I encountered Flores Meat Market and Restaurant East by chance. In the course of reporting the magazine’s 2015 taco feature, I visited a barbacoa joint along North Zaragoza Road in east El Paso. Two bites into the tacos, there was no denying the meat had turned and that eating more meant risking food poisoning. After paying, my travel companions and I walked back to our car. We were upset—until we saw the sign for Flores Meat Market and Restaurant next door. The business wasn’t on our itinerary, but it showed some promise. Unlike the previous restaurant, Flores Meat Market and Restaurant did not disappoint.

I revisited the place a few weeks ago—nine years is too long between stops, considering I’m in El Paso two to three times a year. And it was just like I remembered it. Second-generation owner Luis Flores, with his slicked-back salt-and-pepper hair and a thin mustache that turns up when he smiles, works the checkout line that’s bordered by shelves of snacks. At fifty years old, Luis is refined but ready to don an apron whenever needed at the business he runs with his son, Samuel.

Left of the registers is a small market with dry goods and produce, such as a spectrum of chiles. Further back are appliances, including cazos for the slow-braising carnitas; choriceras, the wide, sombrero-shaped tools used to bathe chorizo and suadero in pools of lard; and metal and wood tortilla presses. Everything one could possibly need for a Mexican kitchen is available. 

“Perhaps instead of having to go to multiple places or big-name stores, we are here to provide a one-stop shop without the big crowds,” Luis explains. “We have the meat market, produce, grocery, and restaurant all in one, from freshly made corn and flour tortillas daily to milk, eggs, and avocados.”

To the right of the registers is the dining area. With booths along two walls lined with tinted windows, a smattering of tables, and vinyl-topped aluminum stools, the restaurant looks more like a luncheonette transplanted from a stretch of West Texas desert road. And it’s just as comfortable. As our server walked toward our booth, she stopped to hug an older gentleman. “Where have you been, my love?” she asked in Spanish.

She treated my friend and me with similar affection. After she took our order, the server dropped a “mijo,” a term of endearment that translates to “my son,” but carries a doting, maternal weight that “sweetheart” or “darling” cannot match. I was beaming with an aw-shucks reaction. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but the store in which I was seated is the second location. Luis’s father, Filiberto, opened the first outpost, the Original Flores Meat Market, as a butcher shop on El Paso’s far northeast side, in 1979. Samuel says his grandfather built the business brick by brick. Eventually, the family put up a small menu of to-go tacos, tortas, and burritos, alongside sodas, chips, and other snacks.

Eighteen years later, Luis opened Flores Meat Market and Restaurant on a developing section of North Zaragoza Road. It remains little changed nearly thirty years after opening, which makes for a great, nostalgic customer experience.

The rich colita de pavo, or fried turkey tail, is a regional speciality and my favorite taco at Flores Meat Market and Restaurant. The turkey meat cooks in simmering lard, much like carnitas, until the meat is a golden brown. The protein is then roughly chopped and placed in house-made corn tortillas. The turkey comes from the meat market, as does all the meat used at the restaurant, which means it’s fresher than at your typical eatery. The turkey tails are so popular that “we make sure to have those ready in our meat market section every single day for people to enjoy,” Luis says.

The tripas taco alternated between crispy and tender, while the picadillo taco was juicy. My next taco was the discada, the mixed-meat preparation popular along the borderlands and northern Mexico. It was heavy on the chorizo, but that isn’t a bad thing. The brisket and barbacoa tacos were both almost a little too dry for my taste but maintained just enough shimmering fat to salvage them.

Even with the minor slip-ups, Flores Meat Market and Restaurant continues to shine as an El Paso institution worth patronizing. 

Luis, a proud papa, credits Samuel, who recently returned to El Paso from living in Houston, with much of the ongoing success. “It means the world to me to have my son back working with me to continue on the family business,” he says. “Besides work, I am very happy to have him back in general. We enjoy watching sporting events, playing golf, and more when we aren’t working.” Samuel echoes his father’s sentiment. “It means a lot to me to carry on what my grandfather started,” Samuel says. But he’s already looking to the future. Samuel has added elements, such as a lunchtime comida corrida, an affordable multi-course meal that is usually served at fondas across Mexico and United States. “Hopefully, I make them proud and make it even better than what it is right now.”   

Flores Meat Market and Restaurant
1781 N. Zaragoza Road, El Paso
Phone: 915-857-6666
Hours: Sunday 6 a.m.–7 p.m., Monday–Saturday 6 a.m.–8 p.m.