Casa Pizza–El Paso, TX

Casa Pizza
5435 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 775-2010

Update 2017: Casa Pizza has moved to the west side of El Paso at 5435 N. Mesa (where Chutney Restaurant used to be). The following review was written when Casa Pizza was at its old location:

The old location

Casa Pizza’s old building on Magruder St.

Casa Pizza seems to be so well hidden in a small strip shopping center behind Casa Ford that I may not have known about it except for an inquisitive nature that has led me to many of El Paso’s backroads and side streets. Casa Pizza is across the street from Carlos and Mickey’s, one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in the city, but the restaurant is tucked away in the back of the shopping center so that it may not be noticeable to the majority of people who pass by it.

Open since 1987, Casa Pizza is not lacking customers, many of which seem to be “regulars.” I have heard that Casa Pizza began when the original owners of House of Pizza on Piedras split up, and that the owner of Casa Pizza is the one who developed the recipes at House of Pizza. Many people say House of Pizza has some of the best pizza in the city, and although I have not been there recently, I can confirm that it had excellent pizza when I used to go before 1987. Fortunately, though, the same pizzas are available at Casa Pizza.

Pizza
Pizza is the most popular item at Casa Pizza, and the owners say everything is made with “all natural ingredients.” Pizza is one of the foods with the highest potential to cause me stomach problems, so the fact that the ones here “sit well” with me is probably due to the natural ingredients.

Even though the flavor of a pizza is less important to me than how well my body can tolerate it, the pizzas here have the flavor and quality that have earned them such a loyal following. The crust, sauce, and cheese are all top notch. Outside of the pizzas that are wood fired (at Cafe Italia) and New York style (at Hello Pizza), the ones here are probably the best in town. At least that has been my opinion since I first tried Casa Pizza, and House of Pizza before that.

Half and half pizza

Pizza with one half pepperoni and sausage, and one half green olive and mushroom

The toppings, though, do make a difference. In the pizza pictured above, I thought the half with pepperoni and sausage was outstanding, with excellent flavor and good quality meat. I have gone through long periods of staying away from pork products, and have tried various vegetarian toppings and other types of meat. If your objective is to get the best pizza at Casa Pizza, though, I would say to order the sausage and pepperoni. I generally do not like pepperoni, but the one here was fresh and moist (in some restaurants it is dried up almost like a chip). The sausage also had a good flavor, and was not overly spicy.

The olive and mushroom pizza, on the other hand, was a letdown in terms of the flavor. I think the problem here is that you cannot order a “vegetarian” pizza, instead patrons can only choose individual toppings to add. With green olives, black olives, and mushrooms being about the only choices, I think any of these would leave the pizza with the flavor of the chosen vegetable, and not much else. I did not think the olives or the mushrooms were particularly flavorful. In the case of vegetarian pizzas I would probably point to Ardovino’s as serving the ones with the best toppings.

Greek Food

Musaka

Musaka is one of the “House Specialties”

Even though Casa Pizza is justifiably famous for its pizza, I think its best feature is the Greek food. I first tried Musaka (others spell it “moussaka”) in a Greek restaurant on the Houston Ship Channel, and found a very good version in a Greek restaurant in downtown El Paso when I first came to the city. Since that time, though, I think Casa Pizza has come the closest to capturing the essence of musaka as I originally experienced it. The eggplant was cooked so that it was neither too hard nor too soft, the spices were right, and the crust tasted perfect to me. The dish came with ground beef that was not terribly appealing to me, but I know this is the way musaka is supposed to be made, and I was happy because of the fact that the meat was cooked properly. Overall I thought this was an excellent dish.

Casa Pizza has a rather limited Greek menu, and gyros is the other Greek entrée available, but I do not remember having tried it. If I do, I will use Mediterranean Cuisine as a guide, since I think the gyros are very good there.

Salads

House salad

House salad

House Salad came with some of the dinners when I tried it in 2008, and was one of the best I had eaten in El Paso. The salad was made with fresh greens, feta cheese, and a delicious dressing.

With the pizza, though, salads cost extra (but several types are available). The Greek Salad had all the same ingredients I remembered from the house salad, but I did not think it was nearly as good. The tomatoes were not ripe and the lettuce was not very green. The salad came in a large bowl and was over five dollars. I probably ate a little over half of it, both because of it being so large and because of the lettuce not being very green. The dressing and feta cheese, though, were very good.

