5800 Doniphan Dr.
El Paso, TX
Griggs Restaurant is probably my all time favorite restaurant in El Paso, but I say this with qualifications. Today I do not eat as much Mexican food as before, so I would regard it as more of a “special treat” restaurant. Another qualification is that the quality was not consistent. I could always count on Mr. and Mrs. Griggs producing top notch food, but when they retired the restaurant closed and then reopened with the younger generation managing it. Also there was another Griggs Restaurant in East El Paso that was sold to another owner. The end result is that I have the best memories of the original restaurant on Doniphan. The others were good as well, and occasionally as good as the original.
I know that there is a somewhat sizeable group of people who remember the restaurant fondly and miss it, but what I want to do here is explain the food rather than just do an article on El Paso nostalgia. I have a copy of the Griggs family cookbook with recipes used in the restaurant, but rather than try to post the recipes I will include a link to a blog that has already done so: Won’t Read Directions
One thing to understand is that Mr. Griggs grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and the restaurant served New Mexico style Mexican food. More specifically, it came from the recipes developed by his mother Josephine Griggs. Her children operated some very well known New Mexican restaurants in 1968 when the cookbook was published–Griggs Restaurant in El Paso (Edgar), La Posta in Mesilla, NM (operated by Katherine and her family but founded by Katy’s uncle, George Griggs), and El Pinto in Albuquerque (operated by Consuelo, another daughter, along with her husband and six children). The other daughter operated a restaurant in Rancho Cordova, California named La Posta de Rancho Cordova.
I have come to the following conclusions about the Griggs family recipes and this restaurant “empire”: (1) each of these restaurants developed its own modifications to these recipes, (2) most people who try to cook these recipes find that they are very hard to cook without making some modifications, and (3) if you follow the recipes the food does not taste the same as the food served in any of these restaurants. I do not know why this is the case, but it really does not matter to me–I had no intention of actually trying to cook the dishes, I only wanted to enjoy the food at the various restaurants.
I have always thought that Griggs Restaurant was more “authentic” New Mexican than either La Posta or El Pinto (and I have been to both of these restaurants multiple times). One reason I say this is that Griggs used fairly spicy chiles while La Posta is very much on the tame side (I have heard that El Pinto has some very spicy chile but that you have to get this by special request).
The “original” Griggs Restaurant (operated by Edgar and Rita) closed before I started writing reviews, so I do not have a review of the restaurant to include in this article. Instead, I have various write-ups and bits of information that I can piece together to give a picture of the original Griggs Restaurant (in west El Paso) and the east side Griggs.
Review of the original Griggs Restaurant written 2005 (my last visit to the restaurant was in 2003)
The Griggs family reopened this restaurant with the original recipes, and it has the best New Mexico style food in town. I like the red and green enchiladas, chiles rellenos, and stuffed sopaipillas (I order them with the red chile used on enchiladas). The Griggs extended family originated La Posta in Mesilla and El Pinto in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For some reason, though, only this restaurant seems to provide the rich flavors and spiciness that I think accurately represent the original family recipes. Salsa is the one example of food here that is not very spicy, and probably out of the mainstream of New Mexico style food preparation. This is a minor detail, though, compared to the overall excellent meals that are served.
Review of the East Side Griggs (after my last visit on Nov. 30, 2006)
A restaurant that has been around as long as Griggs runs the risk of falling off the radar screen, especially when it is set back from Montana Avenue and only a non-lighted sign is visible from the street. It has also been through quite a few bumps with the closing of its Mesa Hills location and the on-again, off-again saga of the original Doniphan location (the original restaurant closed, then the children of the owners opened it as Griggs Family Restaurant, then it became became Dos Señoritas under different ownership, and finally a branch of Sombras del Pasado before it closed for good).
