Tabla describes itself as a downtown tapas bar. Richard is a guy who likes little tastes of many different flavors, so a tapas bar was right up his alley. As for me, well, I typically go more for a whole lot of just a couple things that I really like and I’ll admit…..I don’t like to share! So I’d been putting off the tapas bar concept for quite a while. But I’m glad I finally made the plunge and checked out Tapas for myself. I was really missing out!

Richard had already been to Tapas for lunch and had given his seal of approval. He said that they had quite a lunch crowd when he went, during the work week. We checked it out together on a Saturday at 4pm, right when they opened. It’s a great downtown space that is inviting and comfortable and as you can walk in you can view the tapas being made right there. The space has an excellent vibe.

We were greeted right away by the hostess and were able to select a nicely lit table in the back of the restaurant. Even though it was an odd hour, there were soon several other guests who arrived and occupied tables. Our server Alba came immediately to take our beverage order, and we ordered up a nice cab. She also took time to explain to me (the tapas newbie) what tapas are and provided some ordering recommendations. We spent a little time perusing the menu, and we were struck by the interesting variety of flavors that awaited us. It was hard to decide, but in the end we three tapas for the two of us to share: (a) smoked baby backs with apricot bbq sauce, chopped almonds, and greens, (b) pinchos (grilled pork skewer with piquillo pepper aioli) and (c) papas bravas (crispy potatoes with herbs and aiolis for dipping). Also on the menu were many other tapas as well as some salads and cold plates, but those will have to wait for another time!

Not long after ordering, our first tapa arrived: the papas bravas. Oh my, these were addicting! They were piping hot and perfectly seasoned, and that accompanying sauce was to die for. This dish was available in a small and larger tapas portion, and we had gone with the larger size (thank goodness). As we were continuing to enjoy the papas bravas, the baby backs arrived. These were beautifully arranged and were as great to eat as they were to look at. The ribs were super-tender and super-flavorful. All that we had left were bare bones! Then the pinchos arrived, and this was tasty as well. I had a little bit of each of the meat tapas but let Richard go to town on those while I finished up those crazy-good potatoes….so good!

Of course, dessert was in order. Richard loves churros, so he had to go with the churros that came with apples, sweet pecan syrup, and honey crema. I obviously love potatoes, and I continued my high-carb theme for this meal by ordering the sweet potato doughnut holes with canela and maple syrup. These desserts were fantastic! I gotta admit….I did no sharing with this dessert (even if it was in a tapas restaurant)! The doughnut holes were to die for. Richard said that the churros also were excellent.

Our whole experience at Tapas was top-notch. We loved the atmosphere, our server Alba did a wonderful job throughout the meal, and we really enjoyed every single item that we ordered.

Tabla is located downtown at 115 S Durango Street Suite D El Paso, TX 79901

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Richard and I have been to Italians on many occasions, and each time it’s been great. We had previously posted a review of Italians on Urbanspoon, but that was what seems like eons ago. It seemed like time for an update, and a recent Saturday night provided the perfect time for that. Italians often features specials, and one of Chef Keeley Cheshire’s steak specials certainly caught his eye. Chef was featuring a 12 ounce Akaushi New York Strip and when he saw that posted on Facebook, he was in! We made our reservation, both for dinner and specifically for that steak.

We got there a little early for our 7pm reservation, and our table was ready and waiting for us. Restaurant manager Andrew Milliorn was greeting and seating guests, and he showed us right away to our table. Andrew was on the ball the entire time we were there, as this was one hoppin’ place. It was entirely filled with couples, families, and groups of people celebrating who knows what, but even with the crowd the atmosphere still felt nice and intimate and you could still easily converse. This place had quite a buzz to it…..Richard said that it seemed like a busy neighborhood New York restaurant with all the activity and popularity.

We went with an Argentinian cabernet and made our menu choices. We skipped appetizers and headed straight for the main course. Richard already knew his….steak! I am a glutton for the house-made Italians gnocchi, so even though I considered a few other pastas I had to go with this one. The gnocchi can be served with several types of sauces, but I chose the meat sauce.

