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Casa Jurado (Closed)

226 Cincinnati Ave.
El Paso, TX

The original 'Casa J' in Kern Place

Casa Jurado is not only an El Paso institution, its Kern Place location is in one of the city's most interesting neighborhoods. Surrounded by several bars, coffee houses, and other restaurants, Casa Jurado itself is decorated with bright colors to convey the feeling of festivity felt throughout Cincinnati Avenue.

Casa Jurado gained a reputation through the years for the quality of its food, and I believe one secret to its success was the constant attention by its long-time owner. When Henry sold the restaurant in 2004, however, the big question became whether the quality could be maintained. I have now made several visits after the new owner took over, and the result seems to be that "Casa J" is as good or better than ever.

Enchiladas nortenas
Enchiladas norteñas with an egg on top

Enchiladas Norteñas are probably the best indication of the food quality at Casa Jurado. This was my favorite dish at the old Casa J., and has always been one of the best dishes at the Doniphan (Casa Jurado West) location. They are characterized by a distinctive dark red sauce with a well-balance chile flavor that has been one of my favorite enchilada dishes in El Paso (partly because the enchiladas are stacked instead of rolled). When I tried them shortly after the changeover they had too much garlic and had been transformed into a bright red sauce that was little different from countless restaurants in the city (and I was very disappointed). Based on recent experiences at the restaurant, though, it seems as if they are back to cooking them the way Henry used to do it. In fact, I thought they had all the balanced flavor of Henry's enchiladas with a decrease in the amount of cumin flavor, making them even better than before (and they are now among my favorite in El Paso).

I believe the Salsa has been purposely changed to a more fresh and light flavor, and in my opinion this is also a positive move. I thought it was still pretty heavy on the comino but not as noticeably as at Casa Jurado West. I have had a recent taste comparison at Casa Jurado West, and I preferred the one here.

The Chips at Casa Jurado seemed thicker, fresher, and with a less noticeable corn oil taste than at Casa Jurado West (which is now the only reference point I have for trying to remember the details of the food at the "old" Casa J.). Again, any changes that have been made seem to have been on the positive side.

Casa Jurado in Kern Place seemed to experience some growing pains when it first changed owners, and this is one reason I originally thought it had gone downhill. One example was when they had run out of green sauce for the enchiladas because they had more customers than anticipated that day, and the sauce was only made in small batches that would not be prepared again until the next morning (so I had to order something else). I think, though, that many issues I experienced initially have now been fixed.

Flautas with guacamole and chile con queso
Flautas with guacamole and chile con queso

My recent experience with Chicken Flautas was quite good, and convinced me that Casa Jurado is once again among the best Mexican restaurants in the border city. If you have ever had a "perfect" order of flautas where the shell, guacamole, and side dishes (beans and rice) were done just right, you will know what the ones at Casa Jurado were like. The flute shaped taquitos were small, without much meat filling, but this is the classic way of serving them. From the freshness of the lettuce served on the side to the refried beans, everything seemed the same as some of the excellent flautas served in Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario, where I think the best examples of the dish are normally found.

At the old Casa J. the Chile Relleno was one of the best items (the melted cheese inside was the best part of it). I have not tried the relleno recently, but it is likely still the same.

Chicken Mole used to be very good. I have not ordered it at the "new " Casa Jurado, but if Casa Jurado West is any indication, both CJ restaurants may have the best mole in the city.

Salpicón has always been the restaurant's specialty--a type of beef salad that is served cold. It actually reminds me somewhat of the laap salad served at Thai and Lao restaurants.

One of the best dishes at Casa J. used to be an order of Green Enchiladas. Although they came with the typical puréed green chile, a waiter who knew me suggested that the cook add green chile strips on top to make them spicier. This may cost extra, but I think it would be so worth it.

Rice is still excellent and is one of the few examples in El Paso where the cooks seem to take as much care to cook them properly and keep them heated as they do with the main dishes.

Refried Beans are better than before. They will also serve whole beans on request, but the refried beans here are some of the best I have tried.

One of the toppings for flautas is Guacamole, which is also quite a good dish in itself. The one here is fresh and flavorful, and one of the best in El Paso.

The flauta plate comes with Chile con Queso on the side, or this can also be ordered as an appetizer. I thought the one here was fresh and flavorful, and was the type of queso that could only be dreamed about in most Oklahoma Mexican restaurants. The Tex-Mex restaurants in other parts of the country usually give a comlimentary serving of something called "queso," but which is so far removed from the one served at Casa Jurado I am not sure they are made with the same ingredients. A waiter told me the one here was made with Velveeta (something I am pretty sure is used in the Tex-Mex restaurants), but mixed with Monterey Jack cheese that I think gives the Casa J. queso its special flavor. Of course, the fresh chiles inside are also a key ingredient.

Chips and salsa
Chips and salsa

I should also mention the fact that the Chips at Casa Jurado are thick and flavorful, and are some of the best in the city. The ones at the "old" restaurant were good, but I do not remember them being this good.

The Flan over the years has been one of the best I've eaten.

I am glad the new owner is taking a serious approach not only in maintaining the Jurado family traditions, but also in making improvements that are noticeable. The original Casa Jurado was definitely one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city. It has taken a while, but I now place the "new" Casa Jurado among the city's best. At least when it comes to traditional, El Paso style border cuisine, I consider the Kern Place Casa Jurado to be my favorite.

RESTAURANT DETAILS

RATING: 24

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Cooking Oil: Vegetable
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Full Bar

Chile Index:

Most Recent Visit
Feb. 10, 2010

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Enchiladas Norteñas, Spinach Enchiladas, Chile con Queso, Salpicón, Chiles Rellenos, Chicken Mole, Flautas

Special Ratings
Enchiladas Norteñas:
Spinach Enchiladas:
Chiles Rellenos:
Chicken Mole:
Flautas:
Rice:
Beans:
Chips:
Salsa:



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