Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Monday, August 11, 2014

Who Knew?

(Note, I started writing this last week, when it was fresh in my mind, and on my tongue.  Sorry if it reads as if things are out of order).

          We lived in El Paso's Lower Valley for many years, so I am familiar with some of the old land marks of that area centering on Alameda Avenue.  Since the focus here of late has been hamburgers, that means I recall places like Hamburger Inn (still located on McCarthy Ave., just off Alameda), Hamburger House (used to be on North Loop in a building that had previously been an Oasis Drive In; more recently relocated to Carolina Avenue), Hamburger Hut (out past Ysleta High School, on Alameda), and I think another place that was either Hamburger Hut No. 1, or just The Hut, also on Alameda, closer to Ysleta High, and on the other side of the street.
          Now, one thing these places all had in common was that they all featured three main entrees, and a menu that was pretty much El Paso's version of typical Diner fare.  El Paso's version means Tacos and Burritos and Flautas and the Breakfast of Champions, available all day, every day, Menudo.  The three main entrees were a Hamburger, a Hot Dog, or a Hamburger Steak.  If you are not familiar with El Paso and these places, then it might help to get a better feel for these places if I tell you that hamburger was always pronounced just like John Belushi used to say in his famous SNL skits.
          The Hamburger was of course also available with cheese, by the way.  The Hot Dog was always two weiners, sliced the long way, fried on the Flat Top, thrown onto a hamburger bun (large size only) and topped with chili beans.  The Hamburger always came with mustard, lettuce, tomato, and sometimes pickle.  No other toppings were put on them, but ketchup was usually on the tables.  The Hamburger Steak was just another patty, thrown on a plate, topped with chili beans, with a salad of lettuce and tomato on the side, and usually hash browns.
          Today we had some business in the Valley, and we were not sure where to eat, so I turned right on Yarbrough, as we came south down North Loop.  I had remembered a place that had operated as a restaurant over the years with many different owners and many different menus, and sure enough, it is still there, and is now called "El Hut."  I did not ask, but I bet its name has something to do with those places that used to be on Alameda all those years ago.  The menu sure is identical!
          And, here's what made our choice a wise one.  For less than half what it would have cost from one of the newer food trucks, we got a great burger!  It was so juicy, it dripped when I picked up half to begin feasting.  Oh, yeah, they cut it in half for me without asking!  There was even a pink tinge to the drippings!  And, it ate just fine, thank you very much.  The fries were a golden brown, done just right, and piping hot.  John, Jr. had the old standby, a hamburger steak, topped with two eggs.  He said it was just fine.  And, my granddaughter had a plain burger, with just ketchup and lettuce, and liked what she got just fine.
          Y'all can go on ahead and chase food trucks, or hit the high dollar places, but as long as we've got these places scattered around the Valley, we got your burger!
          One more thing, while I'm talking about burgers and burger places.  If you want a very, very good burger, done just the way you want, with just the toppings you want, and if you are lucky enough to live near one, hi thee to a Smashburger, fast!  Unfortunately, the only one close to El Paso happens to be on Ft. Bliss, and it is just too out of the way for me.  But, every time we go to Arlington, and now, Austin, I know where to go.  These people claim to have a special way of cooking that relies on their name, and I'm not going to argue with them.  Their burgers, on an egg roll bun, are just about the best thing going in the higher cost range.  Their fries are just about perfect, as well.  Very thin sliced, almost like shoestring potatoes, and done up crispy.  They also offer just about the only real, honest-to-goodness ice cream milk shakes anywhere.  Thick, creamy, made with Häagen-Dazs
ice cream, served in an old-fashioned glass milk shake container, with the remainder in the stainless steel cup direct from the machine.  I cannot say enough good things about this chain, which may well have found the secret to maintaining a class operation across state lines.
           By way of an update, I should mention that we took a trip out to Ft. Bliss a month or two ago (my wife, Blanca, and I), just because we wanted a Smash Burger.  And, I am happy to report that, despite the long drive, and the hassle of getting on post, this location offers that same great menu, with that same great taste.  So, if you are around Freedom Crossing, on Ft. Bliss, stop by and enjoy.