As we waited for our entrees, we gobbled up the rolls that arrived. These were really yummy…..nice and soft inside but a bit crusty on the outside. They were delicious. As we looked around, we saw that one entire table of four had ordered up the steak special and sure seemed to be enjoying them. But other tables had ordered a variety of dishes. It all looked good!

Before long, Richard’s salad arrived. His steak dinner was served with a fresh kale salad tossed in tomato basil vinaigrette. It looked just fantastic and was topped with fresh shaved Parmesan cheese. He said that it was quite excellent.

Once our entrees arrived, we dug in. Richard’s steak came with roasted tomatoes and asparagus as well as stuffed potatoes. He was in heaven! He said that the steak was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Amazingly, he went on and on about all the vegetables (and this from a man who usually ignores any “plant matter” on his plate). As for my gnocchi…..oh my! They were wonderful, and the meat sauce was a perfect accompaniment for the pasta. We ate up every bite!

Dessert time came along, and you know I wasn’t about to ignore that. I went with the tiramisu. Richard was going to go with gelato, but Chef Keeley suggested he try her homemade cannoli. She certainly did not steer him wrong. Once they arrived, Richard could not believe how good they were. He’s from New York City (Brooklyn….yo!), and he said that these were the best cannolis he has ever had. He said that they were good and crispy on the outside, and the orange-flavored filling and chocolate along with it were delicious. He usually leaves a few bites of whatever dessert he gets (which I personally cannot understand), but he ate up every bit of those cannolis. As for the tiramisu, it was also just wonderful.

We have really enjoyed all our meals at Italians, and this night was no exception. It was fantastic to see how busy the restaurant was, but how well the staff kept things handled and under control. They were even handling take-out business while managing a completely filled restaurant. These folks really hustle and get it done! And the food is just top notch. We think it is one of the very best dining experiences to be had in El Paso.

Italians is located on the Westside at 5380 N Mesa St El Paso, TX 79912

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Those of you who know me understand that it takes a lot to get me to go anywhere east of The Franklins. You also know that I grew up in NYC and so am extremely picky when it comes to certain food groups. The fact that I ventured over to Cicala’s should give you a clue about the quality of their food.

On the evening of 09-Feb, a bunch of the biggest and best foodies in El Paso and I staged a Foodie Takeover at Cicala’s. It was a Sunday night so there was plenty of parking available at the small strip mall that houses Cicala’s. The neon Open sign in the window immediately got us salivating.

One of the best things about living in Brooklyn was the presence of a Pizza shop on almost every corner. My favorite to-go items back then were meatball heroes and sausage heroes (easier to carry home than a pizza), so I was torn between which of those 2 items I should try at Cicala’s. I asked the very friendly and enthusiastic owner, Michael Cicala, which he would recommend. I warned him that I was from Brooklyn and, if I were to be disappointed, he’d soon be visiting a hole in the desert. Michael didn’t hesitate a moment and told me to go for the hot sausage. I figured either he had brass ones or his food was gonna be good. Lucky for him, it was damn good.

The Hot Sausage Hero came on real (read New York Style) bread (toasted just right) and the sausage was buried under sauce, and melted cheese. The crust was nice and crispy, but not so crispy that biting through would force the contents out. That’s just how it was done in Brooklyn which means it is just how it should be done everywhere. Youse got a problem with that, or what? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

The sauce was excellent and the sausage a really good taste. I wouldn’t call it exactly hot, rather I’d call it extra-flavorful. I’ve always found mild Italian sausage to be too bland for my taste. Cicala’s hot Italian sausage did not disappoint.

The other folks in our group had pizzas, salads, meatball heroes and, of course, cannolis. Nobody was disappointed, and that says a lot because we had a couple of chefs and a restaurant manager with us. Every one of us loved our food and highly recommend Cicala’s. Trust me, if we didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be posting this!

My only beef with the owner, Michael Cicala, is that he calls his Heroes “Hoagies”. Ah, what the hell does he know, he’s from Pittsburgh. Despite that, his food would be loved just as much in Brooklyn. I can think of no higher compliment than that.

