El Paso, TX
Mesa Street Grill is unusual because it falls into the categories of both the city’s hip and popular restaurants and El Paso’s classic restaurants at the same time. My first visit was to the comparatively humble restaurant at the corner of Mesa Street and Robinson Avenue in 2005, where I could already see the beginnings of one of the city’s great restaurants.
I call it “great” because of its success over the years. Although 2023 is when I made only my second visit, plenty of other people had been keeping them in business over the years. I made the observation in 2005 that the restaurant successfully threaded the needle between the normal “regular” service you get at restaurants and making you feel that they were “hovering” over your table. My second visit confirmed that the service was one of Mesa Street Grill’s greatest bragging points.
There seems to be a huge dichotomy between lunch and dinner here. Lunch is served in the “bar” area (which has many more seats at regular tables than at the bar). Prices are quite a bit more in my price range than at dinner. The lunch menu is relatively downscale, but this is very good “downscale” food. I would say it is probably more in the “very good” category because of the quality of ingredients and good cooking skills than it is in being innovative (as is the case with many upscale restaurants). I am sure the dinner menu has all of these areas covered, but it is also one of the most expensive meals you can have in the city.
My visit to the original restaurant was during dinner hours, and my most recent meal was at lunch. Because of this I feel that I have a good enough feel of the restaurant to give a rating (although like all restaurants, it is subject to change on subsequent visits). I really do not know, however, Mesa Street Grill’s best items or how good the food really is if you order one of the most expensive dinners. Some people have told me, though, that it is one of the best restaurants in the city.
On my dinner visit in 2005 I was very impressed by the salad and less so by the pasta primavera. I noted that the salad had fresh greens much as one would find in the Pacific Northwest, and that the dressing was house made.
The pasta did not have any features that distinguished themselves to me, so the issue was that I was not anxious to pay more for a dish that would have been roughly the same in other restaurants.
For my inaugural visit at lunch time I decided to order Fish and Chips (thinking that a dish not normally done very well in El Paso might be a lot better here). This dish was in fact of the quality that I almost forgot I was in the desert, and the fish demonstrated the same quality control in sourcing that I think they have with all the other items. A couple of factors, though, made this meal disappointing–not because they were really bad, but because I really was expecting better in a restaurant of this quality and reputation. One was the the “chips” were literal potato chips. They were good chips, but “chips” in England are french fries. To me, though, the bigger faux-pas was the fact that they did not have any malt vinegar available, even for obviously abnormal people like me who ask them to not slather it with tartar sauce and who are likely to exhibit other nonconformist eating habits.
One reason I ordered the fish was that I was promised a sample of the Classic Mesa Burger in exchange for the portion of my fish that had tartar sauce on top (in which I think I might have gotten the better end of the trade). In flavor and quality this burger was almost at the level of eating a steak. Made with Black Angus beef, it comes with the almost mandatory green chile flavor enhancement for an overall excellent burger. A Wagyu burger is also available if you want to go even more upscale, but it is hard to imagine how it could get much better than with the classic burger.
One item I have heard is very good is the steak soup, and I imagine there are many more.
Lunch is casual and dinner is probably casual compared to other upscale places (Mesa Street Grill advertises itself as hosting parties and events and seems to be anything but “stuffy”).
Lunches have a choice of side dishes so the fish does not have to be served with potato chips. I did not notice this on the menu at the time and I was not informed about this by my server, thus I think I have a right to complain about it in the review. I can correct this, though, on future visits (which will likely happen). I am thinking the salad might pair quite will with most of the lunches.
The restaurant is in fact so casual that I would encourage anyone who is not sure about paying these prices to go in, look at the menu, talk to them about the food, and see if you can swing it.
Cuisine: New American
Cost: $$-$$$$ or more
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes (go to the north entrance instead of the main one)
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Full Bar
Most Recent Visit: Jan 20, 2023
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Classic Mesa burger, fish & chips, salad
|Classic Mesa Burger|
|Fish & Chips|