You see, the Hubs and I recently received some interesting news... we're moving to Germany! Exciting, isn't it? We are both thrilled beyond words. However, along with the excitement comes a bit of panic. I never realized how much was involved in an OCONUS move before (for my civilian pals, OCONUS means "outside of the contiguous United States").
For several weeks, I've run around like a chicken with my head cut off. The army isn't exactly forthcoming with all the information you want/need. But, I finally feel like I'm back on an even keel, and can devote some time to these guides before we are no longer members of the Fort Bliss community. Also, I've been keeping track of our overseas moving craziness, so there will eventually be a PCSing guide here too. Bonus!
Let's see... In Part 1 of this guide, we talked about the best and worst Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants, as well as the best and worst Steakhouses. I think this time we'll concentrate on BBQ and Delicatessens. What do you think?
Always keep in mind that these guides probably have an expiration date, and I can't really tell you when that will be since the Hubs and I will be moving soon. Times change, and so do restaurants. A new owner or manager can make a huge difference, both good and bad. By the time you find your way here to this guide, some of these places may have closed and newer, better places may have opened. Please forgive me for any discrepancies. And feel free to add to this guide! Contact me via email, comment below, or reach out to me on Facebook. Let's help each other.
Best and Worst Restaurants (Fort Bliss and surrounding areas), Part 2
Texas is known for its fabulous BBQ. Depending on what region you're visiting in Texas (east, central, south, or west), the flavors can vary greatly. I was very much looking forward to testing BBQ here in El Paso, and I wasn't disappointed. Here are the restaurants that make the best grades:
1. Rudy's - This makes the top of my list, because I loves it! There are two El Paso locations, and the Hubs and I stop in whenever we are close by. Since my pal Becky moved away though, we haven't eaten there (she lived close to one, so it was always convenient to pop in there). The west side location is attached to a gas station, which may seem weird, but don't let that deter you! The food is excellent. And don't forget to ask for your military discount (also a huge plus in their favor. I prefer supporting establishments which support our troops).
The online reviews praise the consistency of this joint, always a bonus in my opinion. Since there isn't "service" to speak of (you order at the counter and the food is brought to the pick up area on a tray), there are no worries about a bad waitress experience. This is great for a delicious, simple meal with your hubs and kids.
2. Chubb's BB-Q - Reasonably priced, with smashing reviews, I think this is a great place to check out! I can't comment with personal experience, sadly. The location is apparently somewhat hidden, a true "hole-in-the-wall" spot. So use your GPS if you're having difficulty finding the storefront. I'm not sure of their range, but Chubbs' also delivers! Since their only issue seems to be limited parking, delivery may be the way to go. I'm not sure if they offer a military discount, so please comment at the end of this post if you have any info on that.
|Reader submitted photo, from Tiffany|
One quick note, from an excellent reader: "Add to your blog that if Chubbs is not busy, they close early, so call ahead." Also, while the BBQ is an A+ rating, the dessert leaves something to be desired. Thank you Tiffany for the comment, update, and the photo!
3. Aloha Hawaiian BBQ - Although this isn't your typical Texas BBQ, I feel it deserves a mention here based on all the good reviews. The original location is on the East Side off of Zaragoza Road. I have yet to eat here, but it's on my El Paso bucket list! This isn't a sit-down, fancy place... more like a higher class type of quick, fast food. Good for lunch, or grabbing an easy dinner after a late day.
4. Johnny's Pit BBQ - The reviews here are few and far between, but almost all of them are positive. Carrying a whopping 90% on Urbanspoon, I figure this restaurant is worth a mention. Their most famous of dishes is the "Big Johnny", an El Paso-style brisket sandwich. They also offer delivery, a nice plus, though I'm unsure of their range. Please comment if you've eaten here, or have any additional information to offer!
5. The State Line - The Hubs and I enjoyed dinner here thanks to some wonderful friends, Pat and Jackie. I would feel bad putting this in the ho-hum category, because we had a great evening, with good service on a busy night. I feel the need to add, however, that recent online reviews have been somewhat poor. Since we went some time ago, it's possible the quality of food and service has declined. If anyone has been here recently, I'd love to hear about your experience!
|Image from Stateline website|
Now, I'd like to talk about those restaurants which have some mixed reviews, and some of which are just terrible. I apologize in advance if your favorite restaurant is on this list, but feel free to defend it in the comments section. I'm placing these here based on personal experience (of myself and others), reader comments, and online reviews.
1. Famous Dave's - Let me preface this review by saying, I know there are a lot of people who love Famous Dave's... and I don't disagree with them. The food is generally consistent, service is decent, and the atmosphere is good. The only reason I'm including them here is for one simple fact: This is a chain restaurant. And although that doesn't make the food bad, I could also eat here if I was in Virginia versus El Paso. Famous Dave's is everywhere. So I highly suggest trying some of the local flavor first, but don't forget a good standby like this.
2. Smitty's BBQ - Although the restaurant has some good reviews, a large portion are negative complaints about the food and service. An old-school atmosphere isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if the food doesn't measure up, then I'm not interested.
