Only in El Paso: The 2011 C-USA Tournament Recommendation Thread

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First of all, how awesome is that banner image?  Anyway, one of these days, and probably this summer when we have time to kill, I want to do a series called "Only in El Paso" where we can all vote on the Sun City's best restaurants, hotels, bars, tourist traps, etc.  Why?  Isn't this a sports blog?  Yes, but you guys would be amazed how many times I've been emailed by fans from opposing teams, or from the Sun Bowl teams, asking two primary questions:

1)  Where's the best Mexican food? 

2)  Where's the next best Mexican food?

It happens.  A lot.  Obviously, today you can get reviews on Yelp and get the best local deals at I'm Doing El Paso. But, with the C-USA Tournament coming along in just over two weeks, I thought it would be fun to have an open thread where we can all toss out some of our local suggestions for favorite places, bars, drink specials, cultural things.  That way, I can have a place to direct people who want to know where the locals get their grub on.  This summer, to help kill the time, we'll do a full series where we vote on one category a week- similar to how they did it here at Texas Tech's SBNation site DoubleT Nation.  Then, I'll burn the results to the sidebar in a "Welcome to El Paso" widget.

Also, to be honest, I don't get to spend as much in the EPT as I like, so hopefully I can get some good recommendations for myself.  There has to be life past Papa Burger and Kiki's right?  

So, after the jump, I'm going to toss out some category suggestions and the likely candidates.   I thought it might be a good idea to get things going with the poll to end all polls:  Where the Best Mexican Food in El Paso?  By the way, if I'm missing your favorite place, drop it in the comments and I'll add it to the poll.  

Categories and some random thoughts on the contenders.  What am I missing?

1.  Best Mexican Food (See Poll)   I love this question because it almost always depends on what part of town you're from.   I don't care what you say, the answer is KIKI'S!!  But seriously, Carlos & Mickeys, Lucy's, Forti's?  The options are are ridiculous. What's your place?

2.  Best BBQ

Rudy's, State LineRib Hut, Tommies, 

Rudy's is the only "chain" that I put up here,but it is a Texas chain that I doubt they have in 7-8 C-USA markets.  And, they have Green Chile Stew which alone is worth mentioning.  Note to central Texans heading to EP- State Line is the same thing as County Line.   Rib Hut kills it, huge portions of food and its across from the Don Haskins Center.

3.  Best Steak:

Cattlemans, Great American Land & CattleThe Edge of Texas

Cattlemans is the place that is on food/travel channel all the time.  Great place and especially fun if you have kids because they have a lot more than beef at the Indian Cliffs Ranch.

4.  Best Hotels Near UTEP

Hilton Garden Inn, Doubletree, Holiday Inn West.

5.  Best Bar

Cincinnati, Hemingways, Aceitunas Beer Garden,  Hope & Anchor --  

Clearly I haven't been on the town in a long while (Cue my Danny Glover Voice "I'm getting too old for this &%&:) because I don't know a whole lot about the current EP bar scene.  I will say that I really like Hope & Anchor which is on Mesa near UTEP.  Great patio and an awesome jukebox.  Did I mention the patio?  One of my biggest complaints about EP bars is the general lack of patios.  The city has incredible weather like 340 days out of the year.  Winter (usually) lasts about 4-6 weeks from the last high school football game to Christmas.  The patio at Hope & Anchor is a great place to enjoy the sun.

6.   Best Tourist Attraction

The Tramway, Sunland Park Racetrack & CasinoOld Mesilla, Franklin Mountains State Park

I know I'm slacking here.  The tramway is an awesome way to see the city.  It's funny because it seems like people in El Paso I know have never been.  It's really a very cool place to check out.  Old Mesilla is a nice place for an EPT visitor's wife to go explore while her husband watches 4-5 straight C-USA games at the Don.

7.  Best Burrito!

Rafas, Bonny's50's CafeBurritos CrisostomoReal Burrito

Which brings me to a point about El Paso marketing.  I live in central Texas where Freebirds and Chipotle make the best burrito you can get your hands. Don't get me wrong, they're both good.  A monster cayenne chicken fajita burrito with queso at Freebirds ain't a bad way to spend an afternoon.  But, these places have nothing on Rafa's (my personal favorite) or the 50's cafe right by UTEP. I think El Paso should claim burritos as their "Philly Cheesesteak" and market the heck out of it.  Seriously, in central Texas they don't even make breakfast burritos.  They make breakfast tacos.  What's going on here?! 

8.  Best Burger

Papa BurgerCharcoaler, Rosco's, Toro Burger,  5 Guys, Frisco'sBig Bun,  Federal Courthouse Bar & Grill

I only put 5 Guys (a chain) here because the twitter buzz is unlike anything I've ever seen for a place that I'm not particularly a fan of.  It's good.  But, I'd take Papa Burger in a cage match. Toro Burger jumped in popularity after Texas Monthly came out of nowhere and named it the 4th best burger place in the state of Texas.  I generally avoid burger places with wine lists, but burgers are very good, and it's near UTEP, and they have a solid tap beer selection.

Charcoaler?  Great place that hasn't changed much.  That's good when it comes to the food but bad when it comes to the fact that they don't take debit/credit cards.   C'mon Charcoaler, it's the 90's.  Oh wait.

Updated:  I got an email from a reader suggesting I add Federal Courthouse Bar & Grill to this category since they make the "Tatanka Burger" which is a massive 8 pound burger.  That's right, for a mere $35.00 you and your whole posse can get down on an 8 lb. burger.   It's definitely worth checking out, but my real question is "Federal Courthouse Bar & Grill?"  That's the name of the place?  I'm assuming when it came time to name the restaurant, the conversation went something like this:

Owner:  "Well, we need to name the place.  Any suggestions?"

Chef: "Well, we are near the Federal Courthouse.  How about "Federal Courthouse?"

Owner:  "But, on the other hand, we're a bar and grill.  What if we call it "Bar and Grill?"

Awkward silence.  

Chef:  "I got it!   Federal Courthouse Bar and Grill!"

The rest, my friends, is history.......

9.  Fine Dining

Geo Geske, Ardovino's Desert CrossingBilly CrewsCafe Central,The Garden

Geo Geske is closest to UTEP.  Ardovino's is just about the best looking place in town. Cafe Central is the heavyweight that gets the most pub.  

10.  Chicos Tacos (A Category of it's own)

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Photo Courtesy of My iPhone

Chico's Tacos.  

Let's face it, this is the place that El Pasoan's always take out of towners to.  It's the place with the most buzz.  This is the place that El Pasoan's who move away from the 915 probably miss the most.  Seriously, when I'm in town, nothing is more cruel than messaging a pic like the one above to someone I know is outside of Chicos' jurisdiction.  And, it's often the place that gets so much hype that out of towners go and say...  "Really?!  This place.  It's filthy!"

Seriously, Chico's is an El Paso thing.   You might love the tacos, which are rolled and come drenched in a watery, tomato based sauce and smothered in cheese.  What kind of cheese?  Nobody really knows.   Or you might hate them like you hate being sick on Saturday.  Noones ever in the middle with Chico's.  You love it or hate it.  But, it's impossible not to have a "best of" list about El Paso without mentioning the place.  Some people are disgusted by the dirty bathrooms, and the general (lack of) upkeep at most of their locations.   I eat there 4-5 times a year if I'm lucky but I haven't been in a Chicos bathroom since '99.  Then, there are famous chefs who say "It's the best thing they ever ate.

Think about it, Chico's Tacos is the only restaurant you've probably ever been to where the filth is accepted, they don't take credit cards, the security guard sleeps in his car outside, and the bathrooms use the "rolling paper"cloth thing that just goes in circles.  Yet, you don't care because it's so damn good.  I'll be there in two weeks.  

Only in El Paso.

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