Youse guys need to go to Cicala’s. Tell him I sent you and he better treat you right or I’m gonna come visit his kneecaps.

Cicala’s is located in the Northeast at 3329 Fort Blvd El Paso, TX 79930

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Richard and I had driven by the Westside Pelican’s Steaks and Seafood so many times, but we only recently got a chance to check it out for ourselves. We made a reservation for 7pm on a Friday night and arrived there a bit early to find quite a crowd. In fact, the entire time we were there it was super-busy both in the bar and the restaurant. The place had a nice, old-school steak’n seafood house feel to it as well as a good, relaxing vibe. With such a crowd, I was doubtful we’d get seated on time but right at 7pm we were shown to our table. We had a great booth in the back and were immediately provided menus with the usual offerings as well as some seafood specials.

This is a dark restaurant, which I actually really love but it makes photography difficult. Richard took what photos he could and we’ve provided them here but please understand… were a challenge!

Our on-top-of-it server came right away to get our drink order, and we of course had to get some cab to start things off. She soon came back for our food order. While Pelican’s does have a lot of fish and seafood items, we both went with steak. The steak dinners come with soup or salad as well one of several side items offered. Richard was tempted by the prime rib, but in the end he went with the charred rib eye (which, according to the menu, is “rubbed with a sweet/spicy secreet recipe & grilled to perfection). He chose the rice pilaf as his side. I was considering the teriyaki beef kabob, but finally decided to order the choice center-cut top sirloin topped with caramelized onions (those onions did it for me!). For my side, I went with the mashed potatoes. Other side dishes are available, some for an extra fee including asparagus sauteed in white wine sauce as well as mac and three-cheese casserole. Richard and I both asked for the house salad with vinaigrette.

Soon after placing our food order, our server arrived with a loaf of bread and the a big ol’ bowl of salad for us to share. I didn’t try the bread (bread-monster Richard ate the whole thing by himself), but Richard said that it was fine. The salad was a big mix of lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli as well as green onions. It wasn’t fancy but it was good and fresh and, with the nice vinaigrette, it was quite tasty.

As we waited for our entrees, we looked around and saw a very hopping place filled with people of all ages. Some appeared to have come just from work for a drink and some dinner, others appeared to be celebrating a special event, and some seemed to be there with kids for a Friday night family meal. Even though the place was completely filled and the restaurant staff was bustling, it also seemed to be all under control and moving like a well-oiled machine. The level of service was quite impressive, given the crowd!

Before long, it was steak time! Richard was pleased to see some additional green onions sitting atop his steak, and he said that the rice pilaf was very good and flavorful. He and I both thought that the steaks were good though not the highest-quality that we’ve had…..but we also were not paying what we’ve paid in the past for those higher-quality steaks. I enjoyed the onions on top of my steak, and the mashed potatoes were excellent (including the lumps….no instant taters here!).

Richard was too full for dessert, but since I’m never that way I chose to peruse the dessert menu. I gotta admit….I could have gone for quite a few of the dessert choices. I saw a mud pie go by that looked oh-so-good, and the pecan pie was also calling my name. But in the end, I went with the turtle cheesecake. And I was pleased with my choice. I don’t think it was homemade, but it was quite excellent….creamy, rich, and delicious and of course I ate every bite.

Pelican’s was a great place to go for an old-school feel and experience. It’s certainly not trendy in decor or menu offerings, but sometimes you want something good, familiar, and comfortable and Pelican’s provides that. Obviously, other people must feel the same way because this place does quite the business (at least on the night we were there). Our server was really good and on top of things the entire meal…..sorry that we didn’t get her name. This wasn’t a gourmet experience but it was a good meal and good service in a comfortable setting.