I have felt that the food quality has also been on a roller-coaster ride with the different owners, managers, and cooks. Anyone who knew the Griggs family cannot help associate the friendly smiles they would get and the home cooked style food that was served with the restaurants bearing their name. Of late, though, this has seemed a distant memory as the food seems to get more anglosized, or tourist oriented (as I feel that it always has been) but without the special touches I thought the food always demonstrated when the Griggs family was in charge of the kitchen. A chilehead could overlook the wimpy salsa and mild chiles because of the quality of the food, but it does not seem to have the same quality at the Montana location.
Certain items at the Montana location (and at the other locations when they were open) always seem to hit the spot regardless of the cooks that are in the kitchen. One is the New Mexico style Chile Relleno, a Mesilla Valley chile surrounded by an egg batter, with no sauce on top. At times the relleno has been beyond greasy (this has been rare, though). It has only been less than enjoyable, though, when the cheese inside the relleno failed to melt (this has been quite rare indeed). I normally order combination dinners at Griggs, but with any dinner ordered I would recommend the inclusion of a relleno.
Green Enchiladas are another standout item, and are rarely less than perfect. Of course, perfection depends on the standard being used. The green chile used is not the spicy variety served at Chope’s in La Mesa, New Mexico, or a number of other New Mexican style restaurants. The one at Griggs is a mild version that even people not used to eating any kind of chiles would enjoy, yet I think the flavor rivals just about any enchilada served in the Land of Enchantment.
The Red Enchiladas have never been one of the outstanding items at Griggs. They were excellent at the Doniphan location, however.
Chile colorado, known as Chile con Carne at Griggs had a superior New Mexico style chile at the original Griggs on Doniphan. The one served at the Montana location, though, seems to lack the flavor that made the other one so good. Likewise the roast pork does not taste like anything special, while the meat at the original Griggs seemed to embody the essence of New Mexico style pork that made eating this dish seem like a special experience.
The slaw is outstanding, and I like the fact that whole beans are served rather than refried.
I do not know whether Griggs’ tortillas are home made, but they certainly taste as if they are. I always found this to be a much more pleasant way to fill up on carbohydrates than trying to down the usually stale chips with the practically chile-less salsa.
The food at Griggs may be familiar to those who have eaten at La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico or El Pinto in Albuquerque. The Griggs family were early settlers in Mesilla, and various family members founded these three restaurants (all of which are still in business, but with different owners). While the current owners of the New Mexico restaurants have made them “touristy” on purpose, Griggs in El Paso has retained the original Griggs family recipes fairly well (they used to publish a recipe book that has some fairly authentic dishes). I cannot say the Griggs Restaurant serves totally authentic New Mexican cuisine, but it is one of the closest experiences El Pasoans can find to the type of food that would be served in Las Cruces or Albuquerque.
6761 Doniphan Dr.
The latest development in the Griggs Restaurant saga is the opening of Peppe’s Restaurant in Canutillo, Texas by a former cook at the original Griggs Restaurant. I have enjoyed the food here very much, although I think the menu is a little abbreviated from the original Griggs menu. I have heard that the owners of Peppe’s would like to publish their own version of the Griggs recipes that will be closer to the food served in the restaurant. I don’t know the progress on this, but maybe if there is a large demand for it, it will happen. In any case, if you liked Griggs Restaurant, go to Peppe’s (my sentiments are the same as many of the Yelp reviewers on this point).
I do want to stress to readers that the Griggs food is still available at Peppe’s, and for my taste it is still much better than La Posta or El Pinto in New Mexico. I would probably like Peppe’s to expand its menu, but as long as I can get the green enchiladas, chile relleno, and chile con carne I think I will be pretty happy.
Information for Griggs Restaurant on Doniphan:
(today I would probably give it 25, but 24 is what I gave it at the time)
Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Alcohol: Home of the “Juan and Only” Margarita
Most Recent Visit
Number of Visits: 10+
Green Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Chicken Sopa, Slaw, Chile con Carne, Tostada Compuesta
Was there ever a Griggs location at the El Paso airport?
