EL PASO — Wearing blue jeans, a thick black apron and a white t-shirt labeled “Be Independent” on the back, a young man opens the door to greet guests and help them with the menu. From their hip and modern styling on the inside, to their lavish patio featuring an outdoor ping pong table, Independent Burger is original from head to toe.
Octavio Gomez, is a co-owner of Independent Burger, along with many other local businesses such as Crave, The Mix, 1914 and The Garden. With a strong head on his shoulders and great ideas for El Paso’s growth, Gomez is planning on opening three new businesses inside an apartment complex called the Venue at Montecillo on June 2.
The West side businesses will include a fine dining steakhouse named Stonewood, a beer and coffee shop called Hillside and a cantina taqueria named Malolam, which will have a more relaxed, party scene.
“We’re expanding pretty quick for a mom and pop place in El Paso,” said Adrian Castillo, 29, Independent Burger’s General Manager.
Everything at Independent Burger is one 100 percent natural and organic. The restaurant has pastry chefs who hand churn the ice cream daily. The product is flown in daily from Wisconsin, Colorado and New Mexico. Once the product’s life span is done, then it is trashed because there are no freezers in the restaurant. That’s how they like it.
The competitively priced menu at Independent Burger consists of burgers, chicken, salmon and turkey as well as sides such as salads, fries and onion strings. They also feature a make-your-own soda bar containing 20 organic syrups that are made in house as well as an extensive dessert menu with anything from “funky” shakes featuring alcohol to classics such as root beer float. Some of the food items also have manchego cheese which comes from Spain and the chorizo on the menu is actually veal, not pork, which most El Pasoans might not be used to.
“At first it was a rough start. El Paso isn’t up for trying new things but the younger generation is open to it,” Castillo said.
Independent Burger uses social media and advertising to maintain its focus on keeping both guests and employees happy. Every Thursday is “Burger Night” in which the community can enjoy the burger of the day, fries and a beer, milkshake or soda all for $10. Customers also receive incentives such as a free meal by taking pictures of the food and posting them to social media. Employees receive benefits such as a half off discount as well as gift cards and free alcohol at their other restaurants in thanks for the hard work and dedication.
“Here you want to work hard enough to make your manager happy,” said Edmundo Aviles, 23, host/cashier at the restaurant located on Mesa Street near Argonaut. “This is one of those places that if the employees are happy then the customers are happy.”
The restaurant seemed to have a slow start when it first opened in September but business seems to be picking up.
“I hadn’t really heard a lot about it at first but once I found out it was all organic, I had to check it out,” said Adam Meza, 24, a customer at Independent Burger. “It’s a little pricey but the quality is worth it.”
With the three new locations opening as well as being a sponsor for the Neon Desert music festival, the owners and employees are a bit stressed but very excited for the new installments to come.
“Once everything’s up and running, it’s going to be a very cool environment to work in,” Castillo said. “Who knows what else these guys have up their sleeves.”
Over the next few years, the area in which the restaurants are featured will be combined with boutiques, restaurants and lounges. There will also be an Alamo Draft House opening across the street from the Monticello development which will also help attract people to the ever growing El Paso area.