San Isidro–El Paso, TX

San Isidro Mission Cafe
1071 Country Club Rd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 845-8400
San Isidro Restaurant

San Isidro Mission Cafe


If San Isidro Mission Cafe were in any other city it would probably be my favorite Mexican restaurant, but in El Paso there is very stiff competition and I really cannot say that any one of them is my favorite (including this one). Instead I look at individual items and compare them one to another.

One advantage of San Isidro is that it serves two cities. It is located in El Paso’s Upper Valley on Country Club Road, but literally across the street is Sunland Park, New Mexico, a city with its own substantial population base. I have not been to San Isidro when it was not close to its capacity with customers, whether from Texas, New Mexico or other areas.

San Isidro serves breakfast and lunch with prices that are moderate. The person who recommended it to me said the Lent specials were very good, although for most of the year the breakfast and lunch seem to be about equal in popularity.

Breakfast Menu Items

Huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros San Isidro

For breakfast I tried the Huevos Rancheros San Isidro, made with a special recipe of the owners (and different than the regular huevos rancheros which are also available on the menu). The version I tried had spicy green chile and a flavorful sauce. Although not very obvious from the photo, there are pieces of steak to give it additional substance and flavor.

While most huevos rancheros dishes in El Paso come with refried beans and hash browns, these come with whole beans and potato chunks (I think the other version of this dish on the menu is the more traditional one). The huevos rancheros San Isidro seems to be more of a New Mexico style dish (with the whole beans and green chile), so this is a good alternative if you are tired of the traditional versions served in El Paso.

Combination Plate

Combination plate

Combination plate

The combination plate gave me a good idea of what is available for lunch. I will say that I had two favorites from this plate, one being the Chile Relleno. Besides the flavor being good and having no sauce on top (New Mexico style), there were also relatively few seeds inside, and the ones that were there were near the stem.

The Red Enchilada was my other favorite item, mainly because this is always one of my favorite items in El Paso restaurants. This one had bright red chile with a good flavor, and again I think this is either New Mexico style or close to it (most El Paso red enchiladas are very close to New Mexico style).

The Quesadilla, although not one of my favorite items, was one that I judged to be very well prepared and with the flavor that it should have. I just prefer things with chile such as the enchiladas or relleno.

The Chicken Taco was better than one I had recently tried at Riviera, and therefore I have to proclaim the one at San Isidro as one of the best in west El Paso. In fact, only the taco and chile relleno were items that I thought were better than at most other restaurants.

Lent Specials

Lentil soup

Lentejas

San Isidro serves traditional Lent meals which start out with a bowl of Lentejas, a vegetarian lentil soup. This one was very good although the cilantro was very noticeable.

Fish and seafood special

Pescado lent special

There was only one choice available for the main dish of the Lent meal, Pescado Marinero. This was a mixture of fish fillet, clams, squid, and vegetables baked in tin foil and providing a complete meal in itself. I thought the fish was very good, and this dish was definitely more upscale than the typical Lent special.

Capirotada

Capirotada

The special Lent meal also included Capirotada for dessert, a traditional bread pudding. The thing that was noticeable about this was its moistness (which I judge to be a good trait, and it certainly tasted good).

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

For chips and salsa I think San Isidro is in about the middle for El Paso restaurants, but still very good overall compared to most places in the United States.

Overall Comments
Much of the food here is similar to what is found in other El Paso restaurants. One difference, though, is that they have several special items that feature New Mexico style chile such as the huevos rancheros San Isidro. I think the red enchiladas are also good and are close to New Mexico style (although I thought the one at Riviera was better).

One very unique item here, though, is the pescado marinero served as a lent special. It is expensive (I think about $16) but to me it was a special treat.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: 7:00 am to 3:00 pm (closed Tue.)
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 23, 2018
Number of Visits: 3
Best Items: Chile Relleno, Quesadilla, Enchiladas, Chicken Taco, Comida de Cuaresma (Lent Specials)

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Chile Relleno
star 5 Quesadilla
star 5 Enchiladas
star 5 Chicken Taco
star 5 Huevos Rancheros San Isidro
star 5 Rice
star 5 Beans
star 5 Salsa

Inni Heart–El Paso, TX

Inni Heart
1731 Montana Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 533-8890
Inni Heart

Inni Heart


Inni Heart is a “New American” restaurant with an emphasis on freshness and quality (I am old enough to remember when this was the “regular American” food with the newcomer being the fast food restaurants). Another characteristic of “New American” food is that it is local, and in El Paso that inevitably involves Mexican food or some aspect of it. Although Inni Heart has some Mexican dishes, it seems to be more of a Mexican influenced cuisine with items such as chicken-chipotle spaghetti squash.

The enchilada plate I ordered is not traditional Mexican food, or at least it is not traditional for the border area. Chips and salsa are not served with meals, and the traditional rice and beans are replaced with more healthy options. Other Mexican dishes are available, but mostly it seemed to be healthy American food (I do not know if fried food is totally lacking or if it is just not prominent).

The restaurant used to be called La Tierra Cafe, but it was explained to me that they had a complaint by another restaurant in Texas named La Tierra so this restaurant changed its name. I do not know the whole story, but this is the reason it has its official name and the somewhat unofficial one of La Tierra by which most of the locals know it.

Mexican Food

Creamy chipotle chicken enchiladas

Creamy chipotle chicken enchiladas

Although Creamy Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas are not a traditional border style Mexican dish, this was in essence true Mexican, and was one of the best enchilada plates I have ever tried. What I liked best about it was that they found a way to blend the chipotle into the dish without making it too spicy or giving it too much of a chipotle flavor so that all the other flavors came through. Inni Heart is a very casual lunch place, but this dish was really worthy of being served in a fine dining Mexican restaurant where they would charge correspondingly high prices.

Other Menu Items
Other Mexican dishes are also available, as well as some that are a fusion of Mexican and American food. You do not get chips and salsa with the meals and side dishes have been upgraded from the typical beans and rice.

They also serve sandwiches, salads, and other dishes that are strictly American, although the theme for all the food here is that it is more healthy than you would typically find at other restaurants.

Dessert

Ice cream

Ice cream

I cannot imagine how the Ice Cream fits the “healthy” theme of the restaurant, except for the fact that it tasted home made without the normal long list of added ingredients you normally see on an ice cream package. In fact, judging from the flavor I would say that it is definitely home made.

Overall Comments
The prices are a little bit high for El Paso, but low compared to comparable food I have had in other cities. Inni Heart may be comparable to other “healthy food” restaurants, but I found the flavor of the chipotle enchiladas to be totally unique in my Mexican food experience. These were truly some of the best enchiladas I have ever tasted, and definitely were the best chipotle enchiladas I have had.

Down sides of the restaurant definitely include the limited hours, but also I would say the menu is fairly limited (especially when it comes to Mexican food). I did not see any daily specials that are usually very good in this type of restaurant (since they concentrate on fresh ingredients and locally available products). Yelp says they do have a daily soup and sandwich combination, though.

Honestly, though, the food is so good the only criticism I can make is that I wish they had more items that I could choose.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Mexican and New American
Cost: $$
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Apr. 20, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Enchiladas, Ice Cream

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Creamy Chicken Chipotle Enchiladas
star 5 Ice Cream

Wicked Pho–El Paso, TX

Wicked Pho
12102 Montwood Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 303-5244
Wicked Pho

Wicked Pho


Out of a small number of Vietnamese restaurants in El Paso, it turns out that two of them (Wicked Pho and Viet) are in proximity to each other, leading to inevitable comparisons between the two. While Viet is run by Vietnamese people (I know because I met the owner), several reviews of Wicked Pho say it is not (I cannot confirm this because I did not meet the owner). The menu of Wicked Pho indicated to me that the food is Asian fusion, as some reviews also state.

The reviews of Wicked Pho are varied, ranging from five stars to very low assessments of the food. Having tried three of their items, I found the range to be about three stars to five (not the very low ratings that some had given it). It does depend on what you order, though, because some menu items are clearly not Vietnamese. Also I did not try the pho, which seemed to be the object of most of the bad reviews.

An obvious comparison with Viet Restaurant is that Wicked Pho has much fewer menu choices, particularly with Vietnamese items. Still, I liked what I ordered, and whether it is authentic or not I am glad I came.

Appetizers

Egg rolls

Egg rolls

The Egg Rolls were standard for Asian restaurants, although I believe this is Americanized Asian food. The sauce did not have a flavor that stood out to me.

For me a better appetizer was the Pan Seared Dumplings, which were similar to other very good ones I have had.

Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chop

Lemongrass grilled pork chop

Lemongrass grilled pork chop

I ordered the Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chop mainly because of having few options on the menu, but this was an excellent dish that so far is the best Vietnamese pork chop I have had in El Paso. The egg and garnishes were a definite enhancement, but the meat itself was quite good. I also loved the lemongrass flavor, and I definitely recommend this as an upscale Asian food item (pork chops at any Vietnamese restaurant will be one of the most expensive items on the menu).

Tea
I forgot to take notes about the tea and therefore do not have any information about it.

An Assessment
There is a small Vietnamese menu here, but the pork chop was excellent. In contrast, many of the reviews of the pho do not make me want to try it.

The pork chop here was actually better than ones I have tried at other restaurants (such as Saigon Taste on the west side), but the appetizers ranged from good to lackluster. This makes me think that the range of reviews from good to bad depends largely on what you order.

It is hard to give an overall assessment of the restaurant, but the pork chop was memorable to me for how good it was.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 8, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chop

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: N/A
MSG: N/A
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chop