Peppe’s–Canutillo, TX

Peppe’s Restaurant & Cantina
6761 Doniphan Dr.
Canutillo, TX
(915) 877-2152
Peppe's Restaurant

Peppe’s Restaurant


Perhaps my favorite long time El Paso restaurant was Griggs Restaurant, located on Doniphan Drive about a mile north of Country Club Road. There were branches in Kern Place, a long-running one near the airport, and for a brief time on Mesa Hills. These all used the Griggs family recipes, but the Doniphan restaurant is the one that stayed in the family until shortly before its closing in 2003. I also thought the Doniphan restaurant stayed the most consistent to the family recipes, although for the most part the other restaurants served the same great food.

I heard that the east side Griggs Restaurant closed sometime around 2008, and unfortunately it was related to the health of the owner. This led to an agreement between the owner and his long time employees Peppe and Lorena Morales that the latter could open their own restaurant using the Griggs family recipes. Thus Peppe’s Restaurant & Cantina has been open since 2009 in Canutillo, Texas, carrying on the Griggs tradition and using the same recipes that were used in the original restaurants.

Peppe’s dining room with much of the memorabilia from the old restaurants

The Griggs Restaurants on Doniphan and Montana were probably as famous for their antique furniture and artifacts as for the food, and both were in spacious buildings that resembled haciendas. In contrast Peppe’s Restaurant is rather small, with only a few of the antiques from Griggs Restaurant on display. Peppe likes it this way, though, allowing him to concentrate on the food which has been purposely copied from Griggs. The menu even looks the same as the old ones I remember.

Peppe's menu

Peppe’s menu modeled after the former Griggs Restaurant

With Peppe’s Restaurant being small and the owners present every time I go there, I think the food will keep the consistency I found at the old Doniphan location (Peppe worked as a chef at the Montana location and is very familiar with the Griggs family way of doing things).

In 1968 the Griggs family published a cookbook with Mrs. Josephine Griggs’ recipes, and copies were still being sold as late as about 2015 at El Pinto in Albuquerque. Mrs. Griggs’ children owned Griggs Restaurant in El Paso, La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico, La Posta in Rancho Cordova, California, and El Pinto (the Albuquerque restaurant). La Posta in California is closed, but it is apparent that the restaurants still operating do not cook the food in exactly the same way, and have done a lot of tweaking to the original recipes. Peppe says that Mrs. Griggs’ book was not complete in that it did not explain what type of pots and pans to use for cooking the food, where to source the ingredients used, etc. Presumably, though, this information was passed down to all the Griggs children and to anyone operating the family’s restaurants.

One of the unique features of Peppe’s (and Griggs before it) is the source of its chiles. These come from a farm in La Union, New Mexico (near the El Paso Upper Valley) and are fresh inasmuch as the growing season allows. Peppe takes further steps, though, to ensure a good quality and flavor of his chile (including the chiles rellenos). The chiles used at Peppe’s are all sun dried, which gives a mild flavor (many restaurants use machine dried chiles, which have a darker color and a more bitter taste). His chiles are not terribly spicy, and the Griggs family understanding of New Mexican chile was that it is not supposed to be as spicy as some of those from Mexico such as chile de arbol, habanero, etc. The Griggs recipes also make generous use of tomatoes which further tone down the food.

In my opinion La Posta and El Pinto are geared toward tourists in their chile spice level. El Pinto seems to start with milder chiles than Peppe’s, and by the time they tone them down with tomatoes and other ingredients, there is very little New Mexico chile heat left (although there is enough flavor that I do not totally dismiss La Posta’s food as being unauthentic, only that it is one of the mildest New Mexico style restaurants in the Las Cruces area).  I have not been to El Pinto in a while, but the review on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog indicates that it is very mild as I remember it.

At Peppe’s I think the the red chile has the highest spice level. It does not match the level of some restaurants in New Mexico, but it is definitely noticeable. The chile con queso is probably next on the spice level, with the green chile being the mildest (although it definitely seems to be more potent than the green chile served at La Posta).

In some ways the recipes at Peppe’s are a little non-traditional for New Mexican food, and offer a little bit of a different take on this cuisine than I normally find. Some examples are the following:

  • The green enchiladas are a solid choice here although I rarely care much for them anywhere else. The spice level is less than with most other New Mexico style green enchiladas, but they are hot enough that to me this is not an issue. The flavor, though, seems to be a perfect blend of chile, tomato, and spices (and few others have a flavor that I like this much).
  • The Griggs family recipe for the chile relleno is similar to the one at Chope’s in serving it plain with no sauce on top, and both Chope’s and Peppe’s use local chiles. Although Chope’s has what I think is the iconic New Mexico chile relleno, the one at Peppe’s is very good, and makes this one of the few restaurants where I go out of my way to order the chile relleno.
  • Peppe’s presentation of chile con carne is a little different than at most restaurants, and in addition to serving it plain also features it on a tostada compuesta with the beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese on top. Several restaurants use chile con carne in a sopapilla compuesta, but Peppe’s is one of the few I have found that serves it on a tostada.
  • The slaw at Peppe’s is quite unique and is my favorite side dish over the rice or beans (La Posta, though, has a similar slaw which is also made from Mrs. Griggs’ recipe).

Salsa and Appetizers

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

After all these years it is still hard to beat Griggs’ Salsa, now served at Peppe’s along with with their excellent chips (and tortillas if you desire). In fact, I used to think that the Griggs salsa was a little wimpy, but I appreciated it a lot more after all the Griggs Restaurants closed and it was no longer available (and fortunately it was only a short wait until Peppe’s opened). It is true that this is not the spiciest salsa in El Paso or in New Mexican restaurants throughout the Southwest, but I appreciate the flavor and the fact that it is always fresh.

Radio salsa sampler

Radio FREE Salsa Sampler

The Radio FREE Salsa Sampler came as a promotion on the El Paso History radio program which airs Saturday mornings on KTSM-AM. Peppe’s is a sponsor of the show, and anybody who mentions the “Radio FREE Salsa Sampler” gets the above pictured salsa samples for free. The original purpose of it is so that you can try all of their sauces and find out which ones you like best in terms of the flavor and the spice level before you order a whole plate of it. It is also a good thing to order, though, if you simply want to try different things (you can ask for it whether you heard it on the radio program or not).

The Chile con Carne (at the top of the photo) is the same meat sauce used on the tostada compuesta, and it also comes on some of the combination plates such as the Combo #3. Peppe says this is also a sample of their red sauce used on the enchiladas, although this sauce comes without the meat.

The Green Sauce (at the bottom) is used on the green enchiladas, although I think it has a better flavor on the enchiladas because of the cheese that is added.

Peppe’s has one of the best examples of Chile con Queso I have found anywhere (shown on the left of the photo). The cheese at Peppe’s is a little thicker than is usually found, offering the reason people will either like it or dislike it (depending on their viewpoint), but I am glad it is more of a solid than a liquid. The green chiles are fresh and flavorful, but not of the ultra hot variety.

The salsa on the right is the regular one that all customers get with the chips.

Combination Plates

Combination Plate No. 3

Combination Plate No. 3 with green enchilada instead of red

Usually I like meals with a variety of items, the the combination plates offer a several choices for this (they will also make some substitutions). The Combo Plate #3 on the dinner menu is a good way to sample some of my favorite items. Although the red enchilada comes standard on the plate, I think the Green Enchilada is one of the best items at Peppe’s, and can be substituted for the red. To me the green enchilada offers a very flavorful blend of New Mexico chiles, cheese, tomato, and tortilla (but one which is not as spicy as most of the ones in Las Cruces).

There is no question in my mind that the Chile Relleno is another “best dish” at Peppe’s. Peppe’s serves the chile relleno New Mexico style, with no sauce on top. The chile, cheese, and batter are all much better than average, making it unnecessary to add a sauce (and in my mind it would be an adulteration of the dish to do so). The trick of the cheese is to cook it just right, and I have found that Peppe’s has this nailed (the menu says they stuff it with a mild cheddar). There is also the factor that the chile is local, and is sun dried.

Another notable item on the Combo #3 is the Chile con Carne, made with pork carnitas and red chile. This was one of the spicier items served, and I thought it went well with the other items. My favorite form of chile con carne, though, is when it is served on a tostada compuesta with beans, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Thus my choice is usually to get the Noonday Combination C that includes a tostada compuesta, and because of the substitutions that are allowed I usually get the other items I want as well.

The Rolled Taco is an item I often substitute because I am usually not a big fan of ground beef, but the one at Peppe’s was quite good. It tasted as if it were mixed with potato, and everything was simple but prepared well.

Green Enchiladas

Green enchiladas are New Mexico style

Green enchiladas are New Mexico style

An order of Green Chile Cheese Enchiladas comes with rolled enchiladas, but you can ask for them to be flat, as pictured. Stacked (flat) enchiladas seem to have more sauce, and I think this is the best way to enjoy one of the best versions of this dish I have tried in the El Paso area (in fact, I am gradually reaching the point that these are the only green enchiladas in El Paso that I really like).

Red Enchiladas

Red enchiladas with an egg on top

Red enchiladas with an egg on top

The Red Chile Cheese Enchiladas plate is also quite good, and is prepared New Mexico style (with more of the chile flavor coming through than in restaurants that serve the typical El Paso style enchiladas). These enchiladas are spicier than the green ones, but mild compared to ones found in Las Cruces or northern New Mexico. I recommend it with an egg on top (as shown in the photo).

The Rice is excellent, with a good mixture of flavors. Its moisture content indicated that it had not been sitting around for a long time.

Peppe’s serves whole beans by default. It is really hard to judge these compared to others, since preparing them is pretty straightforward. I prefer these, though, to just about any refried beans that are served in El Paso.

The Slaw is notable for being one of the best, although slaw is somewhat of a novelty in El Paso restaurants unless they are New Mexico style as Peppe’s is. One of the secrets of the slaw here is that it is made with apple cider vinegar (and Peppe says it has to be a certain kind of vinegar mixed just right with the other ingredients that are used).

Chile con Queso Dishes

Chicken breast with chile con queso

Chicken breast with chile con queso

I do not think there are any items with chile con queso available on the combination plates, so the best bet is probably to order one of several plates available from the menu. One of the best is the Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso (you can also get it Tampiqueña style). One reason I like this dish is the high quality of the chicken. Another one of my favorites from Griggs was the Grinder (chopped steak), but I have not yet had this at Peppe’s. Burritos are also available topped with chile con queso.

Noonday Combinations

Noonday Combination

Noonday Combination with items from both C and D

The Noonday Combination C is one of my “go to” choices at Peppe’s, although I usually substitute a green enchilada (an item from Combination D) for the folded taco (an item normally served on C). I think the reason I can make this substitution is that Combinations C and D are the same price (A and B are less expensive, and probably allow similar substitutions between them).

The above photo shows my preferred mix and match, resulting in slaw, tostada compuesta, chile relleno, and a green enchilada. It does not have rice and beans, but I do not really miss them since I have the slaw. Griggs Restaurant only served the Nooday Combination at lunch (hence the name), but Peppe’s lets you order it any time.

Desserts
Peppe’s charges extra for a Sopaipilla, as did Griggs Restaurant. You can get them plain or get the bite size version with cinnamon and sugar.

Other desserts are also available, such as Flan. I do not know if this is one of the items from the Griggs family recipes, but I was quite impressed with it.

Additional Comments
One of the little things that I particularly enjoy about Peppe’s, is the fresh Corn Tortillas that are served with the meal on request. The tortillas are made fresh daily at a nearby tortilla factory, and I think are excellent.

