Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

Golden Buddha Chinese Restaurant (Closed)

2606 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 351-2606

The original Golden Buddha near UTEP

Golden Buddha may be easy to miss as you pass along UTEP's "restaurant row" on Mesa Street. The Rib Hut next door, though, has a prominent sign that is easy to spot. Golden Buddha and Rib Hut share one of the few off-street parking lots in the area, and although there may be signs saying "Parking for Rib Hut Patrons Only," don't worry--the lot is actually owned by Golden Buddha and this is where you should park (provided you are on the south side of Rib Hut where GB is located).

Although the lunch hour tends to be crowded with students and other patrons from the nearby area, Golden Buddha will make it worthwhile by providing some reasonably priced lunch specials. There is no buffet; instead you get a choice of several Hunan and Szechuan style dishes, as well as a few non-spicy choices, that are cooked when ordered. I really like the fact that Golden Buddha has a generous substitution policy on the lunch specials--especially that they will substitute tofu for chicken, beef, or pork in many of the dishes, offering vegetarians a much wider choice of meals than is found at most Chinese restaurants.

A family member has recently opened a second location of Golden Buddha at 7933 N. Mesa at the "Crossroads," near Doniphan Drive. While the menus of the two restaurants is the same, I have found differences in the food. Whether the Crossroads or UTEP location of Golden Buddha is better seems to depend entirely on the cooks that are in the kitchen at the time.

Szechuan beef is one of the many lunch specials
Szechuan beef is one of the many lunch specials

Szechuan Beef has traditionally been one of my favorite dishes because of the vegetables, but recently I have found the sauce to be so salty I really do not care much for it, regardless of how good the vegetables are. The vegetables provide a good Chinese flavor, but I just cannot look forward to the dish because of the sauce.

Szechuan Tofu (substituting tofu for shredded pork) has been one of my favorite dishes in the past, but saying it is one of the better dishes at Golden Buddha does not mean that I really recommend it. The shredded carrots, celery, and bamboo shoots are enjoyable, as well as tofu that is cooked the proper amount so as to not be too soft. I think because of different cooks the restaurant has had over the years, the sauce may have been better in the past. Now, though, it tastes too "Americanized" to me.

Hunan and Szechuan dishes share the same sauce, the difference being the vegetables that are served. Hunan Tofu (not listed on the menu) was one of my favorites in the past.

I have asked for the cooks to prepare Ginger Tofu as a special request, and this was very good. Unfortunately, I think this only works when one of the chefs from China is in the kitchen, and this is not always the case.

I do not normally like white sauce as well as brown sauce, and I have griped in the past when the chefs have changed dishes to white sauce when I have asked for them without MSG. Since the brown sauce has been so consistently salty, though, I am at the point now that I think the white sauce is preferable for most dishes. One example was the Home Style Tofu that was modified to the white sauce, and did not leave me as disappointed as many of the brown sauce dishes have done.

Hot and sour soup
Hot and sour soup

Lunch specials come with soup--either egg drop or hot and sour (neither is outstanding, but I like the hot and sour better). The vegetarian spring roll is one of the best features of the lunch menu, although I always have to ask for hot mustard since they do not automatically bring it to the table.

The Hot Tea is made using an ABC Tea Co. bag, the cheapest commercial-grade brand available. You can ask for extra bags, but it is still not a very good quality tea. For this reason alone, I might be more inclined to visit the Crossroads location, where brewed loose leaf tea is served.

The main problem here, as at the Crossroads location, seems to be variability with the cooks. I do not find either restaurant to be very consistent, but both are good when certain cooks are preparing the meals. Unfortunately, I cannot count on the best cooks being there when I go.



Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: No Handicapped Parking
Additional Location: 7933 N. Mesa St.
Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking

Most Recent Visit
Mar. 27, 2008

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Ginger Tofu, Home Style Tofu, Spring Roll

Special Ratings
Tofu with Szechuan Sauce:
Szechuan Beef:
Kung Pao Tofu:
Ginger Tofu:
Home Style Tofu: white sauce
Hunan Tofu:
Hot and Sour Soup:
Egg Drop Soup:
Fried Spring Roll: vegetarian