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The best international restaurants to visit in El Paso

Courtesy of Jerusalem Grill Facebook

One of the best things about living in a city the size of El Paso is the plethora of food options. Of course, we all know that El Paso claims to be the “Mexican food capital of the world,” which has always made me wonder why any place in Mexico wouldn’t claim that title, but I digress.

If you tire of the usual, El Paso offers ways to travel the world—culinarily speaking—without leaving the city limits.

In the same family tree as Mexican food, which may help the less intrepid explorers, is the Puerto Rican food served up at El Koqui de la Dyer.

The small, family-run restaurant has only been open for about six months, but has already earned a reputation among the Puerto Rican community in El Paso for serving up authentic home-cooked favorites. Mafongo (mashed green plantains with garlic and spices, fried and formed into a ball with chicharrones inside) and churrasco (grilled steak slices) with a side of arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas and chunks of pork) fly out the door to feed the vast Fort Bliss and Puerto Rican community, leaving just enough room to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the cozy “mom and pop” spot.

The Fort Bliss community has also brought other great international eating spots for those willing to make the drive to the Northeast side of town.

For those willing to venture away from typical Chinese food, Korean restaurants are plentiful in Northeast El Paso as well, with many soldiers having married Koreans during their time in the service.

One of the best of these restaurants is Han II Kwan, also on Dyer Street. The lunch specials are incredibly cheap and the extras make the meal extremely filling. For $6.99, you can try any number of traditional Korean favorites such as bulgogi (marinated grilled beef) and kal-bi (marinated grilled spare ribs).

The hospitality is unlike any other restaurant you may find in El Paso. As soon as you order, you are brought a tasty cabbage soup, a vegetable pancake with a soy/onion dipping sauce and an empty plate.

One of the best things about Korean restaurants, is their banchan (small side dishes). Even those not too familiar with Korean food may have heard of kimchi, a spicy, sometimes fermented or “rotten” cabbage. In the case of Han II GwanKwan, it is not rotten, it is just seasoned and spicy. The plate is to help yourself to the small buffet of small dishes full of spicy broccoli, cabbage, hot dogs, seaweed, sweet potatoes and numerous others.

One last Army-related restaurant in the Northeast is the Little Bavarian German Restaurant on Hondo Pass. The restaurant is thorough in their German décor, food and beer, and regularly serves the German military personnel stationed at Fort Bliss.

Any of the bratwurst, currywurst or schnitzel is authentic and very tasty with a side of sauerkraut and potatoes, but the real value at Little Bavarian is every month or so when the restaurant finds a reason to serve their all-you-can-eat buffet of sausage and schnitzel usually for just $13.50.

Speaking of buffets, this is Texas and it seems that even although some restaurants have come from around the world and settled here, they understand how most Texans prefer to eat.

Jerusalem Grill on Mesa Street is doing a bang-up business with their Monday through Friday lunch buffet for the reasonable price of $12.99.

On a recent visit, the restaurant served many Mediterranean dishes that were both filling and still light and refreshing.

A salad of spinach and romaine had a balsamic and basil dressing, but the key was the toasted pine nuts. Dishes on the buffet included an outstanding red vegetable and shrimp curry-like dish, a pasta and chicken dish in white sauce, which was full of flavor, and a grilled burger with olive oil, garlic and cilantro with potatoes—the true star of the buffet.

Just a few doors down from the new Jerusalem Grill is another lunch buffet that has been open a little longer, India Palace.

Unlike Jerusalem Grill’s buffet, India Palace’s choices change very little from day to day, but with the quality of food that is served—why mess with perfection?

Traditional Indian favorites such as  tandoori chicken (chicken marinated in yogurt and spices) and pakora (fried vegetable balls) are served every day in the classy, modern restaurant.

Do not leave without one­­­­—or 15 ­—­gulab jaamun, which are small balls of dried milk, fried and soaking in sugar syrup. Save room for these!

If one is willing to go outside of the Taco Bell and McDonald’s box or bag and venture into the international. 

Jason Green may be reached at [email protected].

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The best international restaurants to visit in El Paso