Summing It Up
All of the pizzas here are reasonably priced, but the large ones seem to be particularly good deals for families who are on a budget. For me, though, I really enjoy the fact that Casa Pizza serves very good Greek food. It doesn’t hurt, though, that I enjoy the pizza too.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Pizza, Greek & Italian
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Catering service

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 29, 2010
Number of Visits: 7
Best Items: Musaka, Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Musaka
star 5 Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza
star 4 Green Olive and Mushroom Pizza
star 4 Greek Salad

Jim’s Diner–Oklahoma City, OK

Jim’s Diner
6317 N. Meridian Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 702-9862
Jim's Diner OKC

Jim’s Diner in northwest Oklahoma City


Although many are familiar with Jim’s Diner on Route 66 in Bethany, there is now a second location in Oklahoma City at N.W. 63rd St. and Meridian Ave. There are a number of reasons people have continued to patronize Jim’s over the years, but I think two of the most important are that just about everything is on the menu and the prices are reasonable.

My visits to the Bethany location have been exclusively for breakfast or for a late night dinner and conversation with friends (both locations are open until 10:00 pm, but the Bethany restaurant used to be open through midnight–the latest time I can remember being there).

When I went to the Oklahoma City location it was not nearly as busy as the Bethany restaurant usually experiences, but I believe people are now discovering the new restaurant and that business has picked up. This restaurant is not on Route 66, but the food seems to be the same.

Salad

Salad

Salad at Jim’s Diner

Salad is not my idea of one of the restaurant’s big draws, but it is available for those who want it. I could find nothing either particularly good or particularly bad about the one I tried (except for the fact that the tomatoes were actually red and the lettuce was actually green).

Fried Chicken

Fried chicken

Fried chicken

I sampled the Fried Chicken, so I know how it tastes but not if this would be classified as a very filling meal or not. At least the pieces seemed to be as big as in most other restaurants.

The flavor of the dark meat was excellent, so I would have to say this was a big hit with me. The white meat was dry, though, and disappointing (but still not bad). For my taste the dark meat would be well worth ordering again.

The best item I tried, though, was the Mashed Potatoes that came on the side. These were excellent potatoes and excellent gravy. I really do not think very much about mashed potatoes until I try them at the numerous restaurants that do not do them quite the right way (in contrast, I think Jim’s shows how it should be done).

Banana Nut Pancakes

Banana nut pancakes

Banana nut pancakes

One good feature of Jim’s is that you can order breakfast all day. One drawback I discovered was that the cook at dinner was not very familiar with the breakfast menu, leading to the fact that I only got one pancake (the one pictured) when I wanted to make a meal of them (which comes with four pancakes). They cooked the other three for me, but there was a good wait because these pancakes are made from scratch and cannot be prepared quickly.

I gave them four stars because of the fact that at home I try to use a more healthy cooking oil, so I get somewhat of a rude awakening when I eat them in most restaurants. Still, though, I liked the bananas, the syrup, the flavor of the pancakes (other than the oil), and even the margarine spread they had. The pecans tasted stale, though (this was not a big factor in the overall meal).

Desserts

Pie display

The pie display at Jim’s

I am mentioning desserts only to show this photo of their pie display, but so far I have not tried any of the flavors.

Additional Comments
For diners, I think Olde Orchard in Bethany seems to have a better flavor for me. I think Jim’s has more menu options, though, particularly if you want to order breakfast at dinner time (something I believe Olde Orchard does not do).

The closing time of 10:00 pm at Jim’s is considered late night dining for Oklahoma City, so this is a good option for many people (I have not confirmed the hours of this location but they are the ones posted on Yelp). The posted hours also say they open at 6:00 am every day (probably not something I would ever desire to check out for myself).

Update Aug. 2017: After visiting Olde Orchard again I wish to amend this section of the review. Olde Orchard does serve breakfast items at dinner (it is only during lunch hours from 11 am to 1 pm that they are not available). In addition I wish to revise the statement about Olde Orchard having a better flavor overall, and I would have to say it depends on what you order (both restaurants are good at certain things).

