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Photograph: Courtesy Cafe Central

The 8 best restaurants in El Paso right now

Whether you’re after tacos, steak, or even far-flung flavors, here are the best restaurants in El Paso

James Wong
Written by
James Wong
Contributor
Justine Harrington
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El Paso’s restaurant offerings are diverse, plentiful and bursting with flavor. Once considered nothing more than a border stop, El Paso is now a vacation-worthy destination in its own right (and for good reason). 

Sitting at the edge of Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico, there’s a hell of a lot of foodie influence to compete with here; and it’s led to something special. Nor does it stop there—you’ll find flavors that recall the likes of Spain, Italy, Lebanon, and a whole lot more. So what are you waiting for? Here are the best restaurants in El Paso right now. 

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James Wong is Time Out’s Texas correspondent. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best restaurants in El Paso

This El Paso institution dating back to 1927 is frequently touted as the best restaurant in the city. Steeped in four generations of family tradition, L&J Café is the very soul of El Paso itself. The food is incredible — the chile de arbol salsa, for starters, is so good that it’s bottled and sold on the premises. Then there are signature items like red enchiladas, tostadas, ground beef tacos, and chile rellenos that are the stuff of legend. L&J has been beloved by locals for nearly a century, and the restaurant has won numerous awards and accolades over the years.

Come to Café Central for an elegant bistro setting that serves the most upscale food in the city. Café Central aims to impress.  the seasonal cuisine is reliably outstanding with popular menu items like Miso Chilean Sea Bass and Grilled Angus Tenderloin. The ambiance is tres chic, too, making it an especially great spot for date night. Don’t feel like splurging on a meal? It’s also a fabulous place for late-night drinks, thanks to the inviting outdoor terrace and fully-stocked bar.

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This pretty blue and white Greek restaurant transports guests to the islands of Mykonos or Santorini (without the jet lag). Here you’ll find authentic Greek and Mediterranean grub made from scratch by the only trained Greek chef in El Paso. His kabobs (chicken, lamb, and ground beef) are charbroiled and delicious, while other Greek table staples (like Gryos and Moussaka) are top-notch. Ask about the specials for fancier entrees, if you’re feeling extra.

An iconic family-style restaurant situated on Indian Cliffs Ranch, 20 miles east of El Paso, Cattleman’s Steakhouse may not technically be in the city but the drive is well worth your time. The hearty T-bone steaks are cut on the premises every day, and the desert scenery is stunning. This is also the perfect place to bring kiddos since, in addition to the restaurant, there’s a lake, a private petting zoo, a movie set, a playground, and more.

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This garden-fresh, scenic Italian restaurant over the border in New Mexico also hosts a popular farmers’ market most weekends (which is why it's known as the perfect place to spend a Saturday). Known as one of the region’s premier spots for fine dining, the mountainous desert scenery is hard to beat, and most of the veggies and herbs are grown on-site. For almost two decades, the Farmers’ Market at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing has sold high-quality produce, foodstuffs, and cutesy homemade gifts. Plan to spend at least a few hours here.   

The Happy Monk is a casual gastropub serving modern American and Tex-Mex alongside a wide selection of cocktails, beer, and wine. This family-run eatery is the perfect place to enjoy good food at affordable prices. Sit on the patio with Salsa Macha Brussels sprouts and a Ribeye sandwich for a complete meal that costs less than 30 bucks. Hoping to double-down on the good deal? Arrive in time for Happy Hour (Wednesday through Friday) and your margarita is a bargain $5.

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In a nutshell, Kiki's is one of those rare places with a huge reputation that's actually well-deserved. Though the restaurant was a well-kept secret among locals for years, this friendly little café has become quite the crowd-pleaser. Both dinner and lunch are usually packed, so you’ll need to arrive early if you want to snag a spot. The house specialty is the ‘Machaca’, a braised beef dish layered with green chili sauce, onions, and cheese topped with a runny egg. Yum!

This beloved café and a social initiative (the concept contributes to female empowerment and local community development) has served traditional, nutritional Mexican fare since 2001. The menu changes with the seasons, but visitors can rest assured that their meal at Café Mayapan will be excellent regardless of the time of year. Indulge in hearty, healthy classic dishes with a twist—like roasted cactus and turkey picadillo lettuce wrap tacos—and then shop for artisanal goods at Lum Metik Fair Trade Company, located right behind the café.

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