Joy of Mex: Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
If you get as far west as El Paso, you should cross the border and eat in Juárez. Definitely have a real Mexican margarita at the great old Kentucky Club bar, just over the bridge.
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CASA DEL SOL
Avenida Lincoln at Calle Ignacio Mejía, 011-52-16-13-65-09 or 16-00-88.
Casa del Sol makes the most original chile relleno in Juárez—a beautifully simple ancho (a dried, ripe poblano that’s been plumped up) filled with sour cream and ricottalike panela cheese. It tastes like a sun-dried tomato, but better. Almost everything at this classy, dimly lit haunt is excellent, from the creamy-smooth pinto-bean soup to the pork rib-meat tacos to the vegetarian ceviche made with steamed cauliflower instead of fish (yes, it’s terrific).
Guacamole: 4. Chips: 2. Roasted-jalapeño-tomato-and-onion salsa: 4.5. Chipotle salsa: 5.
643 Avenida Juárez, 011-52-16-12-33-70.
Waiters in jackets and bow ties pounce on you the minute you sit down in this dark and clubby but unpretentious restaurant. The size of the little room is inversely proportional to the size and scope of its menu, which ranges from chateaubriand to rock lobster, with many stops in between. Fresh Boquillas bass (from the lake of the same name) comes drenched in butter with a hint of garlic; wonderful carne asada a la tampiqueña is piled with strips of roasted poblanos. An extremely workable plan: Have margaritas at the Kentucky Club (see page 134), dinner at Martino’s.
Guacamole: 4 (plain, no tomato, served in an avocado shell with a dab of sour cream). Chips: 5 (fried up fresh after you’re seated). Salsa: 4.5.