I had an enchilada attack last night, so I thought I would go to the Little Diner. I got there about ten minutes before closing (8:00 p.m.), so they informed me I would have to order takeout. Waiting for the order gave me time to examine all the articles, reviews, and awards posted on the walls (a single wall does not have enough space) from publications such as Texas Monthly and just about every Southwest restaurant book you could imagine. I read about how George W. Bush had eaten there when he was governor, and he seems like one of the most chowish politicians around. I ordered the combination plate, which normally has an enchilada, taco, and gordita, but I substituted an extra enchilada for the taco.
Fortunately I only had about a ten minute drive home, so the food was still hot and fresh when I opened the styrofoam box. I have always considered this to be one of the best restaurants in the El Paso area for red enchiladas. They serve the pure red chile typical of New Mexico style, and it is so hot I almost cannot eat it anymore (but I still love it just as much). But to my surprise the extra green enchilada I ordered was just as good if not better. I think the only place I've had green chile to compare with this is at Chope's outside Las Cruces. I have been missing out on a real treat. When I was done with the meal I was sorry that so much chile had seeped into the carry-out box.
I recommend ordering some other item with the enchiladas to give your mouth a break from the heat of the chiles. In my case the gordita did the trick. It is made with a perfectly cooked corn meal crust. I am not a meat eater so I could not handle the highly spiced beef inside, but I wanted to try it once and it was worth it for the crust. Even my cat turned up her nose to the gordita meat, although she does like chicken mole. I think if you like gorditas, J J's at 5320 Doniphan in El Paso is just about as good.
The Little Diner web site gives good directions (see the attached link). One warning, though, even when you're on the right road it may not seem like it, and even when you're there it's not very obvious (it's almost hidden behind a laundromat). You can usually tell you're in the right place by all the cars parked in front. And an even stronger warning (please observe this one unless you're one of those daredevils who also ignore David Letterman's warnings, "Kids, don't try this at home!") -- If you've never been there before, don't try to find it at night!! And by all means, don't try the red or green enchiladas unless you're ready for a real chile experience.
Canutillo is located at the third exit after you enter Texas coming from the west on I-10 (coming in from Las Cruces). The City of El Paso has a strict no-smoking ordinace that does not apply in Canutillo, but as far as I know the Little Diner does not allow smoking either. The wooden booths are quite an experience-- this place will never get a Zagat's rating for atmosphere (I doubt that Zagat's could even find it). One definite drawback is that if you want chips with the meal, you have to pay extra for it (but I highly recommend that you do so if you're ordering enchiladas or another dish with red or green chile). They also offer burritos with chile verde (not to be confused with the green chile they use on top of the enchiladas). My next quest is to try the chiles rellenos.
In my opinion the Little Diner should be on the "must try" list for people coming to El Paso and wishing to find out what Southwest food is all about.
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