Valley Super Market–El Paso, TX

Valley Super Market
850 Resler Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 585-1003
Valley Super Market

Valley Super Market on Resler


Valley Super Market is a local meat market and Mexican grocery store with several locations in El Paso. Not being familiar with many of the items normally sold in Mexican markets, it is hard for me to make a comparison with other stores. I would classify it as a small store, though, which mainly carries items not sold in the regular super markets (such as Wal-Mart, etc.) that you would want to use for Mexican style cooking.

The Resler location has a meat market, bakery, a section for other groceries, and a restaurant that is served deli style (you order at the counter and select the items you want from the display case). The restaurant closes an hour earlier than the store, though (the store closes at 8:00 p.m.–7:00 on Sunday).

I indicated below that I have eaten at the restaurant two times, but I have visited the store several other times for baked goods and other items. The overall rating, though, is mainly for items served at the restaurant.

The Restaurant

Mexican plate

Mexican plate with rice, beans, chile relleno, taco, and enchilada

Most items are served individually or by the pound, but they do have some combination plates available such as the Mexican Plate shown in the photo. Although this was not the absolute best Mexican plate I have had in El Paso, it is a good deal for the money, and I enjoyed the food. The Red Enchilada was particularly noteworthy as being a good representative of El Paso style Mexican food. It was not too spicy but had a good flavor.

The Chile Relleno did not stand out much from others in the city except for the fact that the rajas con queso on top were so flavorful that they turned it into a somewhat exceptional relleno.

The Shredded Beef Taco was good but was a little lacking in flavor compared to some others in the city.

The Rice with lima beans was very good, especially compared to most other restaurants.

The Beans were not special for El Paso but were excellent compared to most other places.

You do not get chips with a dinner here, but they provide salsas to go with the food.

There is no tea but Mexican sodas are available.

Items served by the Pound

Chile colorado and chile verde

Chile colorado and chile verde

For any item that is not part of a plate, you will need to specify how much you want. This is also a way to get a meal if you go after the restaurant closes at 7:00 but the store is still open (until 8:00 pm). Tables are available any time during store hours.

Shown in the photo are a half pound each of chile colorado and chile verde, along with some beans. The Chile Verde was so spicy that I thought this detracted from its flavor (I admit that I am not a diehard chilehead). I found the Chile Colorado to be very flavorful, though, and is one of the best in El Paso for sure. Both had a large potato content which I think enhanced the flavor of each one.

Grocery Items

Tamales

Tamales

One notable grocery item is the Tamales, which come in three flavors–red, green, and queso con rajas. In order to try them I had to buy three packages with six tamales in each, and some ended up in the freezer (I don’t think they are as good after this). Even when fresh, though, I did not think they were as good as some in Canutillo (either at Lupita’s or the Little Diner).

The Pan Dulce from Valley Super Market’s bakery is good, although I agree with some comments I have seen that it is probably better at Los Jarrones at Redd Road and Doniphan. I think Valley has a better selection of items than Los Jarrones, though.  I have not made an item by item comparison of the two bakeries but one thing I particularly like here is the soft bread with jelly inside (such as strawberry).

Other Notes
In addition to the food being inexpensive, it is also self serve so you do not necessarily need to leave a tip (although you can). The food is actually very good, but the main thing I do not like is that they do not have iced tea.

The food seems to be Chihuahua style, although I think the enchiladas are typical of El Paso (they have more chile sauce than the typical Ciudad Juarez enchiladas). I was pleasantly surprised by the chile con rajas served on top of the chile relleno, and I think this is probably a Mexican tradition rather than one normally found north of the border.

I did not notice a strong selection of items such as fresh fruits and vegetables in the store–I think it is mostly meat and packaged items. However, I have not purchased any and I do not know specifically what they have in the way of produce.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jul 26, 2018
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Red Enchilada, Chile Relleno con Rajas, Chile Colorado

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchilada
star 5 Chile Colorado
star 5 Chile Relleno con Rajas
star 4 Tamales
star 4 Shredded Beef Taco
star 4 Chile Verde
star 5 Pan Dulce
star 4 Banana Bread

Sun Garden–El Paso, TX

Sun Garden Chinese Bistro
6600 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 585-8898
Sun Garden

Sun Garden


When Sam’s Chinese Restaurant opened on Yandell Drive it was a groundbreaking moment for El Paso, not only because it offered truly authentic Chinese food but also because the people of the city embraced it. Now chef Mike Wu, one of the original owners of Sam’s, has his own restaurant on the west side called Sun Garden Chinese Bistro (another one of the original owners has moved Sam’s Restaurant to Dyer Street and his wife operates Red Lantern in east El Paso). While each of the three current “Sam’s” restaurant has its own menu items and recipes, the original traditional Cantonese style type of food can be found at all three of these restaurants.

I thoroughly enjoy all three of these restaurants, and of course the most obvious reason to choose one of them over the others is geographic. Whether you are in west, northeast, or east El Paso, authentic Cantonese and Hong Kong style food is available at any of them.

Sun Garden has a selection of authentic dishes which is very large for El Paso, and in this regard is very similar to Red Lantern. These are primarily listed in the “Specials by Mike Wu” or “Sun Garden Chinese Menu,” although sometimes when I have asked for authentic dishes I have found that they come from the regular menu. There is also a message board at the front door that lists the daily specials (and many times includes bao buns and other authentic items).

It is somewhat misleading to say any of the food here is not authentic, because all of it is prepared by Chinese people and has Chinese flavors. The food that I categorize as authentic, though, is more traditional, and is what people from China would expect at any restaurant that serves Cantonese style food. Much of it is served in large portions and is probably best served “family style” where it would be shared at a table. Because of this I have not tried a lot of the authentic dishes (another reason, though, is because they do not always have the ingredients available to make them).

What I classify as non-traditional or Americanized dishes are also Chinese at their heart but I find that the presentation is different, particularly in offering a large amount of meat with few vegetables (this is particularly true with the lunch specials). I think the sauces are very true to the Chinese style, although I have not tasted the restaurant’s most Americanized dishes such as sweet and sour or General Tso’s chicken.

If you are looking for either authentic dishes or ones that have a certain flavor the best way is to ask the staff. The menu is not always obvious, but ordering from the “Chinese Menu” does give you the assurance that it will be Hong Kong style.

Specials by Mike Wu

Seafood hot pot

Seafood hot pot with tofu

The Seafood Hot Pot with Tofu is an example of the “Specials by Mike Wu” which tend to be upscale with a generous portion that you will probably want to share. A variety of fish, seafood, meat, and vegetable dinners are available, and unlike the “Sun Garden Chinese Menu,” some of these items are spicy and represent other regions of China besides Guangdong and Hong Kong. The seafood hot pot was large enough that I took some home for another meal, which I enjoyed equally as the one in the restaurant. Although the seafood was not quite like what I had in New Orleans, it was very good. The sauce was excellent, and the few vegetables that it contained were very good. One thing that stood out was the tofu, which was a quality that is hard to find in El Paso (so I have been told by Chinese people).

Sun Garden Chinese Menu

Mapo tofu

Mapo tofu served in a hot pot

The Mapo Tofu from this section of the menu is an item I order regularly, and is definitely one of my favorites. This is the only item from this section marked as spicy on the menu, although I would say it is only mildly spicy and would not be classified as Sichuan food. I ask for it to be served in a hot pot although this is not the way it normally comes (there is no charge for changing the plate it is served in). The sauce is one of the best elements of the dish, being less sweet than at most restaurants but also more flavorful. The pork is very good quality, and I enjoy the large amount of vegetables and tofu that come with the dish. I think it also helps that the dish is a little bit spicy (or very spicy if you eat the jalapenos that are in the dish).

Once I tried to order the stir fried bitter melon with egg, but they did not have any bitter melon. I got a suitable substitute which I really liked, but when it comes to ordering traditional Chinese food in El Paso this is the approach that is frequently necessary (all restaurants in the city have trouble obtaining certain vegetables at certain times).

Regular Menu

Szechuan pork

Szechuan pork

I have sampled several items from the regular menu, and friends have commented on others, but the one I particularly like is Szechuan Pork. The vegetables are particularly notable because they include many of my favorites (wood ear, bamboo shoots, snow peas, etc.), and the fact that there are more vegetables than meat in the dish. The meat is excellent as well. The sauce is a little sweet, but the flavors are balanced to give a traditional yu shiang (fish flavored) taste.

Szechuan pork served in the restaurant

Szechuan pork served in the restaurant

This is another view of the dish served in the restaurant rather than the take-out version which I frequently order. The snow peas are not as visible here but other vegetables can be seen, including several jalapeno slices which are a large part of the dish’s spiciness.

This dish does present a dilemma, though, because the order is large but I do not think it as suitable for two meals as the mapo tofu is. It is not unreasonable to eat the entire portion in one meal but it is usually more than I want.

