In a city with hundreds of Mexican restaurants, it’s difficult to stand out, but Cafe Mayapan supersedes all expectations of border fare. The unique restaurant has promoted culture and tradition since 2001 by serving authentic, nutritious food while contributing to community development and empowering women through the La Mujer Obrera organization. The cafe also utilizes fresh produce from their farmers market when in season.
Years ago, the cafe’s food offerings were served in a cafeteria-style food court setting. These days, friendly wait staff tends to all your needs, presenting you first with a complimentary basket of thick, freshly fried tortilla chips and a roasted jalapeno salsa with a subtle kick. Appetizers include guacamole, chile con queso served with corn tortillas and mini baked tostadas topped with beans and queso fresco. Fresh salads that combine either freshly roasted chiles and nopales (cactus) with shredded chicken or beef in a cilantro vinaigrette pair perfectly with their variety of soups, but the sopa Azteca (tortilla soup with cheese, avocado and chipotle in a light red chile and tomato broth) and caldo Tlapeno (chicken and vegetable soup with avocado and chipotle sauce) are everyone’s favorites. Unfortunately, the only soup that is veg-friendly is the consomme. The vegetables floating in the clear broth look bland, but it’s a comforting soup with a unique flavor that tastes like epazote, an herb rarely used in El Paso Mexican cookery.
You’ll find Mexican standards of enchiladas, chile colorado, chile verde stew and flautas, but you’ll also find tacos and burritos with options that are more common to central Mexico. Fillings of chipotle mushrooms, Mexican squash with cheese, green chile strips in cream and perfectly tender nopalitos (cactus slices) have made Mayapan popular amongst vegetarians. Also served are turkey meatballs, Veracruz-style fish and grilled cactus stuffed with asadero cheese served with rice. Side dish choices of black or pinto beans, whole or refried, are also offered. Both black beans and refried beans are vegan, while the rice contains chicken product.
Breakfast is served on Saturdays, and there used to be daily specials during the week that would run out quickly. Unfortunately, items like enfrijoladas (enchiladas made with a creamy bean sauce), tlacoyos (stuffed corn dough tortillas) and tortitas de nabo (turnip patties with tomatillo sauce) have not made any recent appearances. During fall and winter, they’ve served the coveted seasonal, national dish of Mexico, chile en nogada (meat-stuffed poblano chile topped with walnut cream sauce and pomegranate), which they also gladly made vegetarian by subbing the chipotle mushrooms as the filling. I so hope this dish makes an appearance this year.
The menu has remained mostly the same over the years, but they’ve been adding some specialties in the last few months, like teas and desserts. Herbal teas blends from Inannas Delight can be ordered hot or iced, and bags can be purchased to take home. How can you resist blends named “Yass Queen” and ” Sustenance For Dismantling Patriarchy?” Homemade arroz con leche and mango ice cream made their debut this past May.
Cafe Mayapan is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in El Paso. My only complaint is their limited hours. My favorite dishes are the potato flautas, nopalitos en chile colorado, and tacos (I change up the fillings all the time). Local Instagrammer @vegan_4theanimals reports that enchiladas can be made vegan by asking for a filling like mushrooms or nopalitos as a filling instead of cheese.
- 2000 Texas Ave.
- Monday-Friday 11 am-3 pm, Saturdays 8 am-3 pm
- Vegan friendly
Parts of this review originally appeared in the July 6, 2016 issue of What’s Up Weekly.