Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

JJ's Gorditas

5320 Doniphan Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 581-7267

JJ's Restaurant specializes in gorditas

JJ's first came to my attention as a small neighborhood Mexican restaurant with cheap prices and very hot salsa. The casual atmosphere meant that customers could spend as little or as much time as they wanted on the meal, and since food is paid for at the counter when ordering patrons can leave as soon as they are finished or order the food as take-out. In addition to getting good Mexican food, it was sometimes very convenient to go out to eat and not have to make a "production" out of it.

I tend to like most Mexican food, but the food at JJ's generally falls either into the category of something I love or something I hate, with very little in the middle. The food I dislike here is mainly because it is too greasy. A very good example is the Chiles Rellenos that may drip so much grease on the plate it is hard to make them stand still long enough to cut off a bite... (This is a joke!!). Actually I do not think they are bad except for having too much grease.

The Pregnant Burrito falls into the middle category of items I like but am not crazy about. This is a meal in itself with a very large tortilla enveloping a large helping of chicken and the condiments that provide the vegetables and spices. The pregnant burrito does not include the best grade of chicken, but is otherwise delicious with large amounts of cheese, lettuce, avocado, and red chile. If the chicken were better this would be a really great meal at a cheap price. I might be tempted to ask for a substitute for the chicken, but this is the default meat and the one that works best with the flavor combination of the ingredients inside.

To me one of the main attractions of JJ's is the chips and salsa. Even if I think some of the meals I order might not be the best I can find in El Paso, the Salsa will be one of the best served anywhere. This is a red, very spicy blend of chiles that local farmers probably cannot ship north because the public there is not accustomed to this heat level, but which local restaurants know the customers will enjoy. Sometimes the salsa here is even too hot for me, so I have to be in the mood for it to really appreciate it. I do not remember the salsa always being exactly the same, and sometimes I think they have served green salsa, so I am not sure whether my memory is faulty or whether they change it periodically. I do know, though, that it is always freshly made.

The Chips are always good and go well with the meal even if the salsa is too hot.

Avocado and beef gordita
Avocado gordita with the crust turned green and a beef gordita in back

Gorditas are by far the best item I have found at JJ's. I think the restaurant recognizes it as their signature dish to the point that the branch they opened on Lee Trevino Drive is called JJ's Gorditas. I could not find the original restaurant on Doniphan listed in the telephone directory so I do not know if they are called JJ's or JJ's Gorditas. Either way, I am not terribly surprised I could not find it listed since it is primarily a local restaurant known by word of mouth, and does not rely on advertising campaigns from the phone book or other sources.

The gorditas at JJ's are known for their light, thin crust that I think you inhale more than swallow. Inside will be a choice of several fillings: beef, chicken, beans, or avocado. Avocado Gorditas have been my favorite, more for health reasons than because of flavor. It is interesting that the avocado turns the crust a green color as it soaks through, making this type of gordita easy to spot. The lettuce and tomato served in the gordita make the avocado taste somewhat like a guacamole salad. The yellow cheese is probably more to complement the flavor of the crust than the filling. All in all I like this better than the gordita at Little Diner, one of the few other restaurants that even serve an avocado gordita. The main difference between the two restaurants is that Little Diner's crust is thick as I think the classic gorditas are. Somehow, though, I think JJ's does a better job with the avocado filling.

JJ's serves two types of beef gorditas, a shredded beef style and the Ground Beef Gordita that is comparable to the one served at Little Diner. JJ's, though, mixes potato with the beef for a combination that I usually do not like very much but which I thought came off as well as I have ever seen it done anywhere. The ground beef gordita is clearly my favorite of the ones I have tried, either at JJ's or at other restaurants. Of course it is a bonus that customers can spoon on some of JJ's fresh salsa, whether they are serving red or green.

The problem with JJ's gorditas is that they leave a "corn oil" aftertaste that I thought was stronger than I find in other restaurants. While I think both the avocado and ground beef gorditas at JJ's taste better than the much heralded ones at Little Diner, the Little Diner gorditas ultimately come out better in terms of leaving the customer satisfied without an aftertaste that comes from using too much cooking oil. The ones at JJ's, though, are probably the second best I have ever tried, behind Little Diner.

The Refried Beans at JJ's have the same problem as other food by being too greasy (I do not know if they are made with lard or corn oil). However, I sometimes use them to cool the mouth if I know I will be using generous portions of salsa with the meal.

The Rice is genuinely good and flavorful except at times when it is overcooked. This is my side dish of choice at JJ's.

JJ's serves aguas frescas drinks including Horchata that is one of the best I have tasted with generous amounts of cinnamon.



Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $
Accessible: Yes
Additional Locations: 1906 N. Lee Trevino Dr., 8820 North Loop Dr.
Smoking: No Smoking

Chile Index:

Most Recent Visit
Sep. 24, 2007

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Gorditas, Salsa, Horchata

Special Ratings
Pregnant Burrito:
Chicken Mole:
Chiles Rellenos: