Cafe Central thrives as El Paso’s downtown regenerates


Downtown revitalization has brought many changes to the central part of the city. The construction has brought street closures, orange barrels and headaches for businesses, visitors and motorists. But the renovations and demolitions haven’t kept one local business from flourishing.

“We definitely increased in business,” said Café Central Assistant Manager Juan Franco. “ The last two years, business has gone up 45 percent.”

The restaurant is open six days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It’s busiest days are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and their busiest time of day is after 5 in the afternoon.

Cafe Central photo by Mia Drake for Journalism in July.

Cafe Central photo by Mia Drake for Journalism in July.

Tradition began in Juarez

The popular upscale restaurant was actually first established in the early 1900’s in neighboring Ciudad Juarez. Franco says it was a gathering place for gamblers and tourists who were attracted by the cabaret shows. After the U.S. lifted the prohibition of alcohol, the café decided to move closer to the border, relocating to the heart Downtown El Paso.

“The former owner was Trae Apodaca; he basically took a part of Juarez and brought it into El Paso,” Franco said.

The black-and- cream elegant interior creates a chic bistro vibe to the environment. Soft lighting and ambient music playing in the background consumes patrons as they walk in. Franco says a little-known fact is that the owner restored some of the restaurant’s old charm from the original location.

“The middle part of the bar was actually taken from the original restaurant in Ciudad Juarez and still remains intact from the restaurant,” Franco said.

Classic fine dining

For residents unfamiliar with the restaurant, Franco says it doesn’t serve normal everyday food – but instead puts a spin on the meaning of classic fine dining. After more than a century, it continues to evolve in the kitchen.

“We offer everything from revised tenderloin bison to sea bass,” explained Franco. “Just a bit of everything for everyone. You name, it we have it.”

Café Central is well known for its high-end white cloth tables and impressive wine collection. It’s been described as fine dining, with a fun atmosphere.

“We offer as of right now, over 1,562 bottles of wine on our wine list,” said Franco. “We specialize in many things, such as cocktails and lots of wine.”

Excited about changes

Franco says Café Central welcomes the renovations and building construction taking place all around them. They are signs that El Paso’s downtown is growing and the city is improving economically.

“I think the changes for downtown are wonderful,” said Franco. “For example, the revival of the Camino Real and the grant is much needed. We are located directly across from it – it means more business for us,” he added. Recently, the city announced ambitious plans for a major renovation of the historic downtown hotel with generous tax breaks from the city and state.

When asked what else he would like to see come to downtown, he said he envisions a light rail for faster transportation. For the immediate future the next project that soon will become reality is the return of the streetcar.

“I love my city,” said Franco. “If new developments mean El Paso being put on the map, I’m all for it.”

This article was produced as part of Borderzine’s Journalism in July 2016 summer workshop for high school students sponsored by the Dow Jones News Fund and the University of Texas at El Paso Department of Communication.

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