|You may already have noticed this week's review isn't like any others; well, there's good reason for that. Welcome to El Paso's best kept dining secret.|
1720 W Paisano Dr
El Paso, TX, 79922
I Ate: Flautas de carne deshebrada, Don Juan's caldillo de carne verde
Price: ~$14 + tax/tip
|Get off interstate 10 at the Executive Center Blvd exit,
heading South, and drive 'til it ends at Paisano, and make a left.
Continue on 'til you see signs directing you to Paisano and Yandell Drive.
Now it gets tricky; before you reach the split-off, there will be a side-street
on the right, heading off parallel to the direction in which you were travelling;
this is OLD Paisano Drive. It's easy to miss, especially in the dark.
The last building on the right is La Hacienda on the Rio.
There's an absence of stars at the top of the page, and that's because I don't feel I could objectively grade the restaurant; the owner is a friend of mine. So, La Hacienda must remain starless, no matter how richly it deserves them; and this review is more in the nature of an unpaid advertisement. I also don't normally include photos with my reviews, since I prefer to sneak up on my victim; but in this case, I was able to snap some photos.
The restaurant is an old El Paso institution, one of the first buildings erected in the city. Entry is through a pair of heavy wood doors with beautiful leaded glass windows, counterweighted for easy opening. There are several bars in the rambling restaurant, including one out on a spacious patio. At first glance, the place seems festooned with the same bric-a-brac as you'd find in bars across the US, TGI Fridays, etc; on closer inspection, however, you'll find that all of it is quite real, and some is very unique. The chairs are painted bright colors in the traditional Mexican style. Despite all this visual noise, the restaurant's atmosphere is very friendly.
The food is wonderful, all of it fresh and flavorful. There is a Mexican lunch buffet for $5.99 that is worth far more, with meaty tacos and chile relleno, quesadillas and beans and rice, and a changing main course. Once they had barbequed chicken breasts, meaty and tangy; the second time I attended, I got a large filet of fish, broiled and spiced perfectly, not at all dry and very tasty. For the life of me I can't see how they can afford to serve this quality of food at buffet rates. Better go soon, before they raise their prices.
The last time I was there, I had as an appetizer the flautas de carne deshebrada; beef strips rolled tightly into a fajita and fried. They had a nice strong flavor and a crunchy texture, not soggy. This was served with beans and rice which were very good, and guacamole and salsa which were both especially fresh and tasty.
They then served the main course, Don Juan's caldillo de carne verde; or, in English, beef stew with green peppers. The stew was hearty, with lots of diced beef and vegetables. The stew came with fajitas, which I must admit I didn't touch; and with a small pot of ranch-style beans. I usually dislike ranch-style, eschewing it for your standard Mexican beans; but these I genuinely enjoyed.
La Hacienda is indeed El Paso's best kept dining secret. If you're looking for excellent Mexican food, and can find the secret turnoff (they do have a sign up, and should be lighting it up soon, however), you'll get a great meal.
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