There is a full cantina (bar) here, but Peppe says he is keeping a family atmosphere (there are no TV’s or loud music playing).

I do need to mention that they have an additional charge if you use a credit card. It does not become official until you sign the receipt and they run it through, so if you decide you want to pay by cash after seeing this charge on the check, you can do so.

My usual meal here is the Noonday Combinations C, with an enchilada substituted for the folded taco. The Combination Plates have a larger number of items, and are also very good. For those who want smaller plates, though, the Noonday Combinations are available any time and not just at lunch.

For a one-item plate, though, my top choices would be enchiladas (green or red) or something with chile con queso. Be advised, though, that the green enchiladas are served rolled unless you specifically ask for them to be stacked (the red enchiladas come default as stacked).

So many of El Paso’s classic restaurants are now gone that I make a special effort to support the ones that are still around or that have been reincarnated with new names. What is especially good about Peppe’s is that it maintains the quality that Griggs had, and the food here is not exactly like anything I have had in El Paso or New Mexico. La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico gives a good presentation of the Griggs family recipes, but I think Peppe’s gives one that uses hotter chiles and has a better flavor.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun. evening & Mon.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 30, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Green Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Tostada Compuesta, Red Enchiladas, Grilled Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso, ICX (chopped steak with chile con queso), Slaw, Beans

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Tostada Compuesta
star 5 Rolled Taco
star 5 Chicken Breast with Chile con Queso
star 5 ICX (chopped steak with chile con queso)
star 5 Slaw
star 5 Rice
star 5 Beans
star 5 Chile con Queso
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 4 Flan
star 4 Sopaipilla

 

Menu (May 2019):

Los Cabos–El Paso, TX

Los Cabos Seafood
7200 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 301-0030
Los Cabos Seafood

Los Cabos Seafood


Los Cabos is one of several Mexican seafood restaurants in El Paso, and it is one of the more recent ones to open. Although there is only one Los Cabos in El Paso, I do not know if it is an offshoot from a restaurant in Mexico as Villa del Mar and other restaurants are. I do know that the style of the restaurant and the food are authentic Mexican, and remind me of what I find at Villa del Mar.

The name “Los Cabos” made me think that they might have have Baja style tacos and other seafood dishes from Baja California. After asking the staff, though, I do not believe there is anything here that I would call Baja style. The seafood in El Paso seems to all be Mazatlan style, which is the closest seaport to where we are located. I think there is nothing wrong with this style of seafood, but it is just a recognition that all the restaurants in El Paso serve the same style of food, they just try to do it better than everyone else.

When pulling into the restaurant for the first time I saw a tree on the right side of the building. This actually covers an outside patio that was very popular the day I went even though the temperature was quite warm (as it tends to be in El Paso). I do not know if it is an actual outside patio or whether it is temperature controlled because I did not go to the patio to look. The dining room was not completely full (and I went on a busy day). It seems that people use the patio by preference and not because tables become unavailable in the dining room.

My first visit was probably somewhat clouded by what I consider to be flaws in the service, and I am not yet giving a rating to the restaurant (it probably would be a good idea to try some other dishes as well). At this point I do not have anything against the restaurant or a reason not to return, but it is just that I have had better experiences at other places.

Not directly related to the restaurant itself is the fact that it is located in the Colony Cove shopping center. I used to work for the city and saw how they approved parking plans along with other design criteria when approving commercial centers. In the case of Colony Cove, I saw them go through this process and then step by step change things for the worse once the plans were approved and the business spaces were occupied. With the handicapped spaces in particular, Los Cabos has a bad situation where the parking is far away from the door, and people must go on a steep incline to get to the building. The restaurant is accessible according to the regulations, but I feel that someone in charge of the situation could make it a lot better if they desired.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Patrons get a free set-up of chips and salsa (and I found out they will give refills at no charge). Along with a red and green salsa, there is a fresh ceviche to load on the very fresh and delicious chips if you wish.

