Restaurant Guide–El Paso

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  • Date indicates the most recent update of the restaurants listed
  • Bold indicates my recommendations; others come from what I consider to be good sources

Canutillo

Flautas Tepalca–6994 Doniphan Dr. (Mexican) Closed Tue. One of the best flautas in the El Paso area (or really anywhere in the U.S. I have tried).  However, this and a couple of other items are the entire menu except for “nieves” (ice cream) and aguas frescas. (Now has two other locations in El Paso–5198 Doniphan and 500 N. Zaragoza Rd.). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Little Diner–7209 7th St. (Mexican) Open daily except Wed evening.  Has New Mexico style enchiladas (spicy). Chiles rellenos are very good. Gorditas are some of the best anywhere. Another favorite item is Christmas tamales (order a few days ahead of time and pick up on Christmas eve). It has changed owners since being featured on several national travel shows, and initially went downhill but now I am impressed by the food again (the only thing is that it is really spicy–even more than some of the spicy places in Las Cruces). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Lupita’s Tamales–6860 Doniphan Dr. (Mexican) Open daily to 8 pm.  Take out only. Red chile tamal is excellent. Chile con queso tamal and tamal dulce are very good to go with it. Map (Takeout only 11-8-21)

Maracas–900 Talbot Ave. (Puerto Rican) Open 11 am to 6 pm (closed Sun & Mon).  OK, it’s a novelty in El Paso to find Latin American food that is not Mexican, but reviewers say this place is really good (especially the Cuban and Philly sandwiches). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Peppe’s–6761 Doniphan Dr. (New Mexican) Closed Mon; open to 7pm Thu-Sat and 3 pm the other days. This is the successor to the former Griggs Restaurants, and serves the same recipes (other restaurants founded by members of the Griggs family are La Posta in Mesilla, NM and El Pinto in Albuquerque). Peppe’s is small and not a tourist attraction like the other restaurants, and I believe the food is more true to the Griggs family recipes (and it is spicier). My favorite items include the tostada compuesta, green enchiladas, chile relleno, and cole slaw. Map (Dining room is open 2-1-22)

El Paso

Anson Eleven–303 N. Oregon St. (New American) Closed Sun evening. This is one of several new upscale restaurants located in or near downtown. I am putting it on the list because I tried the Sunday brunch so I can vouch for the food. Like Cafe Central it has elements of Mexican food in the menu (although I haven’t seen their regular menu I think they have more Mexican dishes than Cafe Central). The food here is very good and very close to fine dining (I think the main difference is that here you can get in and out fairly quickly if you need to). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Cafe Central–109 N. Oregon St. (Fine Dining) Closed Sun.  More expensive than I usually put on this list, but I think their Mexican dishes are really worth the money (such as the puntas de filete). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Cafe Italia–6705 N. Mesa St. (Pizza) Dinner only (closed Sun & Mon).  Wood fired pizza that I think may be the best in El Paso (not Neapolitan style though). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Cafe Mayapan–2000 Texas Ave. (Mexican) Lunch only (closed Sun).  Authentic Mexican from different regions of Mexico. I am impressed not only by the variety of food, but also the quality. They have had takeout only during and after the pandemic, and I have read that they are back to normal dine-in service but I have not seen it. This is run by a non-profit organization so they do not always operate like a normal restaurant. In some ways that is a good thing because the food tastes like home cooking. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Carnitas Queretaro–7410 Remcon Cir. (Mexican) Open daily (opens at 8 am). There are four locations in town and this is the one on Mesa (just e. of the I-10 interchange). The restaurant streamlined it menu first because it moved and then because of the pandemic, and now seems to specialize in certain things. It is good for steaks, and a waiter recommended the Arrachera although I have not yet tried it. The item I think may be the absolute best in El Paso is the mole poblano. The plato mexicano is also one of the best in the city partly because the taco is made with carnitas (the restaurant’s signature dish although I like it best on a taco). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Charcoaler Drive-In–5837 N. Mesa St. (Hamburgers) Open Daily.  Serves Oklahoma City style charcoal broiled hamburgers (the original owners were friends of the owners of Charcoal Oven in OKC). The Charcoaler closed and reopened with a new owner and new set-up (now they have a dining room if you don’t want to go through the drive-through). I think the burgers here are better than before (I like them with the BBQ sauce). Everything else, though, is a crapshoot ranging from pretty good (hot dog with chili) to not very good (the veggie burger). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Desert Oak BBQ–1320 N. Zaragoza Rd. (BBQ) Open daily 11 am to 7 pm (9 pm on Fri & Sat).  This is said to possibly be the best barbecue in El Paso, and it is on my wish list to try. Wood is cooked on oak. They had a slow opening, and now are open every day (showing that they are trying to get it right and do BBQ the right way). Comments on the Internet about the place being “super small” might refer to a previous location. Map (Dining room is open 11-9-21)

Elemi–313 N. Kansas St. (Mexican) Open 11 am to 9 pm (closed Sun & Mon).  This is an upscale Mexican restaurant that is said to be as good as Mamacitas but instead of large plates on the dinner menu it has small plates and a la carte items that you order as you wish. The menu is innovative such as conejito pibil tacos (with rabbit instead of pork) and other items that are more traditional such as Oaxacan black bean soup (although this is not traditional for El Paso). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

El Jacalito–2130 Myrtle Ave. (Mexican) Breakfast and lunch only (closed Sun). Probably the definitive place in El Paso for inexpensive, real Mexican style lunches (I like the Mexican plate or the chile verde). El Jacalito is one of the best places in town for Lent specials (Fridays during Lent and the Thursday before Easter). Down side is that there is usually a waiting line at lunch time (even up to about 2 pm) and I cannot point to any items I think are the absolute best in El Paso except for the Lent specials. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Forti’s–321 Chelsea St. (Mexican) Closed Mon.  A local favorite, but I find it to be a little inconsistent (my tip is to go during their busiest times because I think these are when their best cooks are on duty). Tampiqueña and red enchiladas are my favorites here, but first time visitors might want to try the combination plate. The red sauce may be the best in El Paso (and I have tried a lot of them). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Han Il Gwan–9477 Dyer St. (Korean) Open 11 am to 8 pm (closed Sun).  El Paso has several good Korean restaurants, but this is my favorite. Has a good selection of items, and I don’t have problems with MSG. Map (Dining room open 11-8-21)

Jalisco Cafe–1029 E. 7th Ave. (Mexican) Open Daily 7 am to 4 pm.  This is a true “Roadfood” type of place except it has Mexican food and few people from out of town ever find it. They speak English here and the quality of food is good, but meals are geared to the blue collar and office workers downtown and in the surrounding (now designated as a historical district) neighborhood. I like all the food here but there is nothing I would describe as the best in El Paso except the caldo (beef soup) that is served as an appetizer. The tortillas they serve with it may be the best in the city as well. Bonus: two blocks away is Bowie Bakery which I consider to be the best Mexican bakery in town. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Julio’s Cafe Corona–7470 Cimarron Market (Mexican) Open daily (breakfast on Sat & Sun).  Originated in Ciudad Juarez, and this is a good place to get Juarez style food without going to Mexico. I like to order their “Specialties” (items that are made with their original recipes such as the Mexican Plate and Cochinita Pibil). Most of my visits have been to the Gateway East location but the most recent have been to this one (and I can vouch for how they are doing the food here). I also recommend the breakfast buffet. Map (Dining room is open 2-1-22)

Kiki’s–2719 N. Piedras St. (Mexican) Open Daily.  Some national food writers (many of whom have never been to El Paso) classify the Mexican food here as “Tex-Mex.” The green chile at Kiki’s, though, is something that is very close to Tex-Mex style, and is very good on the burritos, crab enchiladas, hamburger steak, and huevos rancheros. Largely because of the green sauce Kiki’s has become one of the city’s classic Mexican restaurants, although many other items are good as well (for instance the beans are very good and known to the vegetarian community as being made without lard). Map (Dining room is open 11-9-21)

L&J Cafe–3622 E. Missouri Ave. (Mexican) Closed Sun evening. Open since the 1920’s, it is famous for being located across the street from the graveyard. Now it is probably the most popular restaurant in town (with food that is probably worthy of national recognition although several other restaurants in town have food similar to here). Some good items include the red enchilada, green enchilada, caldillo, salsa, and lemonade. The combination plate I had here in 2021 is the best I have had in the city. I think the only time you can get a table without waiting is at about 3 to 4 in the afternoon-otherwise be prepared for long lines. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Las Palmas–1605 George Dieter Dr. (Mexican) Open daily (breakfast on Sat & Sun).  This is a relatively new discovery for me, but I think the Mexican food here rivals anywhere in town (enchiladas, chiles rellenos, etc.). One good feature is its lunch specials which offer items that are not normally on the menu (such as albondigas on Thu.). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Lunch Box–3623 Buckner St. (Mexican) Open daily 7 am to 3 pm.  Enchiladas are one of my favorite dishes in El Paso, and the ones at Lunch Box are among the best. What is different than most places, though, is that red and green are both very good (not just the red). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Mamacitas–325 N. Kansas St. (Mexican) Open daily breakfast, lunch, dinner.  Upscale Mexican food that I think does it very well. Downside is that the menu is limited, and most of the items are expensive. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Marina’s German Bakery–2033 Trawood Dr. (Bakery) Closed Sun.  This is my number one spot in town for freshly baked bread. Also serves bratwurst for lunch, and I think it is the best in town. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Matsuharu–4886 Hercules Ave. (Japanese) Open 4:30 pm to 9 pm Wed-Sat only.  All around excellent Japanese food, but I especially like the ramen, tempura udon, salmon teriyaki, and fish specials (the specials change in accordance with what can be flown in). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Mi Piaci–5411 N. Mesa St. (Italian) Closed Sun & Mon. Upscale Italian with very good food, prepared properly. (Italian and Middle Eastern have traditionally been the two best ethnic foods in El Paso besides Mexican food). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Monteleone’s–3023 Gateway Blvd. West (Italian) Dinner only (open Thu-Sat only).  I am putting this on the list not only because it is one of my favorites, but also because it is different than most other Italian restaurants. Here the food tastes fresh and home made (not red sauce Italian). My favorite item is the tortiglioni and I usually order the same thing because I can’t get there often enough to want to try other items.  Monteleone’s is also know for its art work of decorating the rooms with busts of celebrities (one room is called the “mob room”). Map (Dining room is open 11-9-21)

Nour–3800 N. Mesa St. (Lebanese) Closed Sun.  I think this is very good Middle Eastern food. Kabobs are impressive, as is the vegetable combo. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Peter’s German Grill–255 Shadow Mountain (German) Open daily except Sun evening.  The menu is small and it specializes in schnitzel and bratwurst. I think the best thing about it, though, is the German pastries and bread. My favorites of these are the Black Forest and the cranberry and walnut bread. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Pho Tre Bien Bistro–3737 N. Mesa St. (Vietnamese) Closed Sun.  Smaller menu than Saigon Taste but I think it is equally good. Pork chop is one of the best Asian dishes I have had in the city. Hot jasmine tea is also excellent. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Red Lantern–1841 N. Zaragoza Rd. (Chinese) Open Daily.  One of the few places in town where you can get authentic Chinese food, although post-pandemic the menu has been scaled down quite a bit. Prices are reasonable also. Food is Cantonese style. They once prepared an authentic Chinese New Year dinner for me and my friends. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Saigon Taste–6940 N. Mesa St. (Vietnamese) Closed Mon.  This is one of El Paso’s very good authentic Asian restaurants. My favorite items include the banh xeo and the pork chop. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Santa Cecilia–5500 El Paso Dr. (Mexican) Open Daily. To me these were almost unbelievably good tacos al carbon (the ones that should be the pattern for all other restaurants). My friends told me that it since went downhill, but the pattern in El Paso is usually that these restaurants eventually rebound, and I am anxious to try it again. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Su Casa–2030 E. Yandell Dr. (Mexican) Lunch only (closed Sun).  I like the tri-color enchiladas and the Mexican plate. Also available are several Middle Eastern items (my favorites are the spinach pie and tabouli). One big kick is to have a Lebanese lunch with authentic Mexican chips and salsa as an appetizer (and I forgot to mention that this is some of the best salsa in town). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Sun Garden–6600 N. Mesa St. (Chinese) Open Daily.  Authentic Cantonese food is available from the menu. I like the Szechuan pork and green beans and pork (neither of these are Cantonese but they are very good). You can special order some authentic Cantonese dishes such as tomato and scrambled egg. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Tara Thai–2606 N. Mesa St. (Thai) Closed Sun.  This is some of the best Thai food I have had anywhere in terms of flavor (I am very impressed with the way they do Thai food). There are some down sides, though–parking is terrible, the dinner menu is a little too expensive for me, and the lunch menu is a little limited (but the food here is really worth it if you want high quality Thai). Parking is particular bad when UTEP is in session. If parking becomes an issue a good alternative is Pho Tre Bien Bistro which is nearby and has some good Asian dishes or Singapore (but here there are only a few menu items that I really like). Map  (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Tasty Kabob–6110 N. Mesa St. (Persian) Closed Tue & closed Sun evening.  Very good lamb chops and ghormeh sabzi (I have not tried many other but I suspect they are good as well). I think this and Nour are the best Middle Eastern restaurants in town, with Jerusalem being very close. Map (Dining room is open 2-1-22)

Tony’s BBQ–1700 Myrtle Ave. (BBQ) Lunch only (closed Sun).  I do not think this is Austin or Oklahoma City quality barbecue, but it would be considered top notch just about anywhere else. It is Austin style, however, and the brisket is especially good. Map (Dining room is open 11-9-21)

Trattoria Bella Sera–3512 N. Yarbrough Dr. (Italian) Closed Sun.  This is possibly the best “red sauce” Italian place in town. I like the manicotti and fettuccine primavera. Map (Dining room is open 11-9-21)

Viet–1700 N. Zaragoza Rd. (Vietnamese) Closed Mon.  Very good Vietnamese food on the east side. The only problem is that you have to request mint with the vermicelli dishes (they will give it to you, but you have to know to ask for it). Still, though, the food is very good (just ask for it to be Vietnamese style and assume that otherwise it might be somewhat Americanized). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Villa del Mar–7988 Gateway Blvd. East (Mexican) Open Daily.  I think it’s the best in town for Mexican style seafood. I almost think the best thing about it is the side dishes (such as the fish soup). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Zino’s–7040 N. Mesa St. (Greek) Closed Mon.  Mixed review–I did not like the moussaka as much as the one at Casa Pizza but the rosemary chicken platter (a daily special) was one of the best dishes I have had in El Paso. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Fabens

Cattleman’s Steakhouse–Ranch Road 793 about 4 mi. north of IH-10 (Steakhouse) Dinner Tue-Sun; lunch Sat & Sun (closed Mon).  Nationally famous destination restaurant. I think the steaks were not quite up to par for a while, but many people report that they are now as they were before. Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)

Horizon City

Elotes El Vaquero–13701 Horizon Blvd. (Snacks) Open 5 pm to 11 pm (open to midnight Fri & Sat).  Food truck that serves Ciudad Juarez style roasted corn, and is said to be very good (it was featured in Texas Highways magazine). Made with white corn, shredded queso fresco, and chile. (Also at Zaragoza & Tierra Este in El Paso) Map (Picnic tables available 2-9-22)

Socorro

Sofia’s–11800 Glorietta Rd. (Mexican) Closed Mon.  The address of this restaurant is in San Elizario but it is actually located in Socorro. This is one of the few remaining “old time” Lower Valley restaurants with the traditional flavor I have loved since I have been here. Mexican plate is a good place to start. For enchiladas it goes against the general trend in El Paso in that the green enchiladas are best (at most restaurants it is the red). Map (Dining room is open 11-8-21)


  • For additional exxplanation of this list see Index
  • Please feel free to leave your own comments or suggestions.

Barbecue

Texas Monthly published a list of the top 100 barbecue restaurants in Texas for 2021. The following are the ones in the El Paso area:

The Rest of the Best (No. 11-50)

  • Desert Oak Barbecue–1320 N. Zaragoza Rd. (El Paso).  Brisket is probably the best meat here, but smoked sausage and pulled pork with a vinegary Carolina sauce are also extremely worthwhile. They really liked the El Paso Stuffed Potato with butter, cheese, sour cream, beans, chives, chiles toreados and brisket.

Note: Texas Monthly is now putting more weight on “modern” barbecue that they think tastes good. For traditional BBQ they do not like brisket to be too salty or ribs to be too sweet.


Sources:

Chowhound (El Paso)

Culture Trip (El Paso)

Google Maps

Texas Highways

Texas Monthly “The Top 50 Texas BBQ Joints 2021″ (TexasMonthly.com). Note: This is a subscription site

Urbanspoon.com (former web site which I used for preliminary research)

Yelp (El Paso)

Zomato (El Paso)

 

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