Coffee Emporium–El Paso, TX

Coffee Emporium
5827 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 584-2255
Coffee Emporium

Coffee Emporium


Although Coffee Emporium is quite popular and gets good reviews, it was not really on my radar until the time I visited. I do not drink coffee, and even having the chance to drink the best coffee (as in New Orleans) is not enough for me to acquire a taste for it. Nevertheless, the coffee here is reputed to be some of the best people have had.

What I know about this shop is that it had a long time owner who retired about 2017, and since that time it has done some minor things to reinvent itself. I think it downsized a little bit, but still maintains the theme of coffee plus treats (candy, etc.). I saw quite a large selection of sweets, which interest me even if I am not going to order any coffee.

The sweets are not made on site (I think some of them were before). What they have, though, is gourmet and comes from sources that seem to have been sought out so that customers would have the best items available.

Chocolate Candy

Coffee flavored chocolates

Coffee flavored chocolateses

I thought that since I was not drinking coffee that I would at least see if they had some good coffee flavored candy. The answer was yes to the coffee flavored part and yes to the good part. I certainly do not include every store I visit on the blog (mainly because of time constraints), but when I get very good leads that I want to share these will be included.

Sweet Shop box

Sweet Shop box

The coffee flavored chocolate came from a company in east Texas called Sweet Shop USA. I had never heard of them, but they make some very good chocolates.

The chocolates are sold individually, and I chose three that were made with different coffee flavors so that I could pick a favorite (at least in terms of coffee flavored candy).

It turned out that my favorite was the Latte (shown in the photo with a swirl on top). I thought I would like it less because it had more of a milk chocolate, but it had a strong coffee flavor (which is a good thing for candy) and had a good flavor overall.

The Cappuccino flavored chocolate had white stripes on top, and although I did not think the coffee flavor was as good as the latte, it had a very good chocolate flavor and overall was a very good candy.

The plain looking dark chocolate with a bean on top was Espresso. This completes the continuum on the scale that the chocolate was probably the best of all of them, but the coffee flavor was the least evident that I could tell.

All of the candies were very good and made an impression on me to the point that I wanted to include them in the blog.

Sweet Shop address

Sweet Shop address

There are many choices in El Paso for good candy, but the chocolates here were some of the best and most decadent I have had. I really enjoyed the coffee flavors, although they have many varieties of chocolate with other flavors.

I did not try their drinks but many people like them, and I can tell that much attention is paid to the details in the way they are made.


RATING: *

Cuisine: Coffee
Cost: *

Most Recent Visit: *

Number of Visits: *

Best Items: Sweet Shop Chocolates

Special Ratings

star 5 Sweet Shop Chocolates

Bella Cora–El Paso, TX

Bella Cora Bakery
7500 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 219-8365
Bella Cora

Bella Cora


I first learned about Bella Cora when they were selling bread at Whole Foods, and as long as this happened I think theirs was what I always bought. In Spring 2018, though, Whole Foods began baking their own versions of these breads and no longer sold the Bella Cora brand. Although many times Whole Foods produced an acceptable version of the same breads, I still wanted to get the original breads from time to time.

I had a hard time, though, figuring out when the bread was available, and several times went on the wrong day or went too late when they had already sold out (although in my mind it was still relatively early in the day).

I have since learned that I can look on their web site for the schedule of when the bread is sold. The ones I enjoyed the most from Whole Foods were the Cranberry Walnut and the Raisin Challah, and these are the ones I have tried to buy at the store.

Pastries at Bella Cora

Pastries at Bella Cora

Pastries seem to be Bella Cora’s best sellers, and there is good reason for this. The ones I tried ranked with Le Rendez-vous in Las Cruces as being the best I have tried in the area. They do not sell the exact same items, but I think the quality is very similar.

The display case on one hand presents a difficult challenge in deciding what to order. On the other hand, though, it seems that everything is good and I think I would be happy with anything they bake.

