they added to the overall flavor, and were a good way to cut what would have been a very spicy dish.

The Hash Browns were a very big disappointment compared to the last ones I had (at El Camino in Socorro, NM). Granted that I have a limited number of hash brown experiences recently, but I know that the ones at New Clock are really not the best you can find.

The Beans were good but did not seem to be among the best in El Paso.

Huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros

I also sampled the Huevos Rancheros topped with chile con queso (there is an extra charge for the chile con queso). I thought the flavor of the chile con queso was a little subdued compared to the two sauces on the enchiladas, but it makes a good choice when you want something less spicy than the enchilada sauces. The green chiles on top were not terribly spicy, so overall this is a pretty mild dish but still with a border flavor.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The chips and salsa were so good this influenced me to give New Clock a rating more toward the high end of the scale (thinking that the hash browns were an anomaly). It also made me think that the Mexican food is really what this restaurant does the best.

Other Notes
Although there is a large choice of menu items, I think Mexican food is really what is most popular here. I know that I can really recommend the red enchiladas. I do not know if they purposely serve the food New Mexico style, but the enchiladas were closer to this style than the typical ones served in El Paso (especially because of the spice level).

I believe the breakfast menu is available all day, or at least it was available when I went at lunch time. For some of the items, such as the enchiladas montadas, the only thing that really distinguishes them as a breakfast item are the fact that they are served with hash browns and that there is an egg on top. I think breakfast is their most popular and quite likely their best meal, with the understanding that the breakfast menu is quite varied and many of the items are suitable for other meals.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican and American
Cost: $$
Hours: Open daily except Sun. evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: May 6, 2018
Number of Visits: 5
Best Items: Enchiladas Montadas (Red), Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Huevos Rancheros
star 5 Rice
star 4 Beans
star 3 Hash Browns
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa