Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Monday, May 12, 2014

Somewhere on a street in West El Paso

Our quest continues...
               During a family gathering yesterday (Mothers' Day), we planned our next outing.  This time we invited John, Jr's, bro-in-law/compadre, "G," to go with us.  This morning, I talked to John over the phone, and we then decided that while they were going to ride their Harleys, I would go ahead and meet them at a local place known for having a huge selection of beer on tap, The Hoppy Monk.  They also reportedly have a great burger.
               I am now a bit embarrassed to admit that while I looked at their web site for their address, I didn't bother to look at their hours of operation.  Had I taken that extra minute or so, I would have learned that our planning was very incomplete.  We were to meet at this place around 1:30 PM, and it is a long, long drive for us, since we live in far east El Paso, and The Hoppy Monk is in West El Paso.  And, they do not open until 3:00 PM on Mondays (and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays)!
               Obviously, this presented us with a bit of a dilemma since we were hungry, and did not really know what to fall back upon.  "G" suggested a place, back down Mesa Street that he said had great Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches.  Personally, I don't care for Cheese Steak sandwiches, but "G" said they also had good burgers.  So, a quick turn around, and back down Mesa to Chicago's Street Food.
               I shoulda known better.  One look at the cute decor, and I just know that Robert Irvine would have screamed that the place needed to be stripped down to the bare walls.  The inside of this place looks like a small street scene, with the tables in the center of what would be the street of, possibly, a small neighborhood somewhere in Chicago, in happier days.  You know, store fronts, office buildings, apartment buildings, and so forth.  Kinda like the casino, New York, New York, in Vegas, but on a very small budget.
               I looked at the menu and chose what read like a pretty good idea, the Mayor Daley Bacon Cheeseburger.  What could go wrong?  6 oz. patty is a good size for me, not too big; not too small.  Cheddar cheese, as opposed to Processed Yellow Cheese; that's good, right?  Crispy lettuce.  Onions?  check"loaded with bacon!"  Wow!  That's cool.   And, a Kaiser bun?  That's great.
               I gotta say I went into this place with no expectations, and they were met.
About all I can say about the cheese was that it was very yellow.  The lettuce (not iceberg, and that should be a good thing, right?) may have been crispy when it left the field a few weeks ago, but not today.  I'm still trying to taste the onions; I'm not even sure there were any onions in there.  I had to put the tomato and the (did I mention that the lettuce was limp?) lettuce on myself, and I don't recall seeing any onion.  One might be forewarned that Chicago's Street Food's idea of "loaded" apparently means one thin slice of packaged bacon, torn in half, and then the two halves sort of criss-crossed, one over the other, on top of the patty. 
               What about the patty, you ask?  Believe it or not, it was cooked to my taste, which is medium rare.  But, there is no hiding the fact that this patty sure looked to be pre-formed, and quite possibly, previously frozen.  As for the Kaiser bun, I found it to be a poor copy of the real deal.  Obviously,  it did not receive a lot of attention from actual human hands in the kneading and baking process.
               "G" showed us a photo on his phone of the Cheese Steak sandwich that he enjoyed on a previous visit.  The sandwich ordered today by John did not appear to be related to the one in the photo.  Maybe a distant cousin.  The bread was processed, as opposed to being a roll.  The meat most closely resembled something you can buy here at the local carniceria called pulpa bola, being very thinly sliced, tough and dry.
               In short, our adventure turned out to be less than great.  And, the Chicago Street Food would probably be better left on the street.
               And, the quest goes on...

Where are the good burgers in El Paso, Texas?

My son and I recently began a quest to find the best burger in El Paso.  We began some months ago with a place called, appropriately enough, Chuco Burgers and Dogs.  We went there, at my insistence I must admit, because I had seen references to this tiny, hole in the wall (used to be a tiny, old, sleazy neighborhood bar) place on Facebook.  If you are interested, it is close to Bel Air High School, at 1201 Lafayette.

First of all, there had been a lot of raves about this place, and upon our arrival (the place was nearly deserted during the noon hour), we heard a bit of bragging from the guy in the kitchen.  This place is, as I said, very small, and you can see the guy cooking very easily.  Despite the brag, and the dearth of customers, we had to wait a very long time for our simple orders to be filled.  Cokes were in cans only, and the only drinks offered were sodas.  The fries were simply greasy, albeit hot, and the burgers were nothing to write home about (since I did not write home about them, I am now blogging about them instead).  Frankly, I found my burger to be a bit dry, and if it wasn't for the grease, I would have needed a second Coke.

Long story short:  This is NOT the great El Paso Burger.  Not even close.

My wife and I had already tried Frisco Burger and Happy Burger (both on Yarbrough, between Pebble Hills and Edgemere).  I found their products to be OK, but very much run-of-the-mill, large, flat patty on large bun, just like Hamburger Inn and Hamburger Hut used to be.  They at least have fountain sodas, but Happy Burger uses foam cups, and I just don't like foam cups.

Next, my son and I tried the new Papa's, located at the corner of Wedgewood and Montwood, in what used to be a 7/11.  They do offer a variety of burgers, with original names for them.  Overall, not a bad burger, but again, very much like the average El Paso Burger, with the flat patty, large bun.

Our most recent foray was to Crave Kitchen & Bar, on the East Side, on Rojas, between George Dieter and Zaragoza.  This experience made us realize that we are going to have to start categorizing our burgers, because this place makes a premium burger, with prices to match.  Their menu is extensive, with a lot more than just burgers offered, and their burgers also carry different names, with different ingredients.

I opted for pretty much their basic burger, with a couple of refinements.  This was because none of their six choices, all alone, appealed to me.  So, I asked for their large patty (1/2 pound is all they offer), and instead of cooked onions, I asked for raw. And, since one of their signature burgers offered ham (among other things) I asked for a slice of ham, with Swiss cheese.  I did not expect to be able to eat the whole thing, and I also asked for fries.

Unfortunately, their menu does not warn you about the seasoning that they put on the fries, which are super thin, almost Julienne-like.  They put some sort of chile powder, that is very heavy on the Ascorbic Acid, because my first bite puckered me up so bad, I lost the flavor of the potato.  Frankly just a touch of salt would have been just fine for me.  I did not finish even a fourth of my order.

As for my Burger, now, that's a whole 'nother story!  This was a very good burger!  Juicy, medium (although I had asked for medium rare), so it was nicely pink.  Instead of putting mustard, or mayo, or ketchup on the burger, the waitress brought us little stainless cups of each, so we could put what we wanted to our own taste.  I really like that because all too often I find the kitchen puts too much mustard, or not enough mayo, and I'm left wanting something.  The bun was like a Kaiser roll, so it was chewier than the other burgers we've had so far, and it holds together just fine.  And, I did finish that puppy, all of it!

So, we're not done yet (actually, we're going across town this afternoon to try Hoppy Monk's burgers), but now we are going to have to be very specific about what kind of place we go to, and what kind of burgers we encounter.  I guess we'll call Papa's a Diner Burger, and lump Chuco, Frisco, and Happy as dive burgers.  I don't think we'll seek out any drive-in burgers, because all that's left in El Paso in that category is one Charburger, way up Mesa, and, of course Sonic.

More later.  I'm hungry.