Year in Review: 2012

It’s already February 2013, and I am barely posting my annual year in review. 2012 was a crazy, wonderful, yet tragic year for everyone. 2013 is already getting off to a raucous start for me.

Disclaimer: My year in EP food review covers all foods including items that aren’t vegetarian.

photo (22)
Top: Tofu wings & veggie burger at the Hoppy Monk. Middle: Pita bread basket & falafel sandwich at Nour Mediterranean Cafe. Bottom: Veggie meatballs at Oliver’s & Pizza at Tosca.

Trends

The EP trend of 2012 was…burgers! More specifically, it was burgers topped with a fried egg. Hoppy Monk was the most decadent, offering a donut burger as one of its daily specials. Homemade veggie burgers made their debuts at Hoppy Monk, Ripe, and Crave.  The much anticipated Square Cow Burgers, Beer, & Wine opened and promptly closed. Create Gourmet Eats food truck continued to shine, and helped start Foodville Food Truck Park downtown.

The appetizer of the year was fried pickles. A year ago no one had them except for Hooters and Buffalo Wild Wings. This year, you could find them at Bikini Joe’s (now Cabo Joe’s), Wing Daddy’s, Square Cow, Fiesta Lanes Bowling Alley, Toro, Smashburger, and Texas Roadhouse.

Already trending is hummus sans the chickpea. Eloise serves up red hummus that is made with beets, and Tom’s version is lima bean based.

I predict that mac & cheese will be the ingredient of 2013. Mac & cheese will step out of its role as side dish to fill other parts like appetizer, burger topping, pizza topping, and filling.

photo (23)
Top: Star City Kitchen and Belle Sucre Bakery. Middle: Portobella Mushroom Lasagna sandwich at Red Mountain Bistro and vegan “crab” cake at Opus World Bistro. Bottom: Pizza w/vegan cheese at The Pizza Joint and Pea tortellini first course at Opus.

Hurry Up and Wait

  • Square Cow Burgers, Beer, & Wine took forever to open, and then closed before the year even ended. I had been there three times, and received poor service each time. The food wasn’t good either, not even for my meat-eating friends. This is really unfortunate because it had a great atmosphere, beer selection, and concept.
  • A group announced plans of opening a nonprofit restaurant that operates on a pay-what-you-can basis. A large press release was issued earlier in the year, but the group has been quiet since. Check out their website: The Mustard Seed Cafe
  • The Green Ingredient was supposed to open in the fall. It is still not open. The restaurant’s concept is healthy food with an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan options. It will be located downtown in the Chase Tower at 210 E. Main St.
  •  Kinley Pon of Kinley’s House of Coffee and Teas and GECU announced a unique partnership; they plan on opening a tea house that will also have a virtual teller/ATM.  Construction behind Kinley’s coffee shop began late summer with a projected opening date of late December and early spring. No word on the progress.
  • The Magic Pan’s Cincinnati location in Kern closed to make way for Agave Kitchen and Bar which is yet to open.
  • Valentine’s Kitchen decided to head downtown. The Mexican eatery was located at 4012 N. Mesa next to Hope and Anchor. Its new location will be at 504 W. San Antonio.
  • Cafe Italia, a westside eatery also announced plans of opening a second location downtown.
  • Hello Day Cafe was supposed to open next to Tricky Falls/Bowie Feathers, also located downtown. Jim Ward, one of the owners said the cafe will serve coffee, have top notch veg options, and offer downtown lunch delivery. No word on its progress.
photo (24)
Top: Tofu tacos at Tacoholics and Mediterranean sandwich at D’Lox. Middle: Tembloroso house coffee beans (Picacho Roasters) and Reuben at Eloise. Bottom: Cabo Joe’s west and Quinoa salad at Red & White Wine Bar.

Hello, Goodbye

  • The biggest, saddest news this year was the closure of iconic El Paso staples Jaxon’s and Capetto’s. Capetto’s had been in operation for 56 years, while Jaxon’s had operated for nearly four decades.
  • Star City Kitchen opened in Nofish’s previous location. It’s open 24 hours, 6 days a week. Cool decor and atmosphere with a fun, creative menu. They have a mashed potato of the day, which can contain funky ingredient combos like peanut butter and sriracha. Unfortunately their creativity falls flat when it comes to their veg options.
  • The university area got another worthwhile Mediterranean restaurant called Nour’s. They start you off with a complimentary basket of pita bread and an amazing creamy dip that happens to be vegan.
  • The Montana Steakhouse which had taken over the original Jaxon’s location closed down. Caruso’s Italian Ristorante opened in its place and closed down about a month ago.
  • The owner of The Greenery opened a new restaurant called Crust in the former location of the Maria Chuchena Mexican restaurant. Crust features pizzas and Italian dishes. I have not tried it yet, but it seems overpriced and I’ve heard mixed reviews.
  • The Greenery closed its market during the summer and announced plans to open Big Juli’s Burgers, Brats & Brews. Come fall, Big Juli’s was canned and the market reopened with slight renovations including a sit down area. They also unveiled a Greenbacks rewards program.
  • The shopping center that Ripe is located at received new tenants, Japanese Crepe House and Sunny’s Sushi. Sunny’s eastside location is still in operation.
  • Big Bun closed in July after 50 years of service and then reopened in a new location at 209 E. Mills, the former location of Alberto’s Mexican Restaurant. They have kept some of Alberto’s dishes alongside Big Bun standards at a reduced price.
  • Fort Bliss’s Freedoms Crossing Shopping Center had a couple of new additions this year: Chi-Town BBQ & Italians.
  • Italians also opened a pizzeria at Sunset’s former location at 5380 N. Mesa.
  • Sunset Pizzeria may have closed, but staff and recipes have been resurrected into Tosca Stone Oven Pizzeria down the street at 4017 N. Mesa. The Sunset menu has been revamped and is much larger.
  • The New City Grille not only has new owners but also has moved to a new location at 101 N. Kansas at San Antonio. It was originally located at South Mesa and Third Street.
  • Tacoholics Food Truck opened up a brick-and-mortar location inside the Exxon at 7450 Gateway East, near Hunter. Don’t let the gas station setting deter you. Their tacos, tortas, and freshly made salsas are so good! Try the tofu tacos!
  • Red & White Wine Bar decided to close shop on the eastside and move into Toro’s former location at Kern.
  • Crave opened Shelby Shack inside the Casa Ford service station at 5815 Montana. They serve breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, and Crave’s signature green chile mac & cheese. Crave is also operating a food truck downtown at Foodville.
  • Newcomer Red Mountain Bistro made Texas Monthly‘s 2012 list of best new restaurants.
  • More food trucks: Sweet Addiction, Moshibox, El Paso’s Wurst, Pappa’s, The Reef, & BFF (still not operating yet).
  • Basico Bistro & Cafe is a new restaurant located inside of the Coronado Tower at 6006 N. Mesa. They serve pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, and bistro classics.
  • Pastry Chef Jonathan Bowden was extra busy this year making and selling bread and pastries at the farmers’ market and other events, and supplying bread to several local restaurants. He then opened Belle Sucre Bakery at 7500 N. Mesa where you can get macarons, eclairs, authentic New York rye bread, and more six days a week!
  • Bikini Joe’s had to change its name to Cabo Joe’s, and opened a second location at the former location of Ernie G.’s, which was previously Andre’s Pizza.
  • My favorite newcomer of 2012 had to be Eloise. Here’s a laundry list why: Wes Anderson theme, French press coffee, almond & soy milk options (I’m really digging soy Cortados), craft beers, Lone Star on tap (which I’ve decided to boycott for personal reasons), house infused liquors (cool , but not my thang), and now a lunch menu with delicious vegan/vegetarian paninis.

El Paso Vegges Out

El Paso became very vegetarian friendly this year. Mercado Mayapan offered a full vegetarian and vegan menu during the month of August. Opus World Bistro began adding creative vegan options to its menu, as well as hosting vegan wine dinners. We also thought The Green Ingredient was going to be El Paso’s only vegetarian restaurant, but it turns out they’re going to serve meat, and they still haven’t opened yet. Oh well, at least there’ll be plenty of veg options.

Restaurants that don’t offer a vegetarian option or are currently offering a salad, mushroom burger, or pre-fab veggie burger, need to step it up— this is no longer acceptable. Opus has vegan crab cakes and eggplant mimicking bacon. The Hoppy Monk and Ripe are making exceptional veggie burgers. Eloise has a vegan Reuben that is so good, you won’t miss the meat and cheese.

Actually, El Paso restaurants need to do better with their meat options as well.

Our local businesses took a hard hit this past year. We saw local staples and newcomers bite the dust that none of us saw coming. 2012’s mantra was go local. But El Pasoans can’t carry all the blame; after all, how many times have you heard someone say such and such place is pretty good— for El Paso. So, step it up and make something that’s good by all standards.

With that said…

…miscellaneous thoughts for local businesses: 

  • Train and communicate with your staff. And treat them well— they deal with difficult people and they’re representing your brand.
  • Be consistent.
  • Don’t overcharge if your food isn’t up to par.
  • If you have a website or social media presence, update it frequently and respond to inquiries and comments! Also, don’t use Facebook or other social media to rant about customers or drama. I won’t name names, but a local business currently does this. It’s unprofessional, annoying, and tacky.
  • Enough with high end frou-frou restaurants. How about a casual, affordable and fun restaurant (that serves beer of course)? Or a diner? We don’t have many diners in El Paso. I’ve never been to this place, but wouldn’t it be awesome if someone opened up something similar to Spiral Diner?

So much happened in 2012 that this became lengthy. Did I leave something out or post any wrong info? Let me know by leaving a comment. Also, tell me what your favorite restaurant or food memory of 2012 was. 

You can also check out my 2010 and 2011 year in review posts.

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3 Comments

  1. it would definitely be *awesome* if someone opened up something similar to Spiral Diner here in El Paso! … … … =-D

    Any way to gather up all the “veggieple” in town, along with the VSEP -dot- org and come up with a few petitions for local restaurants to gear their place in that direction?

    Just sayin’ …

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