Pelican’s is located on the westside at 130 Shadow Mountain Dr El Paso, TX 79912

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Block Table & Tap had been on our radar for quite a while, and we were finally able to stop by for a Saturday lunch. On its Facebook page, the establishment bills itself as a pub, wine bar, and gastropub. There was quite a nice bar menu as well as some creative brunch and lunch items on the day we were there. We arrived at 11am, and there were already people sitting inside with a steady stream arriving throughout our meal. The atmosphere was great; we enjoyed the cool vibe and the great light fixtures and chandeliers adorning the place. There’s a neat feel to the inside space, and there’s spacious patio seating as well.

We were greeted and provided with menus right away. Our friendly server, Felipe, took our order for a glass each of cab, and then we settled in on the menu. There were some really great-sounding items on both the brunch and lunch menus but we were there for lunch, and we honed in on the sandwich offerings. I opted for the Block Burger, which is angus beef on a brioche bun with lettuce and roasted tomato. Richard was debating between the Moroccan Lamb Burger and the Reuben. Since he’s a native New Yorker who has a soft spot for the Reuben, he couldn’t resist (but that means a return trip for the Moroccan Lamb Burger!). Sandwiches come with soup, salad, or fries and of course we had to go for the fries.

Before too long, lunch was served. Richard enjoyed his Reuben, stating that it was a unique take on the Reuben sandwich and was served on great-looking marble rye. He particularly enjoyed the sauerkraut and said that the sandwich was made with very high-quality ingredients. My burger was quite tasty. I loved the brioche bun, and the roasted tomato was a nice touch. I really liked the fries and thought they were nicely seasoned and obviously homemade. Richard is more of a fry connoisseur than I am, and he enjoyed them but said that he’s had some better fries in EP. We were both very pleased overall with our meals – very high-quality ingredients, quite tasty, and served up nice and hot.

Among the dessert offerings was a Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake with Fresh Berries and of course that got my interest. It was very refreshing and delicious, and I enjoyed every last bite of it.

We had an excellent lunch at Block Table and Tap, from start to finish. We loved the vibe, the service from Felipe was excellent throughout, and the food was very good. It’s definitely a place we’ll frequent again!

Block Table and Tap is located on the Westside at 4172 North Mesa Street El Paso, TX 79902

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Blake’s Lotaburger has been a part of New Mexico’s fast food scene for the past 60 years, and we’ve now got a Lotburger here in EP on the Westside. Located on a street right off of Mesa, Blake’s seems to have attracted quite a few customers in the short time it’s been open so far. Each time we’ve been there, it’s been very busy.

We’d been to Blake’s Lotaburgers in New Mexico twice before the EP location opened – once outside of in Albuquerque and once while in Taos. Some of the Lotaburger locations are bigger than others, and the one here in EP is one of the smaller ones. We waited a few weeks after the El Paso location had opened so that they could work out any opening kinks. We’ve now been to the EP Lotaburger a couple of times and have learned that tables go quickly – we had to arrive pretty early to snatch one at lunchtime on Saturday.

This is an order-at the-counter kinda place, and the menu isn’t large but covers that basics. Burgers rule here, though the menu also includes hot dogs, chili, chicken and pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, fries, onion rings, brownies, and shakes. There’s also a kid’s menu. At Lotaburger, the food is made to order so each customer is given a number and the food is delivered when ready. For us, wait times have never been too long. We have heard of complaints from some customers regarding “long” wait times for orders to process, but to us the wait is worth it. Blake’s doesn’t pre-make the food and store it under heat lamps as many fast food chains do. The use of heat lamps in other chains definitely does speed up the process, but at the cost of lowered quality. We feel that made-to-order food is well worth any additional wait time.

Richard and I have both tried ITSA Burger (the smaller version of a Blake’s burger. For the larger burger, go for the namesake LOTA Burger), and Richard has also had the Jumbo Nathan’s Hot Dog. As for the ITSA Burger – it’s a good burger. It’s not gourmet by any means, but the bun is fine and the burger satisfies. In particular, the green chile cheeseburger is worth a try. Blake’s Lotaburger is known for this particular burger, and they get their green chiles from Hatch. While a lot of green chile cheeseburgers we’ve tried have been relatively mild, this one packs a punch. Richard tried it and it looked really good. According to Richard, it sure was mighty good but it also definitely cleared his sinuses! As for the hot dog, Richard said that it was definitely not a true Nathan’s hot dog (as in what you can get at Coney Island in his beloved New York City birthplace)….but its’ a dang tasty dog. While New Yorkers may be initially disappointed that, although touted as being made by Nathan’s, the hot dog is nothing whatsoever like the dogs that Nathan’s serves. However, this New Yorker was very pleasantly surprised to discover that Blake’s hot dogs are most similar to what Howard Johnson served (“Frankforts”) way back in the day. We haven’t tried any of the other items enough to comment on them, but plenty of people seemed to be ordering up the onion rings.

