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Café Central

109 N. Oregon St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 545-2233

Café Central in downtown El Paso

Café Central can truly be considered an international restaurant, with its origin in downtown Ciudad Juarez documented by photos displayed at the current restaurant. When Café Central made the move a few blocks north across the river to downton El Paso in the early 1980's, its American clientele must have been quite happy to save a trip through customs to get a good bite to eat (although it was not nearly as big an ordeal as making an international trip has become these days). Since opening in El Paso Café Central has received acclaim from residents and visitors as one of the best places to eat in the borderland. While Ciudad Juarez has long been known for offering a choice of "white tablecloth" restaurants, Café Central brings this same elegance, attention to service, and comfortable atmosphere to El Paso with its own menu and drink selection.

A photo of the original Cafe Central
A photo of the original Cafe Central in Ciudad Juarez

Even though El Paso is sometimes called the "Mexican food capital of the world," Café Central is one of the few that serves the type of traditional food found in the more upscale Mexican restaurants. While tacos, enchiladas, and chiles rellenos are some of the most popular items coming out of El Paso's restaurants, those who know Mexican food sometimes like to treat themselves to a different style of food for special occasions, such as high quality steaks, seafood, and a style of cooking that combines Mexico's European roots with native spices and vegetables. Café Central is more diverse than just being a "Mexican" restaurant, but it is certainly one of the best places in town to find some of the more traditional Mexican dishes.

Café Central's "bread and butter" is the fine dining menu that is similar to those found in major cities throughout the United States. With steaks, seafood, and various types of meats, I am sure the quality of most of the food is comparable to the food in other cities, only at a lower cost than most. From my experience at fine dining restaurants, though, most have regional specialties that make them memorable. In El Paso, Texas I would probably go with steaks and Mexican food, and I think these are the main things that set Café Central apart from its counterparts.

Fresh asparagus
Fresh asparagus is one of the appetizers

An Asparagus Appetizer demonstrated that Café Central can serve excellent vegetables that are not normally known as a local specialty. Personally I think it is usually better to order something less exotic at some of the city's other restaurants where a greater quantity is served at a lower cost. If you love asparagus, though, Café Central is a very good place to order it.

Salmon at Cafe Central

Salmon is my favorite fish in the Pacific Northwest, but I have yet to find any restaurant in the Southwest that serves a really good version, including here. The fish was well cooked and fresh, but the meat was rather white and bland tasting.

Puntas de filete
Puntas de filete is one of the traditional Mexican dishes served

Puntas de Filete is the only meat item on Café Central's menu that has been carried over from the original Ciudad Juarez restaurant. This probably qualifies it as authentic Mexican food, even though it is made with Worcestershire sauce. Café Central's web site does not claim to have invented the dish, but the 1918 recipe that combines steak medallions, Worcestershire sauce, and fresh green chiles is certainly one of the best. To me this is one of the best things to try in El Paso if you want a true taste of Mexico and the Southwest.

Dessert sampler
Dessert sampler

A Dessert Sampler provided one of the highlights of the restaurant, with a combination of berries, chocolates, and crème brulée. The sampler is great if you can afford the calories, or can share. For an individual dessert I think I would want anything with chocolate in it.

The cream of green chile soup is another item originating from the old menu, and I think would definitely be worth trying. The fact that Café Central does not serve tacos and enchiladas probably disqualifies it from being classified as a "Mexican" restaurant, but I think it is an excellent choice for trying the items that have a Mexican flavor.

The amount of acclaim I have heard for Café Central makes me think I have just begun to discover its best offerings. Following my philosophy of trying to eat local dishes as much as possible, though, the puntas de filete is not a bad choice. I really don't think anything served would be a bad choice.



Cuisine: Fine Dining
Cost: $$$$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Beer, Wine

Most Recent Visit
May 13, 2008

Number of Visits: 4

Best Items
Puntas de Filete, Desserts

Special Ratings
Puntas de Filete:

Restaurant Web Site
Cafe Central