3. Smokey's Pit Stop - With several locations around El Paso, the reviews vary. Although the menu appears reasonably priced, it seems the food reflects that price. Many complained of dried out meats, with little flavor. I would be caution against eating here, but please let us know if you had a different experience!
After moving here from the East Coast (and with much of my family being native New Yorkers), I was extremely disappointed by the deli situation in El Paso. Of course, I knew nothing would quite measure up to the taste of home, but I expected more than there was. Luckily, after some time living here, there are a few places that may not be "just like home", but they're pretty dang good.
1. Spec's - This isn't just a deli. It's also a wine, cigar, and liquor shop. Plus meats and cheeses, oh my! With an outrageous 96 % rating on Urbanspoon, Spec's gets my vote as the best deli in El Paso.
|Image from Spec's website|
Normally I wouldn't choose a chain as my top pick (I prefer local), but the food here really outdoes them all. There are three locations in the area, two on the west side and an eastside express location. Have any of you visited the "express" Spec's? If so, let us know how it was! I've yet to visit. So, whether you're in search of a cool gift, a specialty food item, or a great sandwich (or wine! or cigars!), then this is a place for you.
1. Brown Bag Deli - located close to Main Bliss, this is a convenient lunch stop if you're living on post. And if you're not, this is still a great place to enjoy a sandwich! A traditional "hole-in-the-wall", the service, food, and portion sizes are routinely praised. Though I love Spec's, Brown Bag Deli is such a close second that they can't really be separated in my mind. I call a tie for #1 (and you thought my numbering was a typo)! Definitely a must-eat stop on your El Paso adventure.
3. Pike Street Market - Who knew there could be so many delis in El Paso with such fabulous reviews??! Pike Street Market, located in downtown El Paso, is another deli with an excellent reputation. I haven't been here personally, but the menu appears interesting and reasonably priced. The one downside I see is they are closed on weekends. So if you want lunch at this deli, make sure it's during the week or you will be disappointed.
4. Jason's Deli - A new addition to the El Paso food scene, I had to include Jason's here. Despite the fact they are a chain, and not exactly a true deli, there are several great features that I wanted to mention. #1 - who doesn't love free soft serve ice cream with every meal?! That's right, baby. Free ice cream. Fabulous when you want to eat somewhere quick with your kids. #2 - They deliver. Granted, there is a small deliver fee based on your location. But, they are also one of few places that deliver something other than pizza or Chinese. Keep in mind, though, that you must either pay with credit over the phone or have exact cash for your delivery person. They don't carry change, so don't expect any back!
With all that said, the food itself is pretty decent. It's nothing I would write home about, but it's good and filling. Jason's also offers a salad bar, which I love. And they offer good variety. If you want a sandwich and the hubs wants pasta and your kid wants salad... well, you can find it all here.
5. Kipps Cheesesteak - Though this is not a "deli" per say, I felt the need to include it here. I haven't been myself, so I can't give a personal opinion, but so many of you recommended Kipps I couldn't not include it. I'm a pretty tough critic when it comes to cheesesteak (it dang well better be traditional Philly style!), but they seem to be getting it right. Reviews are mixed, with the primary complaints being about the cheese (whiz style), and the bread (too crumbly). If you're hankering for a cheesesteak, I say try it out and pass your review on to us!
And now for the bad news....
I only have two places on my warning list, and I'm sure the first one will have many of you up in arms. I'm going to apologize in advance, ok? But read my reasons before you blast me please. Someone had to rank lower than others, and I made the tough choice. It was rough. But necessary.
1. Corner Bakery - Don't start throwing things at me!!! I know many of you love Corner Bakery. I've eaten here myself, and I enjoy it, ok? Unfortunately, I can never seem to move past the fact that it's not Panera Bread. I'm including Corner Bakery on my not-so-great list as a warning to those of you who expect it to be Panera.
Because it's not.
Sure, the two are similar. Similar food, similar style, similar service. But it's just not the same, I'm sorry. If you enter Corner Bakery with no Panera-like expectations, you will be happy. Your sandwich will be delicious, your pastry yummy. But if you start comparing.... poof! All your happiness will disappear.
For my fellow Panera friends, you've been warned.
2. Chubby's Bronx Deli - Let me just start with this... the original link I found for this deli didn't work. The link here is to their Facebook page. Why didn't the link work? Apparent non-payment. At least that is what the website announced when I tried to navigate to it. This alone doesn't bode well for Chubby's.
Once I start examining the reviews, I realize there are many complaints. Poor service, poor value, and a hit or miss on the flavor. Though they serve Boars Head meats, which generally equals quality, it appears their sandwiches don't always match the standards of their meat. I haven't been here, but there are other places I would want to try above Chubby's. If you've been, give a shout out and share your experience.
So, that concludes Part 2 of our best and worst El Paso restaurants. More posts are coming soon, the next featuring your favorite breakfast and bakeries options. If you want your opinion voiced, check me out on Facebook and send me the best you think El Paso has to offer (or the worst!).
Until then, happy eating!
Thanks for reading, everyone!