El Paso, TX
Kinley’s is a popular student hangout just off of the UTEP campus, and actually consists of two restaurants (Kinley’s Tea House which is reviewed here and Kinley’s House Coffee & Tea located a half block to the east). Most of the staff and clientele seem to be young, but there is certainly no reason for people of any age to feel comfortable here. There is free parking available (with a fairly high turnover rate because Kinley’s is actually located in the lobby of a Credit Union). The dining room was not overly crowded when I was there but there also seems to be an overflow space in the Credit Union area as well. You pay when you pick up the order so when people finish they often times leave, freeing up tables at a fairly good rate. Many people enjoy their food or drinks on the various couches that are available in addition to the traditional tables.
Yelp seems to indicate that the popular items here are boba tea and ramen bowls. In fact, I am not sure if they even have items other than these because this is what I ordered and what it seemed that everyone was ordering. In any case, I usually believe it is a good idea to order what a restaurant does best, and these two items are definitely its biggest sellers.
The other restaurant is called Kinley’s House Coffee & Tea, and Yelp indicates that its big food item is sandwiches. I think I am in the minority in preferring ramen over sandwiches just about all of the time, but I have not tried the sandwiches and there may be some very popular ones there.
For me the down side of Kinley’s for both the ramen and the boba is that you have to make several choices about the ingredients that go in them, and there are very few foods for which this usually works out well for me (and ramen is not one of them). I think this is a plus for repeat customers who can try different things and find out what they like, but probably not if you are an initiate as I was. The saving factor for me was that the broth itself was quite flavorful, so the ramen seems as if it will always be good no matter what you choose to put in it.
The specialty here is noodle bowls with different broths, meats, and vegetables. The one pictured was Korean Noodles with Rich Chicken Broth, Tofu, Cucumber, Squash, and Spinach. Other broth choices are spicy beef or green tea veggie, and an egg is available at an extra cost. They do not have a pork broth (which I think is traditional with ramen) but the one I had was good. It had the requisite Asian flavor and overall seemed to be a good version of ramen.
One of the primary reasons people come here is for the boba tea, and a wide variety is available. The Thai Tea I ordered is pictured at the top right, and one my friend ordered is at the top left (but I did not write down the name of it).
As with the noodle bowls customers have a wide choice of different combinations of ingredients, and it is not quite as simple as simply ordering something such as Thai tea. In my case I ordered it with almond milk just to see how it would taste, and it turned out for me to not taste very much like Thai tea. Having this much control over what I order can be a good thing, but I am just not at the place yet where I can really make informed decisions.
The food is good and the drinks are good, but it is so much of a do-it-yourself proposition in picking out the ingredients that it may take some time to find the best combinations. I think this would be a worthwhile experiment for UTEP students or others who can frequent Kinley’s and find out their favorite combinations.
Kinley’s House Coffee & Tea is practically next door and complements this restaurant by serving sandwiches and probably a wider assortment of drinks. The fact that Kinley’s Tea House serves noodle soup with an Asian flavor, though, would probably make it my preferred choice if I were in the area often enough to try both places.