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Great American Land & Cattle Co.

701 S. Mesa Hills Dr.
El Paso, TX
(915) 585-7873

Great American Land & Cattle Company has been around for a number of years serving steaks that may be comparable to the ones at the more well-known Cattleman's Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs, east of the city. Great American's claim to fame is probably its signature seasoning that is used on all steaks and is available for sale to take home. Equally important, though, is the quality of the steaks that makes this a "destination" restaurant for El Paso, rivaling some of the well-known Mexican restaurants in popularity.

Great American Land & Cattle Company still operates the original restaurant on Alabama Street, as well as a newer restaurant near Cohen Stadium. Great American Steakburger Steakhouse on Yarbrough Drive has been open for a number of years, and is the third location of the chain. Several other locations operate under variations of the same name but with independent ownership, including the one featured in this review and the restaurant on Interstate 10 in Vinton.

Although I had formed opinions of the Great American food based on numerous experiences at the other branches, the fact that the independently owned restaurants have the freedom to serve their own style of food necessitates that this review be based solely on experiences at the Mesa Hills location. I believe the steaks on Mesa Hills to be as good as at the other locations, if not better, so it is a good representation of the Great American chain. There is probably not much difference between any of the Great American restaurants, at least in terms of quality. The differences seem to be in "extra" items certain restaurants add to their menu.

I used to look forward to the times I could make the long drive to Fabens to eat at Cattleman's Steakhouse, and I thought the steaks there had a better flavor of natural beef with little need to add salt or other seasonings. This was in contrast to the Great American on Alabama Street (near my home) that seemed to add so much seasoning I could hardly taste the steak. Great American has a famous (and probably patended) seasoning that is delicious, but the Mesa Hills location is the first one I have tried that did not apply an excessive amount on the steak. I think this change is probably one that has been made throughout the Great American chain, and one that probably fits into what the public wants. Nevertheless, one of the reasons I like the Mesa Hills restaurant is that it is the first Great American I have tried that really used the proper amount of seasoning.

One of the employees told me the bad news about the Mesa Hills location is that they do not have a liquor license, although the restaurant has a bar from the days when it was the west side Griggs Restaurant. Great American does serve beer and wine, but I have always thought ice tea was a more appropriate drink with this type of food.

Several cuts of steak are served, with a medium sized selection compared to most steak houses. One feature I like about Great American is that smaller cuts are available. Personally I have to go on a night I am really hungry to be able to handle one of the small steaks.

New York Strip
New York Strip and all the fixings

New York Strip Steak is one of the cuts that comes in a small version (10 oz.). As may be evident from the photo, this was a thick steak that had very little in the way of fat. This was the only cut that the menu described as "USDA Aged Choice Beef." Using some of the well regarded steak restaurants in Oklahoma as my benchmark, the steak here was slightly gristly, but Great American served a well cooked steak with just about as much flavor as would be expected. The steak here was also considerably less expensive than some of the ones in Oklahoma. The key here was the value-- this was pretty close to high end quality served at mid-range prices. The seasoning that in years past (and at the original restaurant) was the main reason I avoided Great American in favor of the long trek to Cattleman's, now has become a flavor enhancer instead of a detriment.

Steakburger with Green Chile and Cheese
Great American Steakburger with Green Chile and Cheese

Great American has long highlighted their Steakburger, even using this as the theme to the restaurant on Yarbrough Drive. This is a thick, juicy, ground steak that provides both a smaller and less expensive meal for those times when customers do not want to order a steak. Great American takes great pride in the quality of the meat served, and deservedly so. The meat patty was so thick that this really amounted to a steak as much as a burger. Great American offers a choice of American cheese or Monterey Jack, but I have not tried the American cheese. I remember thinking that the burger was not cooked quite the way I ordered it, but I am more particular about burgers than steaks (so perhaps the steaks were not cooked quite right either, but I did not notice).

