Category Archives: Restaurants

Lamentable El Paso Barbeque

On North Loop, we found The Ribs Smokehouse. We’ve been there before and found it to be fairly good food at attractive prices, but we apparently came at a bad time this visit.

Decent presentation. Submediocre food.
Decent presentation. Mediocre food.

The Ribs is decorated and lit like a fairly clean sports bar. Five or six TVs showing the same football game, country and western decor, and the ambiance of a pretty good working-class bar. The tables have quite nice smoked  peanuts to snack on while your food is cooked.

We visited on a Monday night and found one friendly but overworked waitress serving four groups. We ordered combo plates- pulled pork (which was our favorite from our previous visits), brisket, ribs, onion rings and a variety of sides.

The food was just plain badly made. The pulled pork was the best of the lot- juicy and flavorful, but just above room temperature. The brisket and ribs were dry, the onion rings simultaneously overdone and cold.

The mac and cheese had significantly underdone noodles (think almost crispy). The asadero cheese sauce at least was interesting but with the dish served at just north of room temperature, it was not nearly enough to save the dish.

To look on the bright side, the service was quick, the restaurant is clean, the prices are fairly good. The cornbread muffins were almost fresh. Maybe we just got there after some catastrophic failure of all of their kitchen equipment. But the cool, dry food was a real let-down.

We ate here before and enjoyed it. I can only say that if they were not training a new cook that night, they should be.

The Red Lobster: better seafood than you’ll find at the shore!

This afternoon, my wife and I were out scattering money around El Paso (otherwise known as shopping and paying bills). While we were on the East Side, between Best Buy and AT&T, we both looked at the Red Lobster and decided that it would be this month’s splurge.

We moved from New England a few years ago, and while western Texas is awesome, we do miss seafood. Red Lobster hasfish chips always been reliably decent food, so we came in for lunch.

We were seated and the manager, Hector, was covering our section. He was personable and very knowledgeable about their menu. I was particularly pleased with the excellent lighting- the restaurant was gently lit, but had excellent light on the table. With my vision, that is a rare treat.

El Paso is about twelve hours’ drive salmonfrom any shore, if you have a heavy foot and no fear of speed traps. Our expectations were modest. We were absolutely blown away.

Hector runs an excellent restaurant. Many big chains are impersonal, unhurried, unworried; here, we found the service to be swift, friendly, and very attentive.

I ordered fish and chips, a safe old standby. Andrea optimistically ordered the Atlantic salmon.

Food presentation has never been the strong suit of most restaurants, but here, it was like finals week at a good culinary academy. Foods were well plated, attractive and balanced.

I can honestly say that this was the best fish and chips I’ve had in the US. The fish was tender and moist, inside a perfect crust. I would have been impressed to have such good fish right at the shore.

Andrea, with her beansAtlantic salmon, was even better off. The salmon, with its hint of soy and lemon, was nearly perfect. Flaky, succulent, with perfect grill lines, this was a plate that would have been right at home in the best restaurants in Cape Cod or Hilton Head. The green beans were sauteed in brown butter and were good enough to match the salmon’s excellence.

We came in expecting nothing more than a decent meal, and left feeling as though we had dined royally. The East Side Red Lobster is a treat, with food and service much better than we had expected. We’ll be back!

If you want more details and pics, An also reviewed this place on her blog, Driving Reasons. If you do visit the Red Lobster, let them know that you heard about them here!


The Restaurant Supply Warehouse and you

I have a teenage son. He eats roughly his cheeseweight in peanut butter during any given week.

Last night, I bought a new super-jumbo bottle of store-brand PB. This morning, there is a scraped-clean bottle with a butterknife in it. I’m not certain that he used any bread.meats

Big-box membership stores like Costco and Sam’s are a good start, but when faced with this kind of voracious appetite, I decided to skip the middleman. I visited the Shamrock Food Service Warehouse, on Gateway Boulevard in El Paso.

Shamrock is a big, clean, well-lighted popcornstore, selling industrial quantities of food and the equipment to prepare it. Their prices ranged from pretty good to amazing, as long as you want to buy substantial quantities.

Most home cooks won’t be able to take advantage of every sale; it’d be quite a long time before I could run through fifty pounds of onions, for instance. But a five pound bucket of creamy peanut butter for seven bucks? I can deal with that!Sauces

Shamrock has three walk-in coolers- Produce, Dairy, and Meat/Cheese. I was in short sleeves, so I sort of hurried through them, but the prices kept me there, shivering. $2.50 a pound for mushrooms, in El Paso?
cleaning supplies


I even found some of my Oriental-market staples such as banh pho noodles there, for very attractive prices.

If you’re cooking for a large or hungry family, check out your local restaurant supply warehouse. If you have a large freezer, you’ll be able to take advantage of even more deals.

The best bagels I’ve had west of New York

bagelsThis morning, we stopped in to Sunrise Bagels Cafe, in Concord California.

The shop is bright and clean, with tall counters displaying quite a pleasant selection of bagels. They make a plethora of coffee as well, but today was a simple order of bagels and lox.

Lox is smoked salmon. Bagels aren’t the only place you’ll find it (I’ve had some very nice sushi rolls with lox, avocado and cream cheese) but bagels are certainly the traditional accompaniment.

Bagels, everybody knows. But if you think that supermarket bagels are the real thing, you’re missing out on a real treat.

I’ve never had a good bagel that wasn’t sold within twenty feet of the baker, and not more than a few hours out of the oven. Some foods last well, but bagels need to be fresh.  The Sunrise bagels were toothsome, gleaming and inviting in their cases.

Their sourdough bagel was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t had one before; sourdough is not common outside of the San Francisco Bay area. I wish that it were! The bagel had a firm texture, slightly drier than a typical bagel, and a delightful tang that works quite well with lox. I bought the last sourdough bagel they had left and I wish they’d had more.

If you find yourself in Concord some time, stop in and check them out. They’ll have a better selection earlier in the day. The prices are higher than the big chain stores but the quality is well worth it.

The Logan Roadhouse in Odessa, Texas

I joined two other students from my blind guy 101 class at the Logan Roadhouse. We enjoyed lunch there.

The Logan Roadhouse is one of a class of chain steakhouses. Its décor runs to domestic beer signs and cowboy accoutrements. Country music twangs soulfully in the background.

Logan’s is surprisingly good at presentation. The meals they served looked like it had been whisked off of a good commercial- fresh, crisp, plentiful and well-made. Presentation is not the lost art I had thought it was.

My steak salad was colourful and tasty, with avocado making a surprising (and pleasant) textural counterpoint to the juicy steak. The ranch dressing was cool and crisp. If they’d added some bell peppers or cucumbers for crunch it would have been perfect, but it was quite acceptable as served. The steak was a good bit more rare than I had ordered but was still quite decent.

One friend ordered a classic burger, which looked as though a master chef had been challenged to make a perfect burger. I wish I’d had a camera. I would make a poster of this and caption it THIS IS WHAT BURGERS SHOULD LOOK LIKE.

My other friend ordered a steak, and, while the steak was quite tasty, he found the weak spot of today. His steak was underdone (he had requested medium and got rare, despite the little plastic toothpick claiming MEDIUM) and they goofed his side orders. The waiter was quick and polite as he corrected the order.

All told, I’d certainly eat here again. The prices were decent, the service fast and friendly, and the food fresh and wonderfully presented.

Surprisingly Good Greek Food in El Paso

El Paso is justly famous for Mexican food. That’s no surprise, considering that it straddles the border with Ciudad Juárez.

A random (but very photogenic) salad, borrowed from Zino’s website.

I was surprised, however, to find a pretty good Greek restaurant in the center of El Paso.

We visited Zino’s with some traveling friends.

Zino’s is a small place, in a strip mall in the middle of town. The decor is classic 20th century American pizzeria. Nothing about the outside says, good food ahead.

Once inside, though, service is pleasantly quick and you can see into the clean, bright, well-equipped kitchen. We ordered a basic meal of gyros on pita bread, with fries and tzatziki.

The service was quick (the restaurant was not crowded that night). We found the portions to be generous, the food fresh and savory, the fries surprisingly delicious with their garlic and Parmesan and their tangy dipping sauce.

Most restaurants will have us a ‘star’ food, such as a steak, surrounded by a supporting cast of indifferent quality. Zino’s food had the star, the gyro, the pita, vegetables, fries and tzatziki were all equally attractive and tasty. The spiced beef and lamb were a treat that I hadn’t had in years, since I enjoyed street food in Amsterdam — Shawarma.

We finished the meal with baklava. Zino’s has three varieties of baklava: chocolate baklava, pistachio baklava, and classic honey and walnut baklava.

I like to be adventurous with food, but the idea of chocolate and baklava meeting filled me with dread. Two great things that should never, ever exist together. I didn’t have the courage to try it. I guess that I’m more of a traditionalist than I’d thought.

Pistachio baklava, on the other hand, sounded like an improvement on the traditional. Unfortunately, other people who thought this already, and bought Zino’s out of their day stock. Lo, I was bummed.

So we tried the traditional baklava. It was flaky, sweet, and dense, just the way baklava should be. I will certainly be back some time to try the pistachio baklava, but I was not disappointed in the traditional baklava that we bought.

We’ve been back to Zino’s a few times now. I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for Mediterranean food in the El Paso area. The portions are generous, the prices are good, and the food is well worth a visit!

February 20th update We went back and tried the pistachio baklava. It is interestingly spiced, with more than a hint of pumpkin pie spice. Marvelous texture, though I do prefer the fillo be layered more (this was more sandwich than lasagne- dough, filling, dough; I prefer many layers of dough with a bit

pistachio baklava

of filling between each) but it was certainly enjoyable and we’ll be back for more in the future.

My lovely wife photographed the food for me. If you enjoy her work, check out her travel blog.