That old saying is that the third try is the charm, and I believe it’s true. I can count on three fingers the number of meals we’ve eaten out since last March.
The first time was at a favorite burger restaurant in El Paso, but they were only serving food to go, and only if you called in ahead of time. Pick-up was very awkward, having to go inside and be separated from the counter by a table. We decided no burger was worth that.
The next attempt was a few months later at an El Paso staple that we’d never tried before. Mediocre food, and each table with customers was separated by two empty tables. No thanks.
The third attempt at eating not made-at-home food still makes me smile, a week later. It was so very good.
We were in Alpine and noticed a few customers sitting outside at El Jardin on 5th Street behind Murphy Street Mercado. We were hungry, and anything we’d eat at home was at least an hour away from our stomachs. So, we decided to give El Jardin a try, and it was the best food we’ve eaten out, in what seems like forever.
I’ve been watching the social media for El Jardin for some time now… the food pictures are always so lovely. And, we found out that it tastes even better than it looks.
El Jardin opened the outdoor location in October of 2019. Owner Herminia Quihua along with her right-hand cook Maria Hermosillo make everything fresh, from scratch, every day. Herminia isn’t new to the area – in fact, if you wondered where you knew her food from, Herminia owned El Patio from 2014 until she opened El Jardin last fall, after selling El Patio.
We always appreciated that El Patio, under Herminia’s ownership, was open all day, no matter the location. I had no idea Herminia was no longer part of El Patio, as we’d been enjoying her food since she first opened in Alpine but hadn’t been to the newest location. We’re thrilled to have found her creating beautiful meals behind the Mercado.
Herminia and Maria arrive to their kitchen before sunrise every day except Sunday, which is their only day off, to make all of their salsas and other food items fresh for the day. With every bite, you can tell that everything is homemade. Her cooking style is Southern Mexico, heavily influenced by Tijuana Baja style, brought with her from cooking in San Diego. She even has fish tacos on the menu.
We ordered the gorditas – he ordered chicken, I had the pastor (spicy pork – pictured above). Herminia was in the middle of making fresh rice and offered double beans or fresh rice with a wait, and we opted for double beans… but the rice was ready before we knew it and so we were able to have the plates with beans and rice.
Herminia loves to cook, and it’s evident with every plate she serves. Everything was truly delicious. We are so happy to have discovered El Jardin and know that as long as she hasn’t sold out of her delightful food, we can enjoy a made-from-scratch, authentic meal with a cold, bubbly Topo Chico or Mexican Coke under a shade tree again.
El Jardin is located at 203 S. 5th Street in Alpine, right behind the Murphy Street Mercado. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, cash and credit cards are accepted. You can call in your order at (432) 294-3800. Give her a “like” on Facebook at “El Jardin” where you can also see mouth-watering photos of her daily specials.
How to Make Gorditas at Home
2 cups masa harina (Maseca is one brand I use)
1-3/4 cups to 2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Mix the masa harina, water and salt to create a dough. Roll the dough into 16 little balls. Heat a large skillet, griddle or comal over medium-high heat.
Lightly flatten a masa ball in between two sheets of plastic wrap using a tortilla press or a flat plan. Don’t press it as thin as you would for a homemade tortilla, because you want it to be about twice as thick as a tortilla.
Remove the flattened masa from the plastic wrap and place it on the hot griddle. Let it cook for about 10 to 15 seconds, flip it over and let that side cook for another 10 to 15 seconds.
Flip it over one more time and cook each side for about 1 minute, until it has nice brown spots.
The gordita will begin to inflate a little bit, and starts to bubble up in the middle or the sides. Lightly press down on the sides of the gordita with a spatula to help it inflate even more. Remove it from the griddle, place it on a plate and cover it with a light kitchen towel.
As soon as you can hold the gordita, use a butter or paring knife to carefully cut a slit down the edge of one side. The gordita should open up and create a pocket, ready to be filled with whatever meats, cheeses, veggies or whatever you want to enjoy.
Printed with the permission of The Alpine Avalanche