While Blake’s doesn’t really chart any new territory in the fast food scene, it’s a nice New Mexico-grown addition to what’s available here in El Paso.

Blake’s Lotaburger is located on the Westside at 7105 N Mesa St El Paso, TX 79912

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Richard and I just recently moved into a new house on the Westside, and we decided to celebrate with a homemade Italian-American meal at home. Richard grew up in New York City surrounded by Italian neighborhoods (and thus excellent pots of meatballs and spaghetti sauce simmering all day on the stove). He’s often talked about how good those meatballs were. So for this dinner, I wanted to create something that reminded him of those flavorful meals from his past.

After searching the internet, I came up with three different recipes that we served along with a simple salad and (of course!) vino. For the meatballs, I wanted something with a lot of flavor and a relatively thick sauce. I’ve had too many bland meatballs in a skimpy, thin sauce and that ain’t my style. Based on my preferences along with what Richard described as the meatballs of his youth, I settled on the following recipe from Smitten Kitchen:

The only major change I made to the recipe was to add about 1/2 cup of chopped onion to the meatball ingredients, but of course this could be omitted. We also used a mix of ground beef and hot Italian sausage (1 lb of hot Italian sausage and 1/2 lb of ground beef). I must say – these were some of the best meatballs I’ve ever had and they definitely were the best that I have ever made. Richard said that they tasted just like what he ate in Italian-American homes back in The City.

For the breadsticks, I went with the old reliable source of Betty Crocker: I don’t believe that every recipe has to be complicated or have 10 million steps to taste good, and this was a nice, simple recipe that was darn delicious in the end. I didn’t end up with nearly as many breadsticks as the recipe indicated because I like my breadsticks to be more “short and squat” as opposed to pencil-thin. This breadstick dough was easy to put together and took relatively little time from start to finish.

Richard and I rarely agree on dessert. I like heavy, rich ones while he is more into light and airy ones. He considers fruit to be a dessert, while I consider fruit to be a food group that I usually leave by the wayside. So coming up with a dessert we’d both like was a challenge. I finally chose this Citrus Olive Oil Cake from Rachel Ray:

I had never tried an olive oil cake or a Rachel Ray recipe, so I was a bit unsure of this one. But I must say – it did not disappoint! Even with cake, Richard and I tend to have different preferences. He ends to go for cake mix cakes (I don’t understand!), while I much prefer homemade versions. This cake actually satisfied tastebuds for both of us. I followed the recipe as written, and it had a very nice texture and a wonderful citrus flavor due to the lemon and citrus juices and zest. I served this cake with mountains of sweetened whipped cream (along with some sliced strawberries for Richard). This was actually a quite simple but lovely cake that I know I will make again.

Richard and I both loved the meal. Richard said that these were the best meatballs he’s had outside of Brooklyn, and they were by far the best I have ever made. It was a fantastic meal overall, and we were smiling big-time as we rolled and waddled away from the table. What a great celebratory meal to start off our culinary adventures in our new house!

Richard got the word (on the radio!) that he needed to try out Kipps Cheesesteak in downtown EP. So as soon the opportunity arose, we headed to Kipps. And we were so glad that we did. What a place!

We arrived at Kipps for an early lunch on a Saturday morning, and we were greeted right away by the very friendly Loretta at the counter. Turns out she’s from Kentucky, and since my family has Kentucky roots it was fun to talk with her about things back in ol’ Kentucky. She was quite a lady, with a great wit and a great attitude behind the counter.