I ordered a steakburger with green chile and cheese partly to compare with the one at Jaxon's, and partly because the green chile cheeseburger has become a highly sought delicacy along the Rio Grande, with the joy of discovering a good one equal to or greater than the excitement in experiencing a great enchilada, chile relleno, or carne adovada. The green chile and cheese were more flavor enhancers than the main point of the burger, and in fact I think this burger would have been just about as good with mustard, barbecue sauce, or a number of different toppings. The green chile and cheese were fresh, but somehow I enjoyed the ones used at Jaxon's more (Jaxon's also includes mushrooms on the Tampico sandwich). The green chile was moderately spicy, and had all the flavor and characteristics of fresh chile from the Hatch or Mesilla Valley farming regions of southern New Mexico. Somehow, though, this just did not have the type of flavor that excites me in a green chile cheeseburger.

Wagyu beef burger
Steakburger made with Wagyu beef

In 2008 the Mesa Hills restaurant followed the lead of Great American in Albuquerque by offering Wagyu beef, raised only by approved ranchers following strict guidelines (and hopefully tasting the same as the Japanese Kobe beef). I found out the steak only comes in a large size, so I ordered the less expensive Kobe Steakburger. Gil's Thrilling Blog gave an excellent report about the Wagyu beef at the Albuquerque Great American Steakhouse, and also noted the Duke City branch's closing in 2008. The high regard Gil had for this restaurant is one that I share for the one in El Paso.

My reaction to the beef patty was not quite as positive as the one Gil seemed to have for the Wagyu steak (this is quite understandable considering that I am comparing hamburger to steak). Nevertheless, this was a very good burger, and it included the enjoyment of knowing that I was eating the best quality beef (including the guildelines followed to keep the cattle off of hormones and antibiotics). I saw a group of people enjoying the Kobe steak, and it looked as if it would be a worthwhile experience. The size and price of it made it seem that the steak should be shared by at least two or three persons, but I do not fault people who want to keep it to themselves.

Great American recommends that the Kobe burger be cooked no more than medium, and also has guidelines for the steak to provide maximum flavor. I think with beef this good they do not want to cook all the juice out of it.

The Steak Fries that came with the burger were quite good, with Great American's style of seasoning used for enhanced flavor.

One of the highlights of all the Great American restaurants is the side dishes that come with the steaks and other main dishes. The pineapple flavored Cole Slaw is probably the one generally considered to be the best side dish, and I will have to say that it has always been outstanding even when I have been somewhat disappointed with the main course. The cole slaw has a creamy sauce that the pineapple accents perfectly. The cabbage was fresh and tender as always, and everything came together so naturally it made me wonder why other restaurants do not produce their versions with as good a result as the one here.

Another side dish has the nondescript name Great American Beans that are actually similar to ranch beans served at other restaurants. Actually I think just about any barbecue joint would be quite proud serving beans that tasted like the ones at Great American. I could not decide whether I liked the beans or the cole slaw better, but that has been the dilemma over the years at the other Great American locations.

The Baked Potato was excellent, but probably not a standout item like the other side dishes. Although I enjoyed the baked potato, I thought the steak fries (served with the steakburgers) were just about as good.

The Dinner Roll that came with the meal was as fresh and flavorful as the other items. All of these side dishes toghether probably equaled the steak as the most enjoyable part of the meal. This is good news since Great American has quite a few menu choices other than the steaks, so there is plenty of reason to try it on multiple occasions.

The Wagyu beef may be an experiement to see if customers are willing to pay the high prices for better quality. I was happy with the steaks that were served before, but I can understand that many people would appreciate a step up. Even with the regular steaks, though, in my opinion Great American is the best steakhouse in El Paso.



Cuisine: Steaks
Cost: $$$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Additional Locations: 7600 Alabama St., 9800 Gateway North, 1145 George Dieter Dr., 2220 N. Yarbrough Dr., 600 Valley Chile Rd. (Vinton)
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Beer and Wine

Most Recent Visit
Apr. 30, 2008

Number of Visits: 3

Best Items
New York Strip, Cole Slaw, Beans

Special Ratings
New York Strip:
Wagyu Steakburger:
Baked Potato:
Cole Slaw:

Restaurant Web Site
Great American