Lunch Specials
The lunch specials give you a smaller quantity of food at a good price, although the selection of items is fairly limited. There is always a daily special in addition to the regular menu items, though.

Szechuan chicken

Szechuan chicken served as a lunch special

For instance, Szechuan Chicken is available as a lunch special, offering another take on what I think is one of the best sauces here. Unlike the Szechuan pork I have ordered, though, this dish is mostly meat with fewer vegetables (it is still good, though).

Basil chicken

Basil chicken

Basil Chicken was one of the daily specials served for lunch that I tried. Although I liked the flavor of it, though, there was very little in the dish besides meat and basil. For someone like me who usually likes a lot of vegetables in Chinese food, this was not the best choice.

Napa cabbage with chicken

Napa cabbage with chicken

The Napa Cabbage with Chicken was a little bit better lunch choice in my opinion (and was also a daily special). The white sauce did not give it as interesting of a flavor as the basil chicken, but overall I liked it better because of the vegetables.

I did not really care much for the Egg Drop Soup, so to me the main reason to get the lunch specials is because the price is good and you get a portion of food that does not require you to take some home as leftovers (as I have frequently found to be the case with dinner items).

Some of the lunch items look as if they are quite authentic, such as the green bean pork or the roasted duck. Some definitely look Americanized such as General Tso’s chicken, but the important thing is that you get a choice (I do find it odd, though, that they have Szechuan chicken and beef but not pork).

Special Dishes

Tomato and egg

Tomato and egg

Sun Garden can prepare a few items that are not listed on the menu, such as Tomato and Egg. I got this when I tried to order bitter melon with egg but they did not have better melon. Tomatoes were substituted and it had the same sauce, so I was happy with the result.

I do not know what to tell others about what you can request as a special dish, but I believe there is very little that Mike does not know how to cook–it is mainly a matter of whether he has the ingredients. Also many traditional Chinese dishes have a long preparation time, and these would definitely need to be ordered in advance.

BBQ bun

BBQ bun

Sometimes specials are listed on the board at the front door, and a frequent one is the Barbecue Bun. This is not really sweet enough to be a dessert, but goes well with a meal (I would say especially with items such as the dinners that I sometimes try to stretch into two meals).

In A Nutshell
I have not had anything here that did not taste good, but within this framework there is a wide variety of choice–whether you want something with mostly meat or vegetables, whether you want something spicy, whether you want something big enough to share or take home as leftovers, etc. Also you can get dishes that are traditional Cantonese style, although they are mostly meat items.

For my purposes I usually either get the mapo tofu from the Chinese menu which can make two dinners for me, or the Szechuan pork from the regular (dinner) menu which is good for about two lunches (or one rather dinner when I am particularly hungry). The Luncheon Specials are meant to be smaller plates that one person can easily eat, but I have found some of the chicken dishes to have quite a bit of food. I do think there are some good smaller dishes from the dinner menu or the Chinese menu, and I will report them when I find them.

I do not think I have even begun to try a good sample of the different dishes here, and items from the Chinese menu in particular are meant to be served family style meaning that if I try it I should be prepared to take some home.

Most of the people who come with me to Sun Garden do not share my desire to try the “authentic” food, leaving me to try it for myself. It seems, though, that even people with the most limited knowledge of Chinese food like the food here, so it is a good place to come with your friends or picky family members. I am quite impressed that chef Mike has found a way to package a more Chinese tasting style of food to the mass market in El Paso, and the number of customers seems to increase every time I go to the restaurant.

Sun Garden uses MSG and so far I have not had any issues by asking them to omit it. This may be difficult on some of the slow cooked items such as roast duck, but at least with what I have ordered there have not been any problems.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 7, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Ma Po Tofu, Szechuan Pork, Szechuan Chicken, Tomato and Egg, Seafood and Tofu Hot Pot

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine (brewed)
MSG: Yes
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Mapo Tofu
star 5 Seafood and Tofu Hot Pot
star 5 Szechuan Pork
star 5 Szechuan Chicken
star 5 Tomato and Egg
star 4 Basil Chicken
star 4 Napa Cabbage with Chicken
star 4 Egg Drop Soup

 

Villa del Mar–El Paso, TX

Villa del Mar
7988 Gateway East
El Paso, TX
(915) 591-1446
Villa del Mar

Villa del Mar on Interstate 10


For years Villa del Mar has been a popular destination in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico for locals and people crossing the border from El Paso. Known for its “Boquilla bass” (fresh water bass caught from the Boquilla Lake in Mexico) and other seafood items such as shrimp and oysters, it has always been fresher and better prepared than just about any seafood place in the borderland.

Villa del Mar is actually one of my long time favorite restaurants, even though I only ate at the El Paso location for the first time in 2005 (it is located on the frontage road to I-10–take the Yarbrough exit on the east side of town). The original Boquilla bass is long gone, I think both in El Paso and in Juárez. I have heard that the lake is now contaminated, but I don’t know the full story.

The interior

The large dining room with TV screens and a bar area

I am impressed, though, that Villa del Mar continues to look for sources of fresh tasting fish, and there are not only more choices available now, but they seem to be better. Just as in the early days when Villa del Mar found good sources of fish that most other restaurants did not serve, I also think the same is true today.

Villa del Mar used to serve whole fish using both bass (that I think was farm raised) and snapper. They now use tilapia from China for the fillets, but I am not sure if this includes the several styles of whole mojarra fish on the menu (Wikipedia explains mojarra as several types of shallow water fish including tilapia).

I don’t know… after a meal I had in Matamoros, Mexico on the Gulf coast I don’t think anything in the desert could ever come close to that experience. However, I do enjoy the fillets at Villa del Mar. The concept of the food here seems to be that they will use whatever is the freshest.

One waiter indicated to me that the fillet is now their highest quality fish rather than the whole fish, but I am sure it is best to ask any time you go. I know I certainly have had good results ordering the fillet.

Freebies

Fish soup and salad

Fish soup and salad come free with dinners

A salad comes with dinners, and it is hard to complain about anything that is free. I did enjoy it, though, especially because of the dressing.

The Fish Soup was outstanding, though, and was also free with the dinner.

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa are excellent

The Chips and Salsa are excellent (but I like the regular salsa better than the pico de gallo style).

Appetizers

Fosj ceviche

Fish ceviche

The Fish Ceviche is one of several choices from the appetizer menu. This had good fish, but I did not think the ceviche came off quite as well as others I have tried. I recommend the half order as an appetizer, but for a meal I would go with the fish or shrimp dinners rather than a full order of ceviche.

Shrimp quesadilla

Shrimp quesadilla

The Shrimp Quesadilla makes a flavorful appetizer, although appetizers are usually the idea of my dining companions because I get quite full from the meal itself.

Filete Veracruzano

Filete veracruzano

Filete veracruzano

The Filete Veracruzano has traditionally been one of my favorites that I order at different restaurants. Many times the topping covers up the taste of a less than premium fish. Here, though, the fish not only tasted fresh, but the tomato, celery, and olive topping was one of the best, if not the best, I have had in El Paso. Although this is not a spicy dish, the olives, tomatoes and other ingredients make it interesting.

Lemon Pepper Fillet

Lemon pepper fillet

Lemon pepper fillet

The Lemon Pepper Fillet had a great breading that brought out the flavor of the fish, and was very well prepared. It came in a large serving that was very satisfying, but not expensive compared to other restaurants.

Filete Diabla

Filete diabla

Filete diabla

At other restaurants I have enjoyed the Filete Diabla with a spicy chipotle sauce, but I found the one here to be a bit overwhelming in the spiciness. It was also a bit surprising considering that the other fillets I have tried have been markedly on the mild side.

Side Dishes
The mashed potatoes that come with the fillet are excellent, and the rice is just there (nothing special). This is apparently the traditional way to serve Mexican style fish.

Additional Comments
It should be obvious that the fish here is not like it is in Baja California or the Gulf Coast, but they do a pretty good job for an inland seafood restaurant. The fish has a good flavor, but mostly what I like are the toppings and side dishes that come with it.

I particularly like the veracruzano style fish here because it seems to be very traditional and in my mind sets the standard for the way it should be done.

This restaurant is actually Villa del Mar #2–the original is in Ciudad Juárez, and a third is now open on Mesa Street in west El Paso.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican Seafood
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, drinks

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 4, 2018
Number of Visits: 3
Best Items: Filete Veracruzano, Lemon Pepper Fillet, Fish Soup, Chips, Salsa

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: N/A

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Filete Veracruzano
star 5 Lemon Pepper Fillet
star 4 Filete Diabla
star 5 Shrimp Quesadilla
star 4 Fish Ceviche
star 5 Fish Soup
star 4 Salad
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 3 Pico de Gallo