The Lent Specials served widely in El Paso and some surrounding communities are common throughout Mexico but are not widely found in the United States. I made a list of places to find them in my previous article, but I thought it would be good to give a report on places I have visited in 2023.
This is a specialty of many Mexican restaurants in the city. The specials are usually served for lunch, and if you go for dinner you would be eating whatever they still have (often missing some of the items such as dessert).
Usually there is a choice of a fish fillet, shrimp dish, or a fish taco or tostada. The style might change from week to week or they may have a choice of more than one in each meal (styles include garlic, Veracruz style, fried fish, etc.). Sometimes the only way to know for sure what is being served is to call the restaurant.
865 N. Resler Dr.
El Paso, TX
It is fortunate that I came to Delicias Cafe for my first Lent meal for 2023. One reason is that I had an excellent filete a la diabla. Another is that I was able to get the appetizer and the meal in the same picture. Usually the restaurant expects you to eat the appetizer before they bring out the main course (fine for eating but not as good for my photography).
The lentil (lentejas) appetizer was not as flavorful as some, but it was fresh and it satisfied my craving for an item I usually have to wait almost a year in order to enjoy again. Serving it with limes explained the reason it did not have as much flavor as some, since the limes were really enough.
Although the fish was very good, the notable thing about this meal was the a la diabla sauce. Some restaurants make it so spicy you can hardly taste the fish, but the one here had a pleasant piquancy and an excellent flavor.
The other really notable feature of Delicias was the capirotada. It not only had the proper proportions of ingredients and a sauce that was sweet but not too much so, but also was fresh out of the oven. This was the best example of the Mexican style bread pudding that I have had in a very long time.
Price: $14.34 including tax (tea included). Same price cash or credit card.
170 E. Redd Rd.
El Paso, TX
The pescado guajillo is something I believe I had never eaten before, but it was a very pleasant surprise. This is related to the ancho chile, and I found it to be pleasantly spicy and even more pleasantly flavored. Like the fish at Delicias, this one was very good. The mashed potatoes and rice were some of the best I have found anywhere. I think they put bread on the plate because this restaurant also has a bakery, but for me I find three forms of carbs to be redundant. The capirotada here was pretty much forgettable, especially compared to the excellent one I had two days earlier at Delicias.
The fish and other items (such as rice) were so good here that i believe it would be a good experience not matter what topping is served.
Price: $12.99 plus $2.50 for tea (extra charge if you pay by credit card)
7410 Remcon Circle
El Paso, TX
There are several things I like about Carnitas Queretaro. One is that it is one of the more upscale meals (including the apple salad at the center top of the plate). The mashed potatoes tasted fresh (not instant or from a mix). The capirotada was about as good as any I have had. They had an excellent fish and topping in the pescado veracruzano. The only negative was that the fish was a little dry around some of the edges (but the way it should be in the middle).
Another really good feature is that all of their choices (including the Veracruz style topping on the fish) are available every week during Lent, and there is a wide variety of fish and seafood dishes.
Price: $18.00 plus $2.50 for iced tea
5320 Doniphan Dr.
El Paso, TX
Probably the best thing about this meal was the lentils–they are pretty much in their natural state without many flavor enhancements (but just enough to make it taste good). The pescado veracruzano had a flavorful tomato based sauce, and it came with a good number of small olives (rather than a few large ones). The tilapia served here was quite good and cooked just right. The mashed potatoes and rice were not really notable compared to other restaurants, but I was glad that they had them (as opposed to french fries, etc.). The capirotada was a bit of a disappointment but it was better than at Los Jarrones (the one here was generous with the bread but short on raisins, coconut, etc). Although all the places so far have had good chips and salsa, I especially like the chips here with the pureed (and very spicy) green salsa.
Price: $14.75 including iced tea (extra charge if you use a credit card).
2130 Myrtle Ave.
El Paso, TX
Once again I have found El Jacalito to be the gold standard for Lent specials in El Paso. The choice of traditional dishes prepared very well make this a must try for anyone who wants to experience food that is the most representative of the Mexican style (at least the style that I have experienced along the border). Although the pescado veracruzano is usually my favorite, they rotate the fish choices from week to week and the other styles have been quite good as well. The week I went they had the following on the menu:
- Pescado Empanizado (breaded fish)
- Shrimp Coctail (spelled as it was on the menu board)
- Pescado de Ajillo (fish with a butter garlic sauce)
- Torta de Camaron
I ordered the breaded fish because even though I normally think tartar sauce is something to be avoided, I really like the one here. My only disappointment was that it came with french fries, but I ordered a side dish of mashed potatoes and gave the fries to a dining companion who appreciated them a lot more than I did. It turns out they went well with his shrimp cocktail (which he said was the best he ever had). My other friend had the pescado de ajillo, which looked to be a step up from the pescado al mojo de ajo which is one of the menu rotation items. To me the lentil soup and capirotada dessert, which are part of the package, are the best in town. Although this food was not an order of magnitude better than the others I have had, I did think it was the best one. The iced tea is some of the best in town as well (as are the chips and salsa).
Price: $14.50 plus $1.75 for iced tea (price is the same if you use a credit card)
315 E. Mills Ave.
El Paso, TX
In addition to the large selection of seafood items on the Mac’s Downtown menu, the restaurant decided to serve some traditional “comida de cuaresma” (Lent specials) this year. I had heard it would be lentejas (lentil soup) and capirotada. When I arrived, though, I found out they did not have the soup because they could not get the right type of lentils (they did offer the capirotada dessert, however). The result was a meal of some of the best fish in El Paso, and an equally good salad. Possibly even better was the cup of clam chowder I ordered in lieu of the lentil soup. I enjoyed a home made style dessert for the traditional touch. I do not know if the Cajuns eat blackened cod for Lent (I suspect that some do) so this was a break from the way it is traditionally prepared in El Paso. I would suggest, though, that the cod is so good you might want to try it plain (or fried) without the blackened seasoning. I certainly suggest the capirotada if you go when it is available.
Price: $13.00 for cod, $4.00 for clam chowder, $5.95 for capirotada, $2.50 for iced tea (extra charge if you pay by credit card). Note: this is some of the best iced tea in town
1071 Country Club Rd.
El Paso, TX
San Isidro Mission Cafe is a restaurant in El Paso’s Upper Valley that has a full menu of Mexican items including several fish dinners. For the Lent special I had this year, though, there was only one fish choice and one shrimp item, neither of which I think is listed on the menu. The fish was topped with a lemon and gravy sauce, which was much better than it sounds (and in fact this was one of the best I have had this year). By tasting it I could not tell that it was either lemon or gravy, but instead it seemed like a very good tasting (almost gourmet) sauce. The lentil soup and mashed potatoes both came in a very small serving, but they were very good. I think the things that went beyond the very good category into greatness were the sauce and the capirotada (the capirotada came out warm, something that I think helped bring out the other flavors of the dessert). The other option available was the shrimp torta (the restaurant said this sells out first, leading me to believe that at least this part of the menu is offered every week during Lent). This was perhaps the best deal for the money of any of the specials I have tried.
Price: $10.99 including iced tea (no extra charge for using a credit card).