El Paso, TX
Riviera has been in operation since 1948, and when I came to El Paso it was one of the several restaurants (mostly located in the Upper Valley) specializing in New Mexican style food. Coming here I always appreciated the flavor of the chile as well as the fact that it tested the limit of my heat tolerance without reaching the breaking point.
Riviera had a change in ownership sometime around the beginning of the 2000’s, and after that I could no longer classify the food as strictly New Mexican style. My main benchmark was the red enchiladas, which were not as spicy as before but which, over time, I think have proven to be just as flavorful. These are characterized by a deep red color and a very straightforward chile flavor. Some other menu items are closer to the style of El Paso cuisine,and may have always been so, but I think many of the dishes that have been carried forward from the original Riviera are actually New Mexican in their origin..
The Riviera web site says it is now a few generations since the Riviera began, but “our reputation for serving the finest in authentic Mexican cuisine still exists.” In describing the enchiladas it states that you can choose the Original Red, New Green (creamy), or Old Green (rajas de chile verde sautéed with onions and tomatoes). The green enchiladas sound as if they are south of the border in their origin, while the New Green sounds like the restaurant’s own creation (and it is a recent addition to the menu).
I used to go for Taco Tuesdays (this special is no longer served at Riviera) and I have tried other items, but for me the red enchiladas are king here. Even when the red sauce spills over onto the beans it just adds the beans as another “best item.”
I always find Riviera to be cool and relaxing on the many days when it is very nice to get out of the hot weather. They even have several shaded parking spaces at the back of the building where the bar is located. The music is always good, or at least interesting–on a recent visit they were playing 1960’s and 70’s counter-culture rock music (perhaps as nostalgia for when the restaurant was only 20 years old).
Since the Covid epidemic Riviera is not open as late as it used to be, but it is apparently still true that the bar stays open later than the restaurant. They no longer have lunch specials or Taco Tuesdays, but otherwise I think they are working hard to keep the original Riviera going (although with additional menu items that I think may be of more interest to newer customers than they are to old timers like myself).
Riviera is open for breakfast every day and serves enchiladas montadas, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, Mexican omelettes, etc. I have enjoyed the breakfasts, but I found many of the items to be expensive compared to other restaurants.
The Salsa here is less spicy than some, although it has a good flavor and is not diluted with tomatoes or other fillers they use in other parts of the United States (such as Oklahoma).
Riviera has now eliminated the lunch menu, and just has one menu for both lunch and dinner. The various combination plates have also been changed to just four. The “Combo Dos,” though, has what I consider to be the best of the restaurant –enchiladas and chile relleno.
There are two Enchiladas (your choice of color but I like the red ones). In the past I have gotten them flat but I am now ordering the default rolled ones because they come with a generous amount of sauce (something that at many restaurants only happens when you order them flat).
The Chile Relleno has a little bit of cooking oil that is evident along with some seeds inside, but has a good flavor and good cheese (I think they use Monterey Jack for both the enchiladas and chile relleno).
To me the Tacos are just a bonus and I would be just as happy if I could get a combination plate without them (you can get beef, chicken, or shredded beef). Although the tacos are fried they do not taste greasy (unless you are like me and generally try to avoid all fried food).
The Rice and Beans are also excellent here, a key factor that I think puts Riviera in the category of the city’s better Mexican restaurants.
The Chicken Flauta used to be available as an a la carte item from the dinner menu, but now just comes three to an order. In the past I did not think they were as flavorful as some of the tacos, although i do really like the guacamole at Rivera (which comes on an order of flautas). Some information from the staff indicated that the flautas are made with frozen meat while the taco meat is not frozen, so perhaps this is another reason my taste buds prefer the tacos.
The main reason I come here is for the red enchiladas–I think these are among the top five in El Paso (and probably in the top three).
A bonus of coming here is that it is relaxing, they have very good iced tea, and on hot days it is cool but I do not feel like I am in a refrigerator.
My main complaint is that the only combo orders I want also come with two tacos (which to me are mostly superfluous accoutrements to the meal (one solution is sometimes to give them to my dining companions who almost always are very appreciative).
The servers here always seem more than helpful and the large number of booths make it one of the more comfortable places to eat.
Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Hours: Open Daily
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Full Bar
Most Recent Visit: Jul 29, 2023
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Red Enchiladas, Chile Relleno, Guacamole