I have noticed very good comments about the chips and salsa, and I agree with them. The green salsa, though, was very notable because it was one of the best I have ever had. The red salsa and the ceviche would be considered quite good compared to what most restaurants serve, but to me the green salsa was so fresh and had such a good flavor that it blew the others away. The green salsa is not fiery hot, but had a good kick that I would rate at about four chiles out of five. The red salsa was also somewhat spicy (at least three chiles). I think the ceviche had a little kick as well, but I noted it more for its good flavor.

Appetizers

Fish soup

Fish soup

Meals come with a free cup-sized serving of Fish Soup that is so loaded with fish and vegetables it was really more like a bowl than a cup. I enjoyed the flavor (it was a traditional flavor like the ones I find in the city’s other seafood restaurants). This one seemed to be spicier than most, which I think would get to the five-chile level if you drank the broth straight. I definitely give thumbs up to the soup (especially since it is free).

Filete Veracruzano

Veracruzano fillet

Veracruzano fillet

One section of the menu gives a choice of shrimp or fish fillet with different toppings (by the way, they do have non-fish items but seafood is about 90 percent of the menu). All items on this section are served with a salad OR steamed vegetables AND mashed potatoes OR french fries (as described by the menu). There are fourteen choices of toppings, and many are ones I have not seen at other restaurants (or else I have not noticed). For my first time at the restaurant I chose my favorite, which is Fillet Veracruzano. This has a sauce which is traditional in El Paso, and includes vegetables, olives, and potatoes.

First of all, though, I defy anyone to find the olives in the picture, because I never found any. The potatoes were plentiful but other versions have not had this, and I am not sure if this is really a traditional feature of the dish (they were good, though). The vegetables were quite good. I was not sure whether I gave the sauce a thumbs up or not because it seems that I have had better sauce at other restaurants. I have had enough bad sauce in Oklahoma, though, to still appreciate the ones here even if they do not seem to be the best in town.

Veracruzano side dishes

Veracruzano side dishes

Because the Veracrucano sauce has a consistency like a soup, the side dishes and salad are served on a separate plate. This is a good feature of the dish, since I am happiest when my food is separated or even in separate dishes rather than all mixed together. The salad was very fresh and good. The mashed potatoes tasted fresh (not instant). To me the rice tasted so-so, like most of the rice in El Paso. There was so much food I could not eat everything, so the rice is mostly what I left on the plate.

The fish tasted like most of the fish in El Paso–fish that had come from several hundred miles away. I am puzzled by reviews I see of many restaurants in El Paso where people describe the fish as good, while to me it is just passable. This is why the sauce has to be extra good at a seafood restaurant for me to really enjoy the fish. To me this dish did not meet these standards, although I realize that I have high standards and possibly unrealistic ones.

Other Dishes
My dining companion had the Breaded Filet (spelled a different way on the check than it is on the menu) and reported that it was good. All of the dinners come with a choice of shrimp or fish fillet. They also have fish tacos, soups, shrimp cocktail, whole fish (at market price), and appetizers such as aguachiles and ceviche.

For non-fish items I only found fajitas, carne asada tacos, and some items on the Kid’s Menu (grilled cheese, cheeseburger, corn dog, etc.).

On the section of the menu labeled “Specialty” there are some items that seem to not have much fish (or maybe none at all) such as Cabos Enchiladas.

Additional Comments
The restaurant adds a surcharge to the bill if you pay by credit card, and my problem is that they did not make it easy for me to discover this fact until it had already been charged.

There were many interesting looking items on the menu that I have not yet tried, so I think it would probably merit an additional visit(s).


