When I was a little girl growing up in Houston, El Paso was a mystical place in my mind. It fascinated me to see highway signs with directions to El Paso, nearly 800 miles away. How could any place be so far away, and still be in Texas?!
I always told my mother that I wanted to go to El Paso, but since our family trips only took us east as far as Georgia to visit family, the south to Padre Island, and only as far west as San Antonio, the rest of the west and El Paso were never on the travel route.
My husband took me for my first visit to El Paso about 10 years ago. We were passing though on a road trip to Colorado, and I couldn’t wipe the silly grin off my face the entire way through town.
“So, we’re really IN El Paso? That’s really Mexico right there? It’s such a big city!”
I think I’d lived my entire life thinking El Paso was going to be a dusty town with old haciendas strewn about, with horses hitched to posts outside… boy, I was wrong. It actually reminded me of a smaller San Antonio, only with a mountainous backdrop to one side and another country a stone’s throw the other way.
To commemorate a subsequent visit to El Paso, we stopped and I bought a pair of cowboy boots, crafted just across the river, in Mexico. Those are still my favorite cowboy boots.
Living in Fort Davis and the Trans Pecos, it’s commonplace to hear folks talk about heading to El Paso for doctors, supplies, the airport, a new car, or just for fun in the city.
I never imagined I’d live somewhere that the magical, faraway place of my childhood’s imagination would become “my big city,” even though it’s three hours from home. And yet, here we are, running to El Paso whenever we need something we can’t get locally.
For us, it’s not unusual to wake up and say, “Let’s go to Costco,” and head West for two hundred miles, ice chests in tow. We normally make day trips to the big city, because the furry faces at home in Fort Davis tend to keep us from overnighting it. We gain an hour when we’re about halfway there, but we lose an hour on the way back. We plan our trips accordingly.
On our last trip to El Paso, we picked up everything on our list in near-record time, even with several back and forth trips between Home Depot and Lowe’s. Just so you know, their prices are just about the same on big items like evaporative cooling systems, so save your time and just pick a place.
We realized on our way out of town that we needed to eat, and so we tried a place that was new to us, and right on I-10 on our way. We didn’t have to do any tricky maneuvers to get to it, like we would have for our usual Mexican food experiences of L&J Café, Kiki’s, or Los Bandito’s, which were all the opposite direction of where we were headed.
Julio’s Mexican Food, with the big sign on the right side when you’re headed out of El Paso, was so delicious.
I don’t know how we just now discovered it, but I’m really happy that we did. They are currently celebrating their 75th anniversary, and have three locations around El Paso.
With a mouth-watering menu that included all the Mexican dishes we know and love, they also have many steak and seafood items in the offering. We both ordered the Corona Mexican Plate – a chile relleno, red cheese enchilada, shredded beef taco, guacamole, refried beans and rice. The rice was some of the best I’ve eaten in a long time.
In my opinion, if you get the rice right, you’ve got it down. We both cleaned our plates. Every bite was flavorful and unique to the item, service was impeccable, and everyone around us was happy. It was a terrific experience.
But, learn from us, eat there early in your day trip… a full stomach and a three-hour car drive through beautiful, peaceful far West Texas makes you want to nap rather than drive. We were thankful for gas station coffee that day, but even happier to have found another favorite restaurant in El Paso.
Julio’s Mexican Food can be found of Facebook and on their website at www.juliosmexicanfood.com. We went to the 8050 Gateway East location. They also offer vegetarian, vegan and “healthy” options for meals.
1-1/2 cups long grain white rice
1/4 cup oil (vegetable works well – avocado oil is my choice)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 medium onion, diced finely
1/4 cup tomato sauce, or 2 pureed ripe tomatoes
2 tomato bouillon cubes, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup peas (frozen or fresh- NEVER canned!)
3-1/4 cups water
Rinse and drain the rice. In large saucepan over medium-high heat, add oil. Add rice and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the rice is lightly golden brown all over (about 10 minutes). Add tomato sauce, garlic, and diced onion to pan. Stir. Add chopped tomato bouillon cubes, salt, carrots, peas, and water.
Cook, stirring, until bouillon cubes are completely dissolved. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes or until the water is completely absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving.