Tony’s Bar B Q–El Paso, TX

Tony’s The Pit Bar-B-Q
1700 Myrtle Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 546-9140
Tony's Bar-B-Q

Tony’s Bar-B-Q


Although I have lived in some of the country’s barbecue meccas such as Oklahoma City and Austin, I have only recently been on a quest to purposely seek out the best barbecue, catalog it, and really enjoy what they have compared to large parts of the country which are lacking in such amenities.

Just like in Oklahoma and Austin, though, I took it for granted that El Paso also had great barbecue. Today I no longer assume that good barbecue will be everywhere, but I do appreciate the fact that Tony’s Bar-B-Q is still going strong. Open since 1958, it has primarily served the downtown lunch crowd by specializing in sandwiches and barbecue plates that are just the right size for this time of day. Located just off of Interstate 10, though, it also makes a good stop for those who are just passing through.

I think that the brisket sandwich is really the thing to order, and I was reminded recently that it is really difficult to get brisket this good outside of Austin. There are several aspects of Tony’s that for me fall short of what I expect in a good barbecue restaurant, but the brisket is seriously some of the best you will find anywhere.

The Barbecue

The serving line

Brisket on the chopping block

When you approach the counter you get to look at the choices before you order, and a menu board also lets you know about any specials. On my last visit they had a special for ribs and a brisket sandwich, along with a side order and drink. This seriously makes a better meal for two persons than one, which was an excellent choice for my dining partner and I.

Brisket sandwich

Brisket sandwich

I think the Brisket Sandwich is not only the best item here, but along with a side dish is really the perfect size for lunch. I have to confess that we ordered an extra sandwich so that each of us would have our own, but sharing a half sandwich along with some ribs is not bad either.

The brisket was tender and had an excellent flavor–they cover all the points of having good meat and cooking it the right way. Brisket is sub-par in so many barbecue restaurants (even otherwise good ones) that I think it is important to take advantage of the ones that are as good as Tony’s.

Ribs

Ribs

To me the Ribs were somewhat disappointing compared to the ones in Oklahoma, as much so as the brisket in Oklahoma is disappointing compared to Tony’s. The ribs are still excellent and is cooked to the right texture with a good sauce, but for some reason I found the flavor a little lacking.

The sauce at Tony’s is less sweet than in Oklahoma and less robust, but I still found it to be good. I believe the barbecue is cooked according to the methods used in Austin, and I know that in Austin the sauce is really de-emphasized with the belief that the meat can stand on its own without adding sauce to it. I think the meat at Tony’s is better with the sauce (on the ribs they already add it and on the brisket you add your own). It is good to know, then, that the sauce has a good flavor.

Side Dishes
The Chili Beans were excellent with a good flavor that was not over the top in spiciness as I found it to be at Great American.

The Potato Salad was a little lacking in flavor but was good.

I think great barbecue restaurants should offer a large selection of excellent side dishes, but at Tony’s the sides are limited. I wish they had more sides and desserts such as pudding, cobbler, etc., but I think what they have will satisfy most people.

Sweet tea comes from a large jar while the regular tea is refilled at the soda machine. I got the latter and was expecting some sort of commercially produced tea, but I actually really liked what they had.

Additional Comments
Tony’s is located on a one-way street in an industrial neighborhood, and is not a place people would likely pass by unless they were specifically looking for it. It has very good access to the Interstate, though, and is worth seeking out for a good and inexpensive lunch.

Everything here is good, but for me the brisket is one of those special meals that allow me to feel that my blog can really provide a public service by publicizing it.

I have read many comments on sites such as Yelp saying that the employees here are quite helpful, and I also feel that this is another reason you will want to come.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Barbecue
Cost: $$
Hours: Lunch only; Closed Sun. (open to 5:00 p.m. weekdays)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 21, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Brisket, Chili Beans

Special Ratings
star 5 Brisket
star 5 Ribs
star 5 Chili Beans
star 5 Potato Salad
star 5 Sauce

La Choza–El Paso, TX

La Choza Menudazo & Tamalotes
1155 N. Zaragoza Rd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 872-1486
La Choza

La Choza


My visits to La Choza span more than a decade and the length of El Paso, but the result has always been the same–good food that is “authentic” as the restaurant claims. In 2006 and 2007 I made several visits to the west side La Choza which is now closed, and recently I was able to go to the original restaurant on Zaragoza Road in east El Paso (although I believe the original restaurant is actually in Ciudad Juarez). Both El Paso locations have stayed true to the original Chihuahua style tastes, and have not changed at all because of being located north of the border.

The El Paso Times spotlighted La Choza in its 2006 Best of the Border awards as serving the “Best Menudo” and as a runner-up in the “Best Tamales” category (as is reflected by its name Menudazo y Tamalotes). La Choza is certainly one of the city’s better Mexican restaurants, and especially in the category of what I call “Chihuahua style Mexican food,” or food that is more authentic and served the style that people tend to eat every day in Ciudad Juarez and throughout northern Mexico.

Probably the best thing to get here is a combination plate. They make it easy with about eight different plates on the menu, and an almost unlimited variety if you make substitutions (which they seem to make very easy to order). On the plates I have ordered the tamales seem to be a “must include” item.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The chips and salsa are usually a tip-off as to the quality of the meal that will be served. The Chips at La Choza were more than impressive– home made, thick, crispy, not too greasy, and only a bit too salty. In fact, these may be viewed as the classic El Paso and northern Mexico style chips by which others can be compared.

The Salsa may be even more impressive–a thin liquid with just the right amount of diced chiles and not too much cilantro or other spices that typically ruin a good salsa.

Appetizers and A La Carte Items

Chile con queso

Small order of chile con queso

To me a very special meal would include a small order of Chile con Queso. A lot of restaurants serve this dish, but other parts of the country do not compare to the northern Mexican style that is typified by La Choza. This dish is served with a thick cheese that does not turn either too hard or too gooey, and fresh green chile strips that taste as if they come from the local area. Some people get the full order as a dinner, but my stomach is not prepared for that much green chile at one sitting. I loved the appetizer, though, and thought it was one of the best versions of chile con queso I had tried. Others in El Paso serve very good queso, but I thought the one at La Choza was probably closer to the ones I have eaten in Mexico.

Special tamales

Special tamales

They frequently offer special tamales that are not regularly on the menu, such as the green and red ones shown here. I do not know what they are called, I only suggest getting the ones freshly made no matter what they are.

Combination Plates

Combination no. 6

Combination plate no. 6

The Combination Plate Number 6 has what I normally consider to be some of the best items to order, but here the best one is the Tamal. All the items together, though, made a very enjoyable dinner.

The Chile Relleno surprised me by coming plain without sauce on top. It also surprised me by being less greasy than most. I did not find it as flavorful as most of the ones I consider to be “New Mexico” style, but I think using the type of chile, cheese, and breading that are consistent with Ciudad Juarez style food, La Choza did a very good job.

The Red Enchilada had good cheese, but came with a rather weak red chile that was diluted with too many spices. If you are used to the ones in Ciudad Juarez you will feel right at home with the enchiladas here. Personally I prefer the ones that are more popular in El Paso using stronger chiles and without as strong of a cumin flavor.

Combination plate with agua fresca

Combination plate with a gordita, chicken tamal, flauta, rice, and beans

The Flauta on this combination plate was also among my favorites. It was notable in its lack of greasiness. The guacamole, served in a small container, was excellent. I was served sour cream that was still cold and hard to use as a dip, but it was better on a subsequent visit. La Choza also provides a third topping that completes the colors of the Mexican flag: red, white, and green. The red container has a special red chile that is more robust with flavors than it is spicy (if you want something extremely spicy you can use the salsa served before the meal). Ciro’s has been known in town for serving the same style flautas with three toppings, but I thought the one at La Choza was equally good, if not better.

The Gordita was enclosed in a soft flour tortilla shell, with roast beef inside (other types of meat are available). While this type of meat seems superior to me than the ground beef used at Little Diner and other restaurants, the unfried shell made this a different type of food than the border style gordita–really it is more like a soft taco. I enjoyed the way La Choza made it but it was not really the same dish as the deep fried ones served at Little Diner and JJ’s.

The Chicken Tamal with green chile was the first thing I ordered after I read that La Choza was one of the best places in town for tamales. It had the traditional corn husk that was opened to reveal a moist masa outside with chicken and green chile inside. I thought the chicken was the weak point of the tamal, being a little dry. The green chile was not as robust as at other restaurants, but it was one of the better tamales I have tried. While there are different styles of tamales in Mexico and throughout the American Southwest, it is not easy to get a masa that tastes just right. I think the one at La Choza comes pretty close.

A Melón (canteloupe) drink I ordered was very good– not too sweet and a good representation of this type of agua fresca drink.

Combination plate with beans, rice, flauta, red enchilada, and chile relleno

Combination plate with beans, rice, flauta, red enchilada, and chile relleno

This combination plate does not present any new items, but it shows how you can get just about any combination of items that you wish.

Green enchiladas

Combination plate with green enchiladas

Green Enchiladas made Ciudad Juarez style are milder than the ones with New Mexico chile, and sometimes have a different flavor. The trick I have found to ordering them is to always get a chicken filling, and when possible get them with sour cream (enchilada suiza style). At La Choza it turned out I had nothing to worry about, since the green chile was quite good (although still not very spicy). The Mexican white cheese added a flavor dimension that is not found in New Mexico enchiladas that use yellow cheese, so in my opinion the green enchiladas at La Choza are on par with some of the city’s New Mexico style enchiladas. I enjoyed them served with chicken and a container of sour cream that was served on the side, although I think ones without chicken might be my first discovery of a truly good meatless dish at La Choza.

