EL PASO — This year we had two separate trips to El Paso, the first one with rookie MadFriars’ contributor Mark Wilkens, so we had to get situated into the local food scene and there is no better place to start than the L&J Cafe for a proper introduction. Despite being self-titled as the home of Tex-Mex food, – that’s for the tourists. You will not find any Kraft cheese, sour cream or hard shell tacos on the premises, it’s the real thing, it’s Mexican food.
The signature dish is the Chile Verde Con Carne plate, with its famous green sauce. I went back for breakfast and got the picadillo plate – which is a Mexican version of hash, only with ground beef and molletes – a Mexican version of beans on toast with pinto beans, pico de gallos and melted cheese.
We also made a quick side trip to Las Cruces, New Mexico, about 45 miles from El Paso, and the best place to experience the full force of the green versus red chile debate. The fact that both of us are well north of the 200 pounds meant that we eat without offending anyone because we were having both. The spot to go to is Andele, which is known for its green chile enchiladas and tacos al carbon. Mark and I got the combo plates so we could make sure we tried both sauces. Also, try the Posole; red chile pork and hominy.
The ballpark food at Southwest University Park has some interesting things as well. The Dog Bowl is a huge nachos bowl but the most interesting item might be the Juarez Dog – a bacon-wrapped dog in green chile salsa – don’t worry you will not get tired of green chiles. Down the third-base line, they also have an outstanding street taco stand.
If you want something a little different than Mexican food, try one of the three Crave Kitchen and Bar locations for a breakfast with some great coffee. Everything is made from scratch and the Blueberry Pancakes with Lemon Curd were outstanding.
On my second solo trip I did hit what arguably may be the star of the El Paso dining scene, Kiki’s Restaurant and their renowned beef machaca plate with brisket, green Chile sauce and a fried egg. Food Network Star, and El Paso native, Aaron Sanchez can do a much better job than I can on describing the wonders of this dish, but any visit to El Paso is the one dish that you must have.
Finally, as a Californian living on the east coast, I’m sometimes asked where I stand on the In-N-Out vs. Five Guys debate on who has the better hamburger and it’s not even close, and In-N-Out anytime. If you live in Texas a better question is Whataburger vs. In-N-Out is still the winner, Whataburger is much closer.
Getting the Patty Melt on Texas Toast for breakfast a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit certainly puts the Texas chain in the competition, but not quite enough to push them over the line. However, I would go to Whataburger for breakfast, lunch and dinner before I would darken the doorstep of a Five Guys and waddle away happy.
We’ll see everyone back on the road in the Spring.