Review: Ripe Eatery

This review was originally published in the Tiempo Dining Out section of the El Paso Times on May 10, 2013 as part of a series of monthly reviews that feature vegetarian friendly restaurants in the El Paso region.

What was once a small panini shop in a West Side strip mall is now an El Paso standby serving much more than sandwiches these days. The secret of Ripe’s success may be that it’s constantly reinventing itself, occasionally changing food and drink menus as well as its decor and layout. The patio is the latest to undergo a revision; dark wood fencing and planters have replaced the bright, green wooden cutouts of grass that enclosed the patio. Whimsy and privacy have made way for a more open, inviting natural feel. Amid these changes, Ripe’s food has remained consistently good and its vegetarian options plentiful.

Half of the six starters are vegetarian-friendly, and a fourth, the candied mini cabbages can be ordered without bacon. The Mideast chip and dip comes with soft pita bread triangles, hummus and baba ganoush. The roasted garlic hummus lacked authentic flavor and smoothness, but the baba ganoush was silky smooth with a pronounced smoke flavor. Other popular appetizers are the smoky green chile spinach dip, served with blue corn tortilla chips, and the sweet potato fries, served with a highly addictive cilantro ranch dressing.

Ripe has always gladly subbed a grilled portabello for the beef in any of its burgers, but now it’s added a black bean veggie burger. This may be one of the most expensive veggie burgers I’ve come across in or out of town, but it’s also one of the best I’ve had. Black beans, vegetables, oats, quinoa, nuts and cheese form a large, flavorful patty that’s firm and able to stand up to the bun. The spice of the patty, crunch and acidity of the marinated red onions and creaminess of the chipotle aioli are a perfect marriage of flavors and textures. I thought its only downfall was the brioche bun, which presented beautifully but was just too dense and heavy.

Unsurprisingly, vegetarians and vegans are well represented in the entree section. The portabello mushroom Rockefeller lives up to its name in both price and flavor. Two grilled portabello caps are stuffed with a creamy spinach-artichoke filling, topped with a hefty amount of cheese and served atop basil polenta cakes with a red pepper-almond pesto drizzle. This is a knife and fork experience where you carve through layers of melted cheese, meaty mushroom, and crispy then creamy polenta and end with a bright, earthy sauce. You can opt for something lighter and vegan by ordering the curried coconut veggie tagine with brown rice.

I ate only one of the decadent portabellos to save room for dessert, which is also made in house. Each month, Ripe creates a special drink, entrée and dessert and donates 15 percent of the proceeds from them to benefit a local charity. I was set on this month’s special dessert, Meyer lemon and rosemary cake. Unfortunately, I could hardly taste the rosemary and the lemon curd topping was too tart, but the berry compote helped tame it a bit.

Rosemary Meyer Lemon Cake

Meyer Lemon & RosemaryCake

Blueberry ricotta pancake

Blueberry ricotta pancake

Be sure to hit up Ripe’s weekend brunch for one of the most creative menus in town. Choose between various benedicts, veg hash scrambles, omelets and six kinds of made-from-scratch pancakes, among them blueberry ricotta. If you’re like me and can’t stand eggs, you can order a No. 3 Grilled Cheesy sandwich (asparagus, tomatoes, onions, smoked gouda, fresh mozz and cheddar on foccacia) or a Garden Veggie Panini (vegan without cheese).

Ripe doesn’t settle on subbing vegetables for meat, but creatively elevates them to complete and satisfying meals. Ripe is also one of the few restaurants that vegetarians will have to visit more than once to sample all the veg-friendly options. Don’t forget to check out their daily happy hour and food specials throughout the week.

  • Hours: Monday-Friday 11 am-10 pm; Saturday 9 am-3 pm and 5-10 pm; Sunday 9 am-3 pm
  • Cost: $$-$$$.
  • On the web: ripeeatery.com, facebook, twitter

Ripe Eatery on Urbanspoon

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2 thoughts on “Review: Ripe Eatery

  1. Pingback: Review: Ripe Eatery | El Paso <b>Veg</b> Snob: Vege Bun ~ Vege Food on Vege Bun, Vegetarian Bun, Veggie Bun, Vegan Bun, Vege Life Products, Vege Baking Buns, Vege Pastry Buns

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