So this one is very long overdue! Seriously, I’ve already come home and gone back on the road since going to El Paso, but I wanted to make it my first entry because of just how much it won me over.
Where to even begin…
How about the fact that El Paso is friggin’ beautiful. We caught it during the end of summer, so the sun hits it just right and the whole valley turns an amazing golden amber. Tucson, eat your heart out.
There’s also the fact that the city is literally on the other side of the Mexican border. It’s pretty crazy. The border is, like, right there. Six blocks from our hotel, in fact.
Also surprising is how clean and safe the city actually is. Even though Juarez is right on the other side of the Rio Grande, and that city is still sketchy as hell, El Paso has cleaned up very nicely.
I didn’t see hardly any homeless people, and I didn’t see much in the way of trash or graffiti. I even saw a sign promoting two-bedroom apartments in a decent neighborhood, going for $600-700 a month.
There were music festivals, museums, and even a zoo, and despite the fact that we didn’t have time to go see any of those things, there is one thing we made time for: food.
As might be expected, Texas is like a carnivore’s paradise. I don’t think I saw a single bird food place (that’s what I call places like Panera Bread, by the way!). And the types of meat-centered food options have been pretty diverse all across Texas, actually.
There were at least ten different burger joints in El Paso alone (Mooya’s being by far the best!), and they were all on par with places like In and Out and Five Guys.
And boy did I get a bit of an education about Mexican food, though.
You learn things in places like this that white boys like me just never knew growing up. Like, if you are going to a real Mexican food place, do NOT order just a taco, because they will give you a tortilla shell with meat on it and nothing else. That’s not how it works down there. You gotta be specific!
Also, most interestingly, I learned the origin of barbecue. It’s interesting because, frankly, I’m kind of ashamed I did not already know this. I got my lesson when I ordered “lamb barbacoa.” And wow, was it yummy. It was lamb, slow-cooked overnight, served (in my case) in a burrito. The texture is like pulled pork, but the flavor is like God’s angels singing to you inside your mouth.
The history, for those that also procrastinated on this (like me!), involves an actual island in the Carribean called — wait for it — Barbacoa, where they cook the animals overnight in a covered fire-pit made in the dirt.
The South is also big on buffets, as it turns out, and I could do a whole entry on just those. Because good God in heaven, do the people down here love to eat!
And then there’s steak.
Because I was working and traveling with a Southerner that happened to be nothing short of a giant in stature and appetite, we checked out a number of these spots. He schooled me on the art of the steak.
The first was a rib spot called Rib Hut. We waited for forty-five minutes to sit down because the restaurant was no bigger than a small convenience store, and it was pretty hopping.
It was also the sort of place that was so tight that you don’t even get your own table. Eating there feels like eating at a picnic, actually. Not the sort of place if you want a private meal! In any case, I got the sampler, and the baby back ribs were by far the best.
That place was just the appetizer, though.
The real home run was a spot called Cattleman’s Ranch. We had to drive almost an hour away, out in the middle of nowhere. Because yes, it’s on an actual ranch.
It was voted number one best steakhouse by Men’s Health, which is how my well-fed co-conspirator learned of this place.
Later, when I was talking to a lady on the plane about how much good food we had in El Paso, she immediately asked if we’d been to Cattleman’s. It’s got quite a reputation, apparently.
It’s not hard to see why.
First of all, it doesn’t open until 5pm. In the world of 5-star steakhouses, I’m told that the best steaks are never served at restaurants that open before 5pm.
Cattleman’s is an experience, though. There is a museum and other memorabilia throughout the restaurant, including a hallway dedicated to movie history.
There is not one, but several souvenir shops, just in case the food does not take all of your money.
There were so many lovely moments during my stay in El Paso, but the last thing I have to mention is the mariachi band we saw at Andale.
Have you ever had your heart broken in a language you don’t understand? Because I have.
I also picked up the CD, which included a few covers of songs by Juan Gabriel, who happens to be the Tom Jones of Latin music. Here’s a taste, in case you would like to have your heart shattered into a million pieces, too.
That’s all for now, folks. I have some other non-travel-related posts to follow before coming back to this, but I promise you will hear about my experiences!