Other Notes
The prices were a little higher than are normally found in El Paso Mexican restaurants, but I thought were a bargain for the quality of food served. Even the items that I thought did not have the best flavor were very fresh and of good quality.

The service has always been outstanding even though I have gone to different locations and have had different servers.

Breakfast is available from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

This is a “late night” restaurant for Fridays and Saturdays since they are open 24 hours both of these evenings. This is also a time when they sever the “special” tamales.

Even if a restaurant stays true to “Chihuahua style” cooking, there is still a great allowance for individual recipes and cooking methods. I like the way La Choza prepares the food, and I have found the total meals to be a pleasurable experience that makes up for any specific shortcomings found in individual items. To me the only real shortcoming has been in the red enchiladas, but this has been my general experience with Ciudad Juarez style restaurants. The green enchiladas and just about everything else, though, have been outstanding.

More than being good, though, the food has been very enjoyable–something that is intangible but very important. I hope others will enjoy it as much as I have.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $$
Hours: Open daily except Sun. evening (open 24 hrs. on Sat.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Dec. 1, 2017
Number of Visits: 4
Best Items: Tamales, Flautas, Green Enchiladas, Gorditas, Chile con Queso, Chips, Salsa, Agua Fresca Drinks

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Tamales Green
star 5 Tamales Red
star 5 Flautas
star 5 Gorditas
star 4 Chile Relleno
star 3 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Chile con Queso
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 5 Beans
star 4 Rice
star 5 Melón Drink

Great American–Vinton, TX

Great American Steakhouse
600 Valley Chili Rd.
Anthony, TX
(915) 886-4690
Great American Steakhouse

Great American Steakhouse in Vinton


Great American is a mini-chain of steak restaurants that also qualifies as an El Paso institution because it has been here for so long. For years I thought the steak was not quite as good as Cattleman’s in Fabens, although the sides were better. This has changed because Cattleman’s has gone through some changes lately and because of some experiences I have had at Great American on Mesa Hills that gave me a better opinion of their steak. I now believe that both restaurants have good cuts of steak and others that are less impressive. For sides, it is hard to beat the cole slaw at Great American.

Although I only have one recent experience at the Vinton Great American (which has a postal address of Anthony, TX), I have also had a number of experiences at various locations throughout El Paso over the years. This review is only for the Vinton restaurant, although I think all of the restaurants serve pretty much the same food.

The Steak

New York steak

New York steak with potato, beans, and cole slaw

Although the New York Steak was a little disappointing in some ways, this quality of steak is still a special treat. It seems that almost no steak tastes the same as I remember when I was younger, although this one comes close. It had a very good flavor (which is the reason I like to order the New York cut) and they cooked it very well.

The disappointing part was that it was gristly in part of the steak, although part of it was very good. I think this is a characteristic of the cut, although I do not eat enough steak to be an expert on the different cuts.

I do not think the steaks here are grass fed or have the other special characteristics I sometimes find in Oklahoma City, although the prices at Great American are relatively affordable and the steak is a good bargain.

Side Dishes
The Cole Slaw has been my favorite dish at Great American since I first tried it years ago. The most noticeable characteristic of it is the pineapple flavor, although they keep the sweetness to just the right level. I made a special note that there was at least one chunk of pineapple in every bite I took at the Vinton restaurant.

The Baked Potato was very good, although it is still not like the ones I remember when I was younger and living in Austin (I don’t know why they were so good there, but like all food I judge everything by the best examples I have found).

The Beans were disappointing to me after having remembered them being so good in the past. I do not think they have changed, but my tastes have changed so that I do do not like them as spicy as they are at Great American. I have been on a barbecue kick lately, and my favorite beans are ones you typically find in barbecue restaurants. The people at Great American told me they put Tabasco sauce in the beans, but personally I think they put too much.

Additional Comments
I have experienced better cuts of steak at Great American than the New York, but I just wanted to give this one a try. It was not bad, and had a great flavor in spite of the gristle in parts of it.

I do not know why, but the staff in Vinton seem to be the most friendly of any of the Great American Restaurants, and this was true even about 20 years ago when I made my first visit. I do not know if this translates into better food, but I do think they try to do what they can to make your visit enjoyable.

I know from past experiences that Great American has better steaks than the New York, and the Mesa Hills location even had a Wagyu style steak which I believe is still available at all the locations. Something that is this much more expensive would obviously give a better meal, but I believe some less expensive steaks such as the filet would also be a good choice. For the rating of this restaurant, though, I have to base it on what I have actually tried (and I would expect it to go up with some other steaks).


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Steak
Cost: $$$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Full Bar

Most Recent Visit: Apr. 15, 2018
Number of Visits: 4
Best Items: New York Steak, Cole Slaw

Special Ratings
star 5 New York Steak
star 5 Cole Slaw
star 5 Baked Potato
star 3 Beans