Opas Restaurant: Jim’s at N.W. 63rd and Meridian is now two restaurants–Jim’s Diner and Opas Mediterranean Restaurant. Opas has a separate entrance on the east side of the building (on Meridian) but you can also enter at Jim’s. Both restaurants use the same dining room, and you can order from either menu or both.


RATING: 18

Cuisine: American
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily (6:00 am to 10:00 pm)
Accessible: Yes (but there was only one handicapped space)
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Serves Breakfast

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 29, 2016

Number of Visits: 1

Best Item: Mashed Potatoes

 

Special Ratings
star 4 Fried Chicken
star 5 Mashed Potatoes
star 3 Salad
star 4 Banana Nut Pancakes

Menu (Aug. 2017):

Tienda Guatemala–Oklahoma City, OK

Tienda Guatemala
1001 N. Virginia Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 521-1899
Tienda Guatemala

Tienda Guatemala


Chiltepes is a well known restaurant in the Plaza District on N.W. 16th Street in Oklahoma City, but prior to this it was the original Tienda Guatemala. Chiltepes is now a Mexican restaurant that serves some Central American dishes (such as pupusas), but the original Tienda Guatemala has now moved to a new location on Virginia Avenue near N.W. 10th St.

The original Tienda Guatemala

The original Tienda Guatemala in what is now Chiltepes Restaurant on N.W. 16th St. in the Plaza District

Tienda Guatemala is really the umbrella name for two separate businesses: Curiosidades Guatemala (store/ mailing center/ money transfer center), and Antojitos Guatemaltecos (bakery and restaurant).

Tienda Guatemala has kept its original concept of being a small restaurant serving a limited number of items which are cooked in small batches. In addition to these lunch specials it has some menu items that are the same every day, and would probably fall more in the fast food category.

There is also a bakery with an extensive selection of items (pan dulce), but the restaurant itself attracts a pretty good crowd at lunch time.

The Restaurant

Pollo guisado

Pollo guisado served at the display counter

My experience with the lunch special was at the old restaurant, but when I visited the new building it was apparent that the food was the same. The items served can be viewed at the display counter, and there are usually about three or four choices. If you get chicken it will still have the bones, and items are prepared Latin American style (but not spicy unless you make it that way by adding salsa). The daily specials come with side dishes such as black beans, rice, and salad.

Beef estofada

Beef estofada

Beef Estofada is an example of the dishes served, and comes with salsa if you want to make it spicy (but Guatemalan dishes are traditionally not spicy).

The hand made tortillas have been well known at the restaurant since its beginning. Although this was one of the highlights of my meal, everything I tried was excellent, and really tasted like it was home made.

The lunch specials are already cooked and ready to be served when you get there, but they also have several menu items which can be ordered (such as pupusas).

Special Items

Christmas tamales

Christmas tamales

The restaurant is famous for its Christmas tamales, and it turned out that I was able to order some (which have to be ordered ahead of time). They make several varieties, but when I ordered I was only able to get chicken. These were interesting because the chicken still had the bones, and being Guatemala style they were not spicy. Still, they had a very good flavor and were worthy Christmas tamales.

The Bakery

Mil Ojas

Mil Ojas

Tienda Guatemala has quite an impressive bakery with a number of items. The items seemed to be the same ones served in Mexican bakeries, including Mil Ojas (I know it is supposed to be “Hojas,” but this is the way they spell it). This is a pastry that is just barely sweet, but sweet enough to be very satisfying. It reminded me of the pastries at Ingrid’s which follow the European model of being less sweet than American desserts, and I definitely thought the one I tried here was just as good as the pastries sold at Ingrid’s.

Things to Know
This part of town seems a little off the beaten path, but Tienda Guatamala is three blocks from the very popular Nic’s Grill and one block from the Hungry Frog (the hard part is finding Virginia Avenue as it veers off to the left from Pennsylvania as you travel south).

It is mostly a Spanish speaking established, but the employees seem to be quite fluent in English. It is clean and the tables even had tablecloths, but you do not get chips, sopapillas, or other items typically found in restaurants which cater mostly to Americans.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Guatemalan
Cost: $
Hours: Open for lunch (I don’t know the other hours)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Jul. 27, 2017

Number of Visits: 3

Best Items: Pollo Guisado, Tamales, Tortillas, Mil Ojas

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Pollo Guisado
star 5 Tamales
star 5 Tortillas
star 5 Pan Dulce