Kipps focuses on, no surprise here, cheesesteak sandwiches although some other items (e.g., burgers, wings, sloppy joes, salads, and fries) are offered up as well. We went with the Original and the Green Chile Philly, an order o’ fries, and sodas. At Loretta’s suggestion, we got our cheesesteaks with provolone along with a side of Cheese Wiz so that we could try them both and see what we liked. Loretta gave us our self-serve drink cups, informed us that refills were free, and told us that she’d let us know once our cheesesteaks were ready.

While sipping our sodas, we looked around and had some fun conversation with the restaurant staff. The restaurant is casual but filled with items like old lunchboxes, and Loretta told us that it gets super-crowded at lunchtime during the week. She and Aaron started cooking up our sandwiches and fries while also keeping up banter with us about a vast array of topics (including Loretta’s “old man” who brought her here to El Paso 30 years ago, and with whom she’s still in love!). While they were doing that, two regulars (who also happened to be interesting “characters”) walked in, and Loretta and Aaron struck up conversations with them as well. One guy in particular was a walking encyclopedia of jokes and took great delight in telling us “the latest” in his collection.

With all this “atmosphere” going on around us, it seemed like no time before our sandwiches were done. And oh man, were these some good sandwiches! Richard’s Original consisted of a 1/4 pound of ribeye with onions as well as provolone and that side of Cheese Wiz. He loved it and said that the bread was just right, the meat was high quality, the onions were good and tasty, and that Cheese Wiz added just the right flavor to bring it all together. He also loved the fries – these were crinkle cut fries (which he loves), and he said that they were fried just right. I’d gone with the Green Chile Philly (1/4 pound of ribeye with green chile, bell pepper, onion, along with Provolone and that side of Cheese Wiz). Mmmmmmm! This was one tasty sammich! I hadn’t had Cheese Wiz in decades but I’m so glad that I tried Loretta’s advice and tried it along with the Provolone. The Provolone added that good soft and melt-y quality, and the Cheese Wiz added that good, sharper, salty edge that made it just right. There were very generous-sized sandwiches, and Richard and I both ate up every bite. The cheesesteaks can all be made with chicken reather than ribeye, and there’s also a 1/2 pound ribeye or chicken version of the Original called the Comet (that would be one hefty sandwich!). While we were eating, Loretta and Aaron were busy with food prep but made sure to ask us how things were and kept up some lively conversation.

As we were finishing up, a group of several guys came in and Loretta was right there waiting on them the second they walked in the door. By the time we left, they were getting seated and seemed in a great mood…and how could you not be, in a fun place like this? You really can’t beat Kipps for the whole experience – a great little spot downtown, with delicious cheesesteaks and a fun and lively crew and clientele. Big Kudos to Loretta and Aaron for a fun, tasty, and memorable lunch!

Kipps Cheesesteak is located downtown at 203 E Mills Ave, El Paso, TX 79901

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Richard and I don’t get out much to the Eastside. But a recent weekend trip to Carlsbad Caverns meant that we’d be coming that way, so we checked out eating opportunities along the way. We were heading through for a late lunch, and a burger sure sounded good. So….Toro Burger Bar it was!

Toro Burger Bar has been around longer than some of the other burger restaurants in El Paso, so we were interested to see what it had to offer. It’s located in a strip mall with pleny of parking, and on this particular Saturday afternoon it had a steady stream of customers. We were greeted right away when we went in and were given our option of available tables. The atmosphere was more of a bar than we usually go for, but we really liked the music playing as well as the food and bev options.

There were quite a few beers available, but we both wanted some wine on this particular afternoon. Our original option (the house cabernet) wasn’t available, but we were offered the house merlot and that was just fine. Our server Elvia quickly brought our wine and then returned to take our lunch order.

Richard went for the S.O.B burger (with Angus beef, Swiss cheese, onion, bacon, and BBQ sauce), along with a side of traditional fries. I ordered the green chile burger (with Angus beef, green chile, American cheese, and grilled onion).

