One of the greatest concentrations of good small to mid-sized restaurants in the El Paso area is along State Highway 20, better known as Doniphan Drive, from Anthony, Texas into west El Paso. I particularly like this area because it seems to be the only area of El Paso where you can find New Mexican style food (or a reasonable attempt at N.M. style).
I feel that I should mention CHOPE'S in La Mesa, NM, located about 10 miles north of Anthony, Tex-NM. Chope's is still one of my favorite restaurants in the area, although the best food I've had there has been in September right after the green chile harvest. It's worth going any time of year for the chiles rellenos.
Anthony, Texas can be reached by taking Exit 0 from I-10 just south of the Tex-NM border. SH 20 is about a mile west of I-10, and runs parallel to the Interstate. Just west of SH 20 across the railroad tracks is RED ROOSTER CAFE, 209 W. Washington. I have heard that it may be in the same league as Chope's, but I think the green enchiladas are not as good here. They have the pureed chile, while the ones at Chope's have large chunks of green chile (more northern NM style). One thing I did notice, though, is that Red Rooster has excellent salsa--I think better than Chope's. Red Rooster also serves American food, so if you like you can have standard American dishes served with some of the best chips and salsa around.
Going south from Anthony you come to Canutillo, and a few blocks east of Doniphan Dr. is the LITTLE DINER at 7209 7th St. This place has been well documented, and I like the green enchiladas better than at Red Rooster (they are made with the chile chunks). Little Diner is known for its gorditas, but I think the best dishes are tamales (especially green chile with chicken and cheese) and chiles rellenos (although the rellenos are better at Chope's).
Back on Doniphan is one of my surprise finds, FLAUTAS TEPALCA, 6994 Doniphan. These are possibly the best flautas I've ever had. I've tried the ones at Ciro's at Montana and Copia which are supposed to be the best in El Paso, and I think Flautas Tepalca has them beat by a wide margin. These are piled with ricotta cheese and chunks of avocado, float in a lake of sour cream, and if you are able to find the flautas in all of these toppings you can dip them in the liquified guacamole and salsa that come on the side. Also available are about six flavors of agua fresca. This place will make you think you're in Mexico--specifically Michoacan, which is the style of food served here.
AY CARAMBA! at 6874 Doniphan is another place that doesn't look like much from the outside, but is one of the better Mexican seafood places in the area. The fish used is tilapia, and the diabla and ranchero sauces are particularly good. I especially like the baked potato--it tastes as if it is actually baked instead of microwaved. Ay Caramba! recently opened a place at 8001 N. Mesa in El Paso where Leo's used to be, but I like the one in Canutillo better.
DOS SENORITAS, 5800 Doniphan is a new place located where Griggs Family Restaurant used to be, and uses many of the same recipes. Other Griggs family relatives started La Posta in Mesilla and El Pinto in Albuquerque, NM, and the food is similar in all three places. Dos Senoritas serves some good New Mexican style dishes not found elsewhere in El Paso, but for basics such as enchiladas and rellenos I would go to Chope's if possible.
JJ's, 5320 Doniphan is great for gorditas. Served with a thin crust, I actually like these better than at the Little Diner. I usually order an avocado filling, but several varieties are available. The "pregnant burrito" with chicken is also good, but I do not recommend anything else on the menu (but it's worth a trip for the gorditas!).
RIVIERA, 5218 Doniphan has had its ups and downs with different managers over the years. It has just undergone a large expansion with a bar added onto the back, and the food seems to have improved along with the construction. This used to be the home of the best red enchiladas in the city. They went down in quality, but now are *almost* as good as they used to be. It's also worth going on Mon. night for taco night. They are no longer 99 cents, but at $1.25 they are still a bargain, and have good quality meat as well as a nice shell that's greasy like I like it. Cole slaw on the side is very good with either tacos or enchiladas.
CAFE MAMBO, 4907 Crossroads, just south of Doniphan & Mesa is a new Cuban restaurant that just opened. Although it is small, it does not fit the "hole-in-the-wall" theme since it is quite upscale. This is one of the more expensive restaurants in El Paso, but also with pretty good quality food.
CASA JURADO WEST, 4772 Doniphan, started out as a branch of the original Casa Jurado in Kern Place near UTEP. The original CJ recently sold, so now CJ West is the only restaurant still run by the original family. I always liked the original restaurant better due to the fact that the sauces are made with an intricate blend of spices, and I think Casa Jurado almost always got it right while the West location had more of a tendency to get the ingredients slightly out of balance. Some people say that the food at the original CJ is not the same, but I have found it to be as good as in the past. Actually, *both* Casa Jurado's are among the best Mexican restaurants in El Paso, and I think you can't go wrong at either location. I especially like the enchiladas montadas with red sauce.
LA MALINCHE, 3910 Doniphan is one of several locations in El Paso, but I like this one the best. Although I consider it to be mid-level quality, a few of the items are very good such as the entomatadas (enchiladas with tomato sauce). Chiles rellenos and enchiladas suizas (with sour cream) use the same tomato sauce and are good, but I think better examples of these dishes can be found at other places. La Malinche is just down the street from the Sunland Park race track and casino if you are so inclined (on Sunland Park Drive). It's open for breakfast, and I think its main attraction is that it's cheap and service is quick.
And last on the list, just before Doniphan Drive ends, is ROSA'S CANTINA, 3454 Doniphan. I'll have to admit that I do not like the food here--it's very cheap and made with lots of lard and/or other similar ingredients (it's also pretty spicy). If you're a Marty Robbins fan you might want to stop by to check it out, and there is also a cantina (naturally).
The southern end is a little off of I-10, so if you need to find your way back you can backtrack to Sunland Park Drive, and get on the Interstate from there. Sorry for the length of the post, but Doniphan is a long street. I don't think anyone should go hungry here!