Back in the late 1980’s I visited El Paso on a brief assignment. I spent quite a bit of time at the airport and frequently ate at a Mexican food restaurant there. The food was great and it was notable that quite often there were NASA marked T-38’s parked near the restaurant with the crews eating inside.
Thought the place was called “Senor Griggs”.
This sounds correct, although I am not sure about there being a Senor Griggs at the airport. They had several restaurants at the time with different names, and I think probably different owners and different menus. There have been different restaurants at the airport at different times. I am almost ready to say Griggs was one of them, but I just do not know for sure.
Good to read this post. I have not been to any of the restaurants reviewed here, but have been to El Pinto in Albuquerque, and to what had been a local favorite (until it closed abruptly), La Posta on Sunrise Blvd. in Fair Oaks, California. I wish I had bought the recipe book in Fair Oaks when I had the chance.
It is interesting to hear about the Griggs outpost in California. I do not know if anyone tried to reopen it after it closed, but although many people would probably like for this to happen, it is a difficult proposition.
When Griggs in El Paso closed the younger generation tried to keep it open but it ended up closing again. For the last ten years, though, Peppe’s Restaurant has been operated by former employees of the second Griggs (the one that the family sold off). Peppe and his wife got permission to use the Griggs recipes, but probably more importantly had the experience to cook the food in the manner that customers expected, and the restaurant has been a success.
It seems that simply following the Griggs recipe book does not always lead to food tasting the same as people were served in Griggs Restaurant. I think having the recipe book, though, is interesting and gives an idea of what is involved in preparing the food served in the various Griggs family restaurants (Griggs, La Posta, El Pinto, etc.). El Pinto in Albuquerque had the last supply of recipe books that I heard about, and perhaps would be interested in reprinting them. La Posta in Mesilla, NM recently published their own recipe book but I believe it is different from Mrs. Griggs’ original recipe book (I have not gone through page by page to compare them but the La Posta book does seem to be different).
My parents had their wedding reception at La Posta in Old Mesilla June 5, 1948. I don’t know how long it had been in operation at that time. They had their 50th anniversary party at Griggs in Canutillo in 1998 when Bridgett was running it.
In the Griggs family cookbook “A Family Affair” there is a brief history of La Posta stating that it opened Sep. 16, 1939 with two rooms. It sounds as if they did quite a bit of expansion by 1948 when they held your parents’ wedding reception.
This is a very interesting story about being able to go back to another Griggs family restaurant for their 50th anniversary. Griggs Restaurant was very special restaurant to a number of people, and of course La Posta is still open although I don’t know if the family is still involved in it. The Doniphan Road restaurant did not have the historical significance of La Posta, but it was nevertheless a very scenic and peaceful place where I could really enjoy a nice meal.
I might add that my mom had her 65th birthday dinner at El Pinto in Albuquerque (another one of the restaurants founded by the Griggs children).
I grew up in El Paso in the 50s and 60s,As a real treat, my Dad would take us to Griggs on Doniphan Dr. Yes, back then it was way out in the country, I remember we ( as kids) knew we were getting close when we drove over the railroad tracks on Montana dr, onto
For the past 30 years, I have been trying to replicate their chili colorado recipe ( called chili con carne), but it is never is as good nor as spicy. I keep trying every combination of chilies that I can find, but never get the same spice level and flavor level. I would love to have their authentic recipe. I live in California now and we have access to just about every type of spices and chilies imaginable.
Yes, the empanadas, with apricots and pecans were something out of this world and a nice cooling culmination to the spicy main course dishes.
One of the highlights of the main dish was the cole slaw, very peppery, and acidic, As a kid, I was told to eat my cole slaw first, to prepare my pallet for the spicey chili con carne that was to come. To this day at any Mexican restaurant, I always eat my salad first.
Those were great times, how I miss the smell of the creosote plants out there in the ‘upper’ valley and the excitement of our wait for the culmination of the long drive out from our house in the lower valley on a Sunday afternoon.
I would always wonder around the Billy the Kid museum, if we had to wait for a table. I so admired the Barbers chair, where it was said Billy was shot in the back. True or not, it was the food that was the draw, A statue to Mr. Griggs is a worthy tribute, to a great New Mexican!.
Yes, I definitely agree with you about Griggs Restaurant. It has been a great relief to still have the food available at Peppe’s Restaurant in Canutillo, but of course I miss the original restaurant, people, and memorabilia. Griggs (and now Peppe’s) seems to be the only restaurant in El Paso that has classic New Mexican style food (although others are good for certain items such as enchiladas).
In Mrs. Griggs’ cookbook there is a recipe for “Salsa de chili colorado” which I’m transcribing:
Red Chili Sauce
Red chili sauce is essential to Many Mexican dishes and their taste depends in great measure on the sauce. I think the most delicious sauce is made from the dried pods, however ground or powdered chili is good. Many people find it less work to use powdered chili, but blenders and osterizers have made burning, stinging hands a thing of the past.
Chili from Dried Pods
12 pods dried chili
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Wash chili, remove stems and seeds. Bring chili and water to boil, reduce heat and allow to steam 10 minutes or longer. Pour liquid into blender or osterizer, place chili in liquid. If too much skin is left, strain sauce through a colander or sieve. Add salt to taste.
Chili from Powdered Chili
8 tablespoon powdered red chili
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Soak chili in water until a thick paste is formed. Stir and add salt. Consistency is controlled by the amount of water. Used as a vegetable or straight.
I am not sure what she means about serving this as a vegetable–I believe this is the sauce used for the red enchiladas. Personally I like the “Chili con carne” (this is the way chile is spelled in the cookbook) better. The chile con carne has additional ingredients and here is a transcriptions of the recipe:
Pork and Red Chili
1 lb. pork
1 cup thick red chili sauce
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cilantro (coriander)
1 teaspoon salt
Cut pork into squares half inch to one inch, fry over low heat until brown and moderately dry. If meat is very fat, pour off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons fat. Add flour and brown. Add water and red chili sauce, more water may be added if a thinner sauce is preferred. Add freshly ground cumin, crushed cilantro, rub oregano in the palm of hand before adding. Add garlic and salt. Simmer until pork is completely done. Add water as needed.
The instructions on the “Won’t Read Directions” blog may also be helpful. I haven’t tried to make the sauce myself, but of course I hope this helps and I wish you luck if you try to make it.
I ate at the original Griggs for years since I grew up in El Paso in the 50s and 60s. My father, as head of the Public Service got Mr. Griggs hooked up to the El Paso water supply even though he was outside the city limits. I loved the Billy the Kid museum and stories in the original restaurant. And of all the food, think that their fruit empanadas (apricot with pecans) had to be my favorite. Took my kids there in 1997 when I was back for reunion and while not as good, brought back incredible memories. Definitely some of the best Mexican food ever. I too have the cookbook.
Yes, it was definitely out in the country in the early days, and I think this was one of its draws. I would see Mr. and Mrs. Griggs there just about every time I went, and many times I saw them eat lunch in the dining room after the rush of customers was over (at Sunday lunch I would many times see them at Luby’s, though–in those days Luby’s was also a very good place to eat). The old furniture and antiques were also quite interesting–I think some of them ended up at the east side restaurant (I have some other photos of the east side decorations besides the one on this page). I think the restaurant had actually closed for a time and then had reopened when you went in 1997–this would have been after the Griggs retired. Probably the kids were running it then (I thought it was still very good but it seemed to be slightly different from the old restaurant). I was not aware of when the restaurant first opened but it sounds as if it was in the 1950’s (I believe La Posta and El Pinto had already been operating for some time when Griggs opened). In any case, I really appreciate you sharing your memories with us.