13. El Paso, Texas

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El Paso got off to an inauspicious start. When we finally made it in–after doing Marfa, Terlingua and Big Bend that day, not to mention our border patrol delay–it was past 11 p.m., and we went directly to Chico’s Tacos–a fast food staple a friend had recommended. We were instructed to order a single fries and a drink, which I did, and it might have been the only order of single fries I’ve wasted in my entire life. I know it’s an institution, but maybe you’ve gotta live there to love it… oh well. I’m sure not being vegetarian would have helped, too.

That was totally fine, though, because within 14 hours El Paso had completely redeemed itself, food-wise. We headed over to L&J Cafe for lunch, and the 45-minute wait was more than worth it. This was the site of the best food–Tex-Mex, Mexican or otherwise–that I’ve ever had in my life. As in, the beans (my favorite food) weren’t even vegetarian, so I couldn’t eat them–AND they completely got my order wrong–and I still loved it more than anything.

But even putting food aside, I really enjoyed El Paso–a sentiment that’s raised some eyebrows from people I’ve told. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time on the eastern border, which has similar demographics and similar urban sprawl–but without the gorgeous topography and walkable downtown.

Or maybe it’s because I got a glimpse of the ultimate retirement dream from my grandmother’s cousins, whom we visited while there. They have a house up in the city’s hills–walking distance from the golf course, their favorite place to eat and everything else they do in the area–that faces west, so they can watch the sun set behind the mountains every night. And when they’re not there, they’re cruising around the world on a ship.

Either way, I was a big fan of El Paso’s scenic drive and overlooks, downtown’s beautiful architecture, and the wealth of cultural activities I wish we’d had longer to check out (I wish we’d had a chance to catch an El Paso Chihuahuas baseball game at their shiny new stadium, too).

And if those don’t intrigue you, do it for the food.

Waiting for L&J...
Waiting for L&J…
Strolling around downtown
Strolling around downtown
View from the scenic drive
View from the scenic drive

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