Bella Cora’s web site also points out that they have holiday pies for Thanksgiving.

Bread

Cranberry walnut bread

Cranberry walnut bread

The Cranberry Walnut Bread is my number one reason for coming to Bella Cora. It is only available one day per week (and only at the west side store), although their web site says they will try to have it for sale more often beginning in Fall 2019. The thing that makes it available so seldom is also what makes it so good–it is freshly made without preservatives. What Bella Cora’s web site does not specifically say is that the ingredients are top quality that put this in a special category of bakeries.

The Raisin Challah was the other bread sold in Whole Foods that I especially enjoyed (and like the Cranberry Walnut is now available only at the Bella Cora Bakery). While I think Whole Foods many times produces a reasonable approximation of Bella Cora’s Cranberry Raisin, I have not found this to be as true for the Challah bread.

Pastries

Chocolate hazelnut cake

Chocolate hazelnut cake

The Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is a pastry I chose at random to try, mainly because I could not remember having one anywhere else. I think most people can probably guess my verdict–it was exceptionally good like everything else I have tried from this bakery. I like to point out that Chinese pastries are good because they have the flavor without being overly sweet, and in a way this was the same. The cake was not as sweet as many, but it did have a strong butter flavor which made it over-the-top in a good way. There was a good balance between the chocolate and hazelnut flavors.

There is another location in east El Paso at 1830 Joe Battle Blvd. Bella Cora is a relatively new bakery, and is in the process of expanding their production as well as their locations. I would not have known about it if they had not had a presence in Whole Foods, but I think at this point the word is getting out and they have plenty of business. Just the pastries alone seem to give them a constant stream of customers (from what I have observed).


RATING: *

Cuisine: Bakery
Cost: *

Most Recent Visit: *

Number of Visits: *

Best Items: Cranberry Walnut Bread, Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Special Ratings

star 5 Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
star 5 Cranberry Nut Bread
star 5 Raisin Challah Bread

La Tapatia–El Paso, TX

La Tapatia
8941 Old County Rd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 859-9616
La Tapatia

La Tapatia


I first ate at La Tapatia sometime around the 1980’s, but when I returned in 2019 I had to ask them if it was the same restaurant, knowing that it is very rare that a restaurant would continue in business that long and still be the same. I was informed that it is not only the same restaurant, but they are now celebrating 65 years in business. Thus I am still amazed that so many of El Paso’s classic restaurants are still going strong (and mostly with the same food they have always served).

Being a couple of blocks from the historic Ysleta Mission, La Tapatia may have caught the eye of some tourists along the way, but it would primarily be considered a neighborhood hangout. They serve breakfast and lunch, and it seems to be popular with people who may want to have a leisurely meal with friends or just hang out in the relative comfort of an indoor setting (particularly helpful during El Paso’s brutal summers). Those who do not have this much time are accommodated also, though, with meals that are prepared with relative speed considering that each order is individually prepared.

While they have a Mexican Plate and a “Super Mexican Plate,” most of the items are served individually so you can have as much or as little as you want. Orders are taken at the counter and they bring it to your table, but otherwise it is mostly self-service. Orders do not come with chips but you get containers of red and green salsa.

Old Country Road, on which the restaurant is located, is the original more serpentine version of Alameda Avenue before it was widened to four lanes. Alameda was the main highway to San Antonio prior to Interstate 10 being built, and serves as the main street of Ysleta. The restaurant is visible from Alameda, and is located a couple of blocks west of the Ysleta Mission. The mission is a historic structure that has been at its present location since 1851 (after older buildings were destroyed because of flooding). Ysleta is the farthest west point along the El Paso Mission Trail, and it is well worthwhile to also visit the Socorro Mission as well as the San Elizario Chapel.

