The Mission Trail in the Rio Grande valley east of El Paso is one of the area’s biggest attractions, bringing visitors to the historic churches in Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario. The Socorro Mission forms the heart of the community and incorporated area of Socorro, and next to the mission can be found El Meson de Oñate, a small restaurant that provides a gastronomical experience to complement the cultural one.
Serving comida de corrida lunches, El Meson relies on local patrons to stay in business (a sign that the food is authentic), yet the ambience and the food will please even the most discriminating visitor. The owner used his carpenter skills to construct the entire building in 1999, ensuring that the architecture blended into the historic neighborhood.
When you enter, it looks as if they are serving a buffet– different items are covered in serving trays with a glass window in front. Actually, this is the kitchen which is open to view. On my first visit in March 2005 I was very impressed that the food tasted home made, and the flavor far surpassed the normal “restaurant food.”
My inagural meal started out with a complimentary Sopa de Fideo, a soup made with a spaghetti-like noodle, chunks of chicken white meat, and Mexican spices. When I tasted it I thought it must be the highlight of the meal, since it is the best I’ve ever had, but I thought the same thing about the Pico de Gallo served with chips (I liked the regular salsa also, but not as much).
The Mexican plate offered the variety I like and allowed me to review more items. The Red Enchilada was excellent– not the best in El Paso but possibly had the best cheese. I ordered a Flauta that is not normally one of my favorite dishes, but this turned out to be the best item on the plate. Perfectly fried with large chunks of meat, the crema was excellent, and the guacamole turned out to be the highlight. I saw another party who had an order of Guacamole, and I would recommend this if you are not ordering flautas or another dish that comes with guacamole.
Changes in Management
In summer 2005 the restaurant was closed for remodeling, and when I returned after that time I did not find all the food to be the same as before. The fideo and flautas were still excellent. The enchiladas, rice, beans, chips, and salsa tasted more like mass-produced “restaurant food” that you can find almost anywhere in El Paso, and I did not even get the pico de gallo that I had liked so much on my first visit. The Chile Relleno was the biggest disappointment– I had enjoyed it on my first visit but the second time it was bland, greasy, and not very flavorful (although the cheese was still good).
The Latest Information from Other Sources
Other sources said that the owner sold the restaurant after my first visit in 1999, and that is the reason the quality went down. Now, though, the original owner is back (as of 2007). Yelp reviews as of 2015 and 2016 are mostly excellent (as I would expect they would be). I am increasing my rating of the restaurant based on this new information, and I think my first visit was more indicative of the way the restaurant is now.
Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Hours: Open daily except Sun. dinner
Accessible: No handicapped parking
Smoking: No smoking
Most Recent Visit: Sep. 3, 2005
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Flautas, Guacamole, Fideo Soup