When our meals arrived, Richard immediately checked out the fries and said that they were quite good: crisp though not quite as crisp as he would like and well seasoned though not quite up to his fave EP fries (which come from Independent Burger). He also quite liked his burger and thought that it was well seasoned and cooked just as requested, though he didn’t think it was quite as good as his fave burger in town (which also comes from Independent Burger). As for me, I was quite pleased with my burger and thought it was right up there with any good green chile cheeseburger I’ve had anywhere. It was cooked just as I’d ordered, and I loved that the onions and chiles were thinly sliced and well cooked. While I thought the bun was quite good, it didn’t seem to be toasted (as the menu indicated it would be) or to include sesame seeds (as the menu had suggested).

Dessert options were limited to shakes and floats. The raspberry float that Richard wanted was not available, so he went instead with the root beer float. At our server Elvia’s recommendation, I got the dulce de leche shake (great recommendation!). Both arrived fairly quickly, and both were very good. Richard said that his was very tasty, and he finished it up pretty darn quick! This was my first dulce de leche shake ever, and I must say that I was very pleased. It was topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry and was quite luscious and tasty. I tend to like my shakes a little more thick than this was served, but that’s a personal preference.

Overall, we enjoyed our lunch at the Toro Burger Bar. Parking was easy, our food was tasty, and we thought that it was a good value overall for the food and service we received. It’s not a place we would likely go for a quiet, romantic evening out, but the atmosphere was fine for a casual and tasty Saturday burger ‘n shake lunch after a day of exploring Carlsbad Caverns!

Toro Burger Bar is located on the Eastside at 6590 Montana El Paso, TX 79925

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After having had an excellent meal a few weeks ago at another Middle Eastern restaurant in town, Richard and I were craving some similar taste sensations. We opted this time for Jerusalem International Food and Grill on Mesa Street on the Westside. Given that this was the Saturday before Christmas, this was a good choice – away from all the mall and Walmart shopping mess!

Jerusalem International Food and Grill is right beside a market owned apparently by the same folks who run the restaurant, though the market and restaurant have separate doors. We entered the restaurant and saw a simple but comfortable setting. We were immediately greeted by our server and informed that we could sit where we liked. We chose a table with some light (for photo-taking purposes), and our server right away brought menus and took our drink order.
Welcome to Jerusalem Market & Grill
There were plenty of appetizers, soups, and sandwiches as well as a number of vegetarian options. There were some great-sounding options and it was hard to choose! But we each went with one of the meat platters. Omnivore Richard went for the Meat Combo, which came with a choice of three meat selections served with hummus, salad, rice, and pita. For his meat selections, he got the chicken kebab, gyro meat (with beef and lamb) as well as the lamb shawerma. I ordered the chicken shawerma (served with rice, hummus, salad, and pita).

After placing our order, a man who seemed to be the owner came by, thanked us for coming, and shook our hands. He made us feel genuinely welcome, and he also checked in on us at the end of our meal to find out how we liked our food. Our server also was quite personable and friendly, and she provided helpful information and recommendations throughout our meal.

Once our food arrived, we were very happy peeps! Our food was very attractively arranged, and it was served hot and in generous portions. Everything was very tasty (down to the rice and salad). We both loved how the meats and chicken were tender yet crispy, both at the same time. The spice combination on both platters were so yummy! I in particular loved the hummus – just excellent!

Mine was so good that I cleaned my plate (Richard was a “lightweight” and actually politely left a forkful or two). But I’m never too full for dessert, and today was no exception! There were several Middle Eastern pastries to choose from, and at our server’s recommendation I went with a walnut baklava. It was just as baklava should be – crispy, sweet, and syrupy all at the same time. Oh so good!

During our entire meal, people kept entering the market next door and I’m looking forward to checking that out too in the near future. We are fortunate here in El Paso to have restaurant options like Jerusalem International Food and Grill. It was great to try some very delicious food that to us was somewhat exotic, along with excellent service and a welcome and good-bye from an owner who clearly cares about his customers.

The Jerusalem Market & Grill is located on the Westside at 5360 N Mesa St El Paso, TX 79912

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