Enchilada Plate

Enchilada plate

Enchilada plate

The Enchilada Plate is the item I remember from previous visits that brought me back to try the restaurant again. The red chile has a very good flavor and the spice is right (about 4 on a scale of 5). El Paso is full of restaurants that serve enchiladas very much like the ones here, and this indicates that there is a right way to do them and the only question is whether they are executed correctly (and these are). I think a very few are especially good (such as Forti’s), and a great number have some trouble meeting the standard (especially at the cheaper restaurants). La Tapatia, though, is in good company by giving a good product that meets the expectations of its customers (or at least it certainly seems that this is the case).

Super Mexican Plate

Super Mexican Plate

Super Mexican Plate

In case anyone is wondering whether I am in some sort of eating competition, the answer is that I did not eat all of the items on these two plates by myself, but they were shared with a dining companion (but still with some leftovers). The Super Mexican Plate came with a taco, chile relleno, and tamal (I did not try the taco). I honestly think that this plate alone would be enough to feed two people, assuming that you would also eat all of the rice, beans, and salad (which we did not).

The Tamal (tamale for those from other parts of the country) seems to be one of the specialties of the restaurant, and I think this was the best item on the plate (note, of course, that it was not actually on the plate but in a separate container). Some Internet reviews have emphasized the fact that they make their own masa, and of course this is one of the keys to the quality of the tamal. Equally important, though, are the meat and the red chile sauce which had an excellent flavor.

The Chile Relleno had an excellent flavor (and is among the top in El Paso that I have found). It was a little greasy, though. This is not at all unusual or even a negative, but a few others in the city have flavor this good without as much grease. The chile and breading were excellent, and I really liked the fact that it was not covered with sauce (the chile, breading, and cheese were really enough flavor). They do give you salsa in a container, though, in case you are craving the extra flavor.

I am not sure what items are on the Mexican plate, but at most restaurants the chile relleno is considered a deluxe item and is only on their more expensive plate (as it is here). One thing that is easy to do at La Tapatia, though, is to order the items you want a la carte and build your own plate.

A La Carte Items

Rolled tacos

Rolled tacos

Another specialty of the restaurant is the Rolled Tacos. These are somewhat of a mini-meal (not really big enough for a meal but they make a very filling side dish or small meal). I did not really notice the “taco” part of it very much (the meat), but it had so much of everything else that it was quite impressive. It not only had a massive quantity of cheese, tomato flavored sauce and green chile, but the flavor and quality was quite good (the chile did not really bring it to the “spicy” range, but gave it a good flavor). The rolled taco shells are deep fried and keep their form despite being soaked in the sauce.

I believe some have commented that this is a better version of the tacos at Chicos Tacos (a local chain which specializes in rolled tacos). I believe, though, that this is an understatement, and that these are so much more than just “better” that these qualify as a specialized El Paso dish that is worth seeking out.

Additional Comments
La Tapatia has been doing something right to be as popular as they are for as long as they have been here. I think they have several dishes which are really their specialties, two of which are the rolled tacos and the tamales.

The red enchiladas are really my favorite item here, but they are not unique in the sense that there are quite a few restaurants that have something very similar (in style, flavor, quality, etc.). The ones here give you a good taste of El Paso style enchiladas, and I definitely recommend them.

Others mention that the gorditas are very good, but I did not try them (as it was I really had too much food to eat).

The restaurant is very down home and not fancy at all. At the other end of the scale in El Paso are the restaurants with margaritas, mariachi music, etc. The good thing about El Paso is that almost everybody serves good Mexican food, it is just a question of what type you want. I would call La Tapatia a little bit offbeat, with one of their specialties being the rolled tacos (an item served by relatively few restaurants, and I think La Tapatia’s style is different from everyone else’s).

I do need to note that breakfast seems to be as popular as lunch, but I do not know what items they serve. I do know that it would probably be a good bet to get something with green chile (after spending time in other parts of the country I know that you seldom find green chile that is the same quality as in the El Paso/ New Mexico area).


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily (Breakfast and Lunch Only)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jul. 15, 2019
Number of Visits: 4
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Tamales, Rolled Tacos

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchilada
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Rolled Tacos