RATING: N/R

Cuisine: Mexican Seafood
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes (see comments in my write-up)
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, wine

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 16, 2019
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Fish Soup, Chips, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 4 Filete Veracruzano
star 5 Fish Soup
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

Amigos–El Paso, TX

Amigos Restaurant
2000 Montana Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 533-0155
Amigos Restaurant

Amigos Restaurant


For years the “amigos” worked at La Hacienda restaurant until they opened their own place on Montana Avenue with the partnership of Mr. “Hooky” Apodaca who is the restaurant’s owner. The amigos were always into cooking and customer service, where they helped Alfonso Lopez Galindo and his wife Enriqueta (the long time owners of La Hacienda) build and maintain La Hacienda as one of El Paso’s most well known and beloved institutions. Located on the banks of the Rio Grande, La Hacienda was once known as Hart’s Mill which was an operating business as well as one of El Paso’s earliest homes. I believe the building is the city’s oldest home which is still standing (it has been vacant, though, since La Hacienda closed). When Mr. Lopez bought the building in 1939 in anticipation of opening La Hacienda he did extensive restoration to the building, otherwise it would likely not be standing today.

After Mr. and Mrs. Lopez passed away La Hacienda had a series of new owners, and when one of them changed the food the employees left the restaurant en masse. I think what was unusual, though, was the respect they had for La Hacienda’s food and way of doing things to the point that they wanted to continue on in a new restaurant. This was the genesis of Amigos Restaurant, where a group of the La Hacienda employees came together, bringing the food from La Hacienda with them

To me, La Hacienda was the city’s showcase restaurant featuring old world style service and waiters who did it for a career, getting to know customers individually and treating them as old friends. The unique thing about La Hacienda, though, was that it was not an upscale restaurant in the food or the prices. Customers did get upscale service, though, in a very unique and historical setting.

Today at Amigos you still get the same attentive service by professional waiters that is becoming a lost art. The food is mostly the same as at La Hacienda, or at least I can say that some of the same cooks are still here. When Amigos opened it had the same lunch specials that were at La Hacienda, but these have now been discontinued. The recipes of the items are the same, but while La Hacienda was mostly known as a place for lunch, Amigos serves everything from a dinner menu with larger portion sizes.

I have heard a story that the recipes at Amigos originated from the owner’s mother, who came from New Mexico. When she came to El Paso she thought most of the restaurants were not spicy enough, thus she served chile at the same spice level as is common in the Land of Enchantment. I think this story actually applies to La Hacienda rather than Amigos, and it would have been the mother of Mrs. Lopez who inspired the spicy recipes. In any case, you will get New Mexico chile levels with the Mexican plate or any other dinners that have items with red chile (I am not sure how spicy the green chile is).

Amigo's dining room

View from the front dining room looking into the bar and rear dining room area

Amigos is in an old house that has a large dining room in front and several small ones in the rear (along with the bar). There is a parking lot on the east side of the building, and also parking at the west side on Eucalyptus Street. A Brio station is located in front of the restaurant in anticipation of the Montana line’s inauguration.

The “Old” Amigos Restaurant
I started coming to Amigos in 2007 shortly after La Hacienda closed, and I think it was well known even at the time that this was the old La Hacienda food in a new location. I had some of the lunch specials that were like the ones at La Hacienda, but unfortunately I do not have any photos of them. I remember that on one of the days of the week the special was spaghetti (the intent of La Hacienda and Amigos was not to maintain the authenticity of its Mexican food but to provide dishes that were popular with customers).

Home made soup and a fresh salad begin the full course lunch special, although portions were relatively small. Rolls used to come from La Ideal Bakery, a few blocks away, and were so good I almost wanted to fill up on them instead of the chips. Amigos’ salsa is so good, though, that I ended up eating a substantial portion of chips as well. La Ideal later closed, and this may be one reason the lunch specials were discontinued.

La Hacienda used to serve a small dessert and I believe Amigos followed the same practice, although this does not stand out in my mind the way the soup, salad, and bread do.

The "old" combination dinner

Combination dinner from the “old” Amigos

I do have some photos from the dinner menu of the “old” Amigos, though. The combination dinner which I ordered at the time is still available, and is called the Deluxe Mexican Plate. All the food looks exactly the same as the times I have ordered it recently.

The "old" Amigos salad

Salad from the “old” Amigos

The salad at the “old” Amigos was larger than the one now, and was served with the dinner combination plate. They used to have a smaller salad with the lunches, but now the small salad is served with the dinner plates (it is packed with goodness, though, and I do not think it is a big deal that the salads are now smaller).

Chips with two kinds of salsa

Chips and salsa from the “old” Amigos

Amigos used to serve two types of salsa, but now only has a red salsa.

Deluxe Mexican Plate

Deluxe Mexican plate

Deluxe Mexican plate

Although the photo is from a different angle, this is the same plate as the one from the “old” Amigos shown in the previous photo. It has an enchilada, chile relleno, taco, rice, and beans (and comes with a salad).

The Red Enchiladas were somewhat of disappointment to me at the old La Hacienda, with the chile being spicier than I thought was the norm even in New Mexico. They have been equally spicy at Amigos, but they seem more flavorful. I think the enchiladas have actually remained constant through the years, but my perception of them has changed since I have become more accustomed to the spicy food of the desert Southwest. I do not remember how the green chile tastes– I have only the red recently.

Amigos has a rather unusual Spanish sauce topping for the Chile Relleno that is made with celery and cinnamon. This is non-spicy with a sweet flavor (although the chile itself is medium spicy). Like the enchilada this was not one of my favorite dishes at La Hacienda, but it has been excellent when I have tried it at Amigos. I think my problem with it in the past was its greasiness, but I do not find that to be the case at present. In general I say that the food is the same at Amigos as it was at La Hacienda, but actually it has proved to me to be even better.

The Beef Taco seems more El Paso style to me than New Mexican, using a potato filler that I first experienced at Ben’s Tacos in South El Paso. I think the ones at Amigos are better than any of the other similar tacos I have had recently, though.

Some Pre-2010 Notes
I think all of the items mentioned here are still on the menu and still prepared the same way, but I am giving the disclaimer than I tried them in 2010 or earlier and do not have a recent experience with them.

The Chicken Tampiqueña was an example of a dish that is well beyond the normal quality found in Mexican restaurants. Served on a chicken breast, the green chile strips were not only spicier than the ones normally found, but fresher and more flavorful. A whole peeled avocado garnished the top, but unlike the ones in most restaurants, it was ripe without being beyond its prime. The red enchilada served on the side served as a perfect complement, and the whole pinto beans are very enjoyable. This was a meal I liked to eat slowly to enjoy every bite– it was an example of the type of food that used to be more common in El Paso that delivered quality rather than a huge quantity of substandard food.

The Pescado al Mojo de Ajo was a classic presentation of this type of fish fillet topped with garlic. The cod used in the fillet was better than the fish found at many restaurants that specialize in Mexican seafood, and I would not hesitate to recommend the one at Amigos. The one here did not come with mashed or baked potatoes on the side as is traditional, but it is not such a bad thing to have less starch in the meal.

The Chicken Taco was also very good, with fresh and good quality meat topped with white cheese and ripe tomatoes.

Specials (pre-2010)
For a while the restaurant was offering “seasonal specials” with dishes from the interior of Mexico. These have now been discontinued because not enough people ordered them, giving great insight as to why El Paso does not have many choices other than the standard border dishes. I have to give the chef credit, though, for not giving up in trying to serve good food but in maintaining a very high quality for the regular menu.

Amigos may have had the best Tortilla Soup in town, but unfortunately it was almost never served. I was told they only made it “once every two weeks.” This was part of a rotation of specials that were being served, but which I think have now been discontinued.

More Recent Experiences

Tostada compuesta

Tostada compuesta

The Tostada Compuesta is an example of an item that is not spicy at all, and which shows the variety that can be found in Mexican food. I added some salsa from the table, but this is just me. Customers have their choice of toppings on the tostada but the standards are beef and chicken. I tried both of these, and found the chicken to be more flavorful (with good spices). The beef is deshebrada (shredded) with good meat but it did not have a lot of spices or flavoring added. You can get other toppings such as beans, but none of them are spicy unless you add your own salsa.

