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La Casita

3355 N. Yarbrough Dr.
El Paso, TX

Note: La Casita was reported closed in 2010 but Urbanspoon reports that it is still open in 2011.


La Casita has a long history in El Paso, as described on the restaurant's web site. Starting as a small restaurant near downtown that primarily provided lunch to nearby factory workers, it has since grown into a fairly large space in a neighborhood strip shopping center. Located away from Interstate 10, Montana Avenue, or other major highways in east El Paso, La Casita is obviously not expecting to attract a large number of tourists driving through and looking for a place to sample some border style Mexican food. Instead, it relies on its reputation with local residents and anyone from out of town who knows about the high quality food served at La Casita.

I really think almost all the Mexican restaurants in El Paso have something enjoyable to offer, and someone driving through town could not go too far wrong by stopping at any of them. La Casita, though, is better than most in offering what I call "El Paso style" Mexican food. This is really Mexican food as it as been developed in the neighboring Mexican state of Chihuhua and refined in El Paso based on locally available chiles and perhaps local tastes. La Casita's founder from Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, probably had her own take on Mexican food that was slightly different from those who came to El Paso from other cities in the region.

Beef fajitas
Beef fajitas are a specialty at La Casita

Fajitas are possibly the specialty of the restaurant, although I think there certainly have to be other items that inspire equal loyalty with La Casita's patrons. I will admit that I am not an expert on fajitas although growing up in beef country I do know some things about steaks. I think in terms of meat quality the Beef Fajitas here are about as good as anywhere. I suspect the marinade and spices used in fajitas may usually be an attempt to cover up bad meat, but such is not the case at La Casita. This was tender beef without gristle or undesirable pieces.

Since beef fajitas are quite a complex dish, though, there were other aspects of the experience. I found the way the beef was cooked to be a little off, with some of the outside being overdone and much of the interior being undercooked. This was not to the point that I did not like the dish, but I just found other versions to be better. The grilled onions at La Casita were quite good, but did not match the ones at Wyngs that turned a vegetable I usually push to the side into one that I devoured. The fajitas at La Casita came on a hot grill as they should, and everything about the experience was good except for a few undercooked pieces.

La Casita uses a marinated beef in the fajitas that was different than others I have tried. The marinade had quite a strong flavor that I think you will either like or dislike, but no one will say they did not notice it. Personally I preferred the fajitas at Wyngs that did not have such a strong marinated flavor. I cannot give any objective reasons for saying one was better than the other, it was simply a matter of how it tasted to me.

The best part of the fajitas at La Casita, that was not the case at Wyngs, was that customers are able to get a half order with a quantity of food that to me is reasonable. Even though I thought Wyngs served the best fajitas I have ever eaten, I would most likely go to La Casita now that I know they have a good alternative in a smaller quantity and a lower cost. I have not yet tried the chicken fajitas and they may be even better than the beef. Of course a large order could always be shared, but I just think the fajitas served at Wyngs and most other restaurants, as well as the regular order here, are too big. I am not against restaurants serving a good quantity of meat as long as it is not to the point that the size of the meal is totally out of proportion to the amount that can comfortably be eaten.

Guacamole, beans, and pico de gallo are served with fajitas
Guacamole, beans, and pico de gallo are served with fajitas

The on line menu states that the guacamole and pico de gallo cost extra with the half order. In my case they came with the meal and the waiter did not mention anything about having to order them. The bill was not higher than I expected, so I think they gave them to me for free. In any case, they were quite good and I would probably not recommend the fajitas without these usual toppings. Flour tortillas came with the order, and I enjoyed it more making rolled tacos using the tortillas.

Red enchiladas
Red enchiladas at La Casita are some of the best in El Paso

Some Red Enchiladas I also sampled turned out to be even more impressive to me than the fajitas. I am always looking for good flavored El Paso style enchiladas, and the ones here were like the ones I remember but that seem to be gradually disappearing from restaurants. These are the rich red enchiladas that almost taste like the ones from New Mexico but with a unique blend of spices that seem to typify the El Paso style. I definitely think these enchiladas deserve to be on the list of the restaurant's "best items" (and are some of the best in El Paso for that matter).

The Chips and Salsa were other standout items at La Casita. The chips were thick and not too salty, and I enjoyed eating them plain. The salsa was good enough that I could recommend it to anyone traveling through town who just had one meal to eat here and wanted to try typical El Paso style food. L&J Cafe might be better because they have two salsas (and both are quite different from the one here). Personally, though, I would not be disappointed to have the salsa here instead of the ones at L&J.

The Ice Tea is quite good and comes in large glasses that are sometimes necessary to quench the heat here (the food is about average for El Paso style restaurants but may be hotter than some of the restaurants that specialize in tacos, seafood, or serve a style of food from one of the states of Mexico other than Chihuahua).

If you have passed by La Casita but not dropped in, I definitely think it is worth a visit. I wish to thank Rito for suggesting that I visit and pointing me to some good dishes to try. I am glad to know that others also hold La Casita in high regard.

RESTAURANT DETAILS

RATING: 22

Cuisine: Mexican El Paso
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking

Chile Index:

Most Recent Visit
Sep. 13, 2007

Number of Visits: 1

Best Items
Red Enchiladas, Chips, Salsa

Special Ratings
Red Enchiladas:
Beef Fajitas:
Refried Beans:
Chips:
Salsa:



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