Restaurants & Bars

el paso vacation report -- i can't wait to return!

mrnyc | Apr 25, 200302:10 PM     19

just back, excellent time in and around el paso. we stayed first at the fancy el camino real, the cliff, the travelodge hacienda twice and finally the airport hilton, from fancy to kitschy 50'-60's all were fun.

we enjoyed the general 1950's vibe of the place and the utter lack of any starbucks, the gaps, etc.--instead there are multiple local fast food mex chains everywhere like EL TACO TOTE, juarez's CARNITAS QUERETERO, DEL RIO, old school CHICOS, my fav TACO CABANA and many more--any and all would rule new york.

we also loved the mountains, the warm afternoon winds (despite el pasoans complaints), the mission trail, western shops downtown, the old juarez food etc. markets, the borderwalk streets like santa fe, el paso, stanton, mesa--to me they were just like a tex-mex version of canal street in new york. i had a barbacoa torta sandwich there that about reduced me to tears it was so good. i mean when the lady slices open a big crusty bun, grabs an avocado cuts the seed out and starts carving it out for you just to start it off you know you are in for a treat($2).

SMITTY'S BAR-B-Q: a real cool throwback, the 'cue was smoky but just ok overall. actually, the fries, beans, links and ham were great, but the beef was disappointing by texas standards. nice vinegary sauce and a spicy sauce as well, but if you need sauce on your texas 'que, well...?!? fyi--BOB's is still remodeling and we missed JOHNNY'S PIT by an hour (sigh). however, HARLON'S BBQ in the houston airport wasn't bad as a last bbq meal on our return.

RIB HUT: we made it there on wed which is $1.25/per flintstones-sized rib night. tangy sauce on those things. what a steal--do it the wait is worth it.

LUCY'S/KING's X: fantastic breakfast tamale plate, great sauces. my spouse had an egg dish that came in a bowl with spicy red chile sauce. all brought me to tears...of joy. lots of love in the making of the food there, mom is in the kitchen--for real. very cool place and bar next door.

H&H CARWASH: first place we ran to off the plane. i had a bowl of caldillo stew. real chiles in there, ummm. another cool, funky place. small diner, food is made caringly right there in your face. it's on yandell, a street in what we thought of as an ohio-esque light industrial style.

LEO'S: old school place on montana. last meal before hitting the airport. may i rec the excellent carnita's plate lunch special? excellent thick tortillas, expertly fried-charred meat, creamy refritos, and suprize a soothing chunky fresh guacamole. awesome.

LA NORTENA Y CAFE DELUXE: big city cool right next to the bus station? you got it. salpicon and tortilla soup were excellent on my first visit. best i've ever had. on a second visit after a border run i had a burrito deshebrado ($2-???wow). it's shredded beef, green chiles and egg inside--and that 'burrito' was a thick tortilla barely and loosely rolled once (take notes northern californiaians). also, had a smooth anjeo herradura($5--take that new yorkers!).

great pubs: you have to drink a lot of beer in the dusty windy dry spring weather out west. THE TAP, felt like i was in a time warp, groovy yet typical old downtown old man bar but loved by all. full of funny harmless locals. ACEITUNA'S BEER GARDEN on doniphan, very nice collegiate indoor/outdoor place to have your shiner bocks. my spouse recs an antique mall nearby. the pub at the TRAVELODGE HACIENDA on montana, supposed usa home of the margarita. very quirky, cool 50's style motor motel. THE DOME BAR in the old camino real hotel, beautiful, great service, nice little roof pool in the hotel too. EL KENTUCKY CLUB in juarez, supposedly the margarita was born here. they make a good one, great looking old bar. we hit the juarez easter day bullfight too, that was muy macho. the bar outside the monumental arena in the parking lot is fine, but ladies wait until you go inside the arena to use the bathroom, my wife walked in/out of the bar facilities stunned, dont ask! the arena bathrooms are fine.

sorry to have missed: CASA JURADO, THE LITTLE DINER, CHOPES, LOS BANDITOS DE CARLOS Y MICKEY'S, and all the many other hole's in the wall of which there are hundreds but we'll be back.

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