Ramen restaurants win over the Borderland with fresh, spicy style

EL PASO – Ramen restaurants are trending in the Sun City, and some are changing the way people see the brothy noodle dish. When you say ramen, many people think of the dry squiggly pasta that comes in cellophane-wrapped blocks or Styrofoam cups most popular among budget-strapped college student. Now restaurants, such as Nishi Ramen in Downtown El Paso, Kaedama near the University of Texas at El Paso and, the newest addition, El Cuartito Ramen on the West Side, are serving up their spin on this traditional Japanese fare. El Cuartito is a small 