I went to El Paso for two weeks for work this past September. I welcomed the opportunity because of its proximity to my lovely, New Mexico. I must say, I really enjoyed being in this historic town, and found the people refreshingly friendly.
If you love authentic Mexican food, this is your place. The food is so very different from New Mexican, and light years away from Tex Mex. There are so many great, inexpensive restaurants, just do an online search. The three that stand out for me were: Moe's, very simple and unpretentious. Food comes alive on your palate. Closes early because it is in an desolate industrial area. Cuauhtemoc Cafe on Montana. Spanish is spoken first, good hearty portions for little money. I felt the healthiest eating here. Andale. I am forced to believe flashy, chain-appearing restaurant is authentic because nearly everyone there was of Mexican, Hispanic descent. The first time I ate there, the shrimp enchiladas were amazing. The margaritas, to die for. My second trip, not so much. Like my beloved Tex Mex resto, Border Cafe, it has its off-days. This is what I'm told about Andale. Hit or miss. Vegetarians be aware, (I learned the hard way) that most of the authentic restos use lard to fry their tortillas. I did not know it until my next to the last day there. It all caught up with me right before my flight. I also ate at a lovely Tapas restaurant, La Tabla. It is downtown in the gentrified district of Union Plaza. Very cool place where Oscar took amazing care of me. Tender succulent octopus, great salad. Cool, funky atmosphere, and I was there on a Tuesday! My other fave is Crave Kitchen. Wow--amazing pancakes and coffee. Mmm, Mmm, good.
Okay, the people. Met lots of transplants, but all very cool and interesting. Okay, if I had to judge a people by their driving, I'd say run. Driving on I-10 is a speedy, tailgatey, not letting you over--over my dead body experience. Other than that, these Texans were lovely. And, I say this coming from Boston. Everyone had a smile and warm hello, where ever I went.
I stayed on the East Side, which to some is not the place to be, but I liked it. I was right next to I-10, the airport, and work. Lots of restaurants, of the chain variety, and lots of strip malls. The West Side is where most of my colleagues live, and it's nice. Some of the Kern Place and Stanton photos represent the architecture and nice, bucolic neighborhoods. But, that's all I saw. While the East Side is a little grittier, I didn't see a lot of run down areas, but it's hard to venture out every night after work.
I didn't do the Trans Mountain highway because of lack of time; I couldn't do the aerial tramway because it didn't open until noon on Saturday, and my flight was at two, but I did see Rim Road, and got a great look at the Franklin Mountains from New Mexico and the Texas side when I went to the State Line. Does anyone know who wrote on these mountains? What it says/means? And, who put up the star and the cross? No one I talked to seemed to know.
Okay, I saved the best for last. Juarez. Well, I was told don't go there. If I found myself on the road to Juarez, turn around, block traffic, do anything but cross the border. I took heed. I drove the border highway, but that's it. Bleak, bland, brown fence that apparently is easily scaled with a rope ladder, and dozens of Border Patrol agents keeping watch. I do love the Border Patrol, but thought the fence, a bridge too far. Oh, I almost forgot, I went to the Border Patrol Museum. Very cool place. No matter where you fall on the immigration issue, those agents risk their lives on a daily basis, and deserve a bit of gratitude from all of us.
One complaint that I'm sure most will agree. How is it, being in the cradle of the Southwest, home to the cowboy, that most of the "authentic" and famous boot lines are all made in China or India? I'm talking about Justin Boots, Tony Lama, etc. I refuse to buy western gear that was made in China. I went to the Saddle Blanket to pick up some trinkets, but most were made in India and China. I bought my cowboy hat from Cowtown, and it was made in the US, but wow, how did we get here? Unbelievable. I didn't go into Rocket Buster Boots, but they appear to be authentic, handmade right here in the good old US of A. Quite pricey, though.
Well, I have another post on some history of El Paso in the Mission Trail blog.