Chile con queso steak

Chile con queso steak

The Chile Con Queso Steak is one of the more expensive items, and is supposed to be one you order when you want to splurge. It is made with a cube steak which I found to be a little tough, so this was disappointing. The chile con queso was good, but not exciting enough to really enjoy the dish as the special treat that I thought it would be.

Lent Specials

Lent special lentil soup

Lentil soup served as part of the Lent special

In 2019 I made it to Amigos for their Lent special, which started out with an excellent tasting Lentil Soup (unlike some restaurants, this one was vegetarian).

Lent special

Breaded fish on the Lent special

For the main dish they had Breaded Tilapia, with no other choices. No others were needed, though, because I considered this to be the best Lent Special of the year out of the ones I tried at various restaurants. I have been complaining about the fish at various restaurants not being as good as it should, but the fish at Amigos shows me that higher quality is possible in a desert city. Breaded fish is available on Amigo’s menu all the time (either tilapia or cod), but the side dishes are different for the Lent meal.

Although the breading was excellent, I do not think this accounted for the better taste of the fish that I experienced. El Paso is not Galveston, and I know the fish here is not the freshest that you can get. Amigos seems to find the best that is available, though.

The restaurant said that they had run out of the Capirotada dessert that I usually enjoy with a Lent meal, but I told them I wanted to order the meal anyway (and I am glad I did).

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The chips and salsa may not be my absolute favorite in El Paso, but they are close. Amigos is not afraid to make certain dishes “New Mexico spicy,” and the salsa is no exception.

Additional Notes
Amigos is casual but comfortable, giving the kind of service that is seldom delivered in El Paso. Lunch is usually very busy, but at dinner they seem to make a special effort to create a place where you can relax.

Amigos is nicely decorated, quiet, with tasteful music, and with professional waiters that I think are more appreciated when you have more time for a leisurely meal.

Everything is quite clean– this and the service would probably bring me back even if the food wasn’t as good as it is.

Prices are moderate– not the cheapest in El Paso nor the most expensive. It does seem more expensive now, though, because they no longer have lunch specials. I know, though, that on the tostada plate you can order one tostada instead of two, and I believe that other plates can be made similarly less expensive by deleting certain items.

Most items are not extremely spicy, but the red enchiladas or the Mexican plate (with a red enchilada) would be five out of five on the chile scale.

The posted closing time is 8:00 p.m. (3:00 on Mondays), but this is one of the few restaurants in El Paso that will stay open later if there is a lot of business (usually on weekends), and will not make you feel that you are being rushed if you go late.

I have heard from a friend that the Carne Adovada is the best dish at the restaurant, but I have not yet been able to try it. This is one of several large dishes that seem to exceed my appetite, but which many say are the best dishes (steaks, carne adovada, etc.).

Gumball machine

Even the gumball machine is your amigo

Many of the dishes here from south of the border, and I think locals like it because it is authentic. The red enchiladas were purposely made with New Mexico style chile, but I do not know of other items that would be considered New Mexican. Mr. Lopez, one of the original owners of La Hacienda, came from Jalisco and may have brought some recipes from there as well. I think I would classify Amigos mostly as Chihuahua style food, but certain dishes seem to be from different areas.

Some dishes here have not been a big hit with me, but overall I definitely think it is one of the best Mexican restaurants in El Paso. It is “almost” like the old La Hacienda, and what has been changed seems to be for the better.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily except Mon. Evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, drinks

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 6, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Chicken Tampiqueña, Red Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Breaded Tilapia, Salad, Salsa, Tortilla Soup (if they still have it)

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Chicken Tampiqueña
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Beef Taco
star 5 Chicken Taco
star 5 Breaded Tilapia
star 5 Pescado al Mojo de Ajo
star 5 Chicken Tostada
star 4 Beef Tostada
star 4 Chile con Queso Steak
star 5 Salad
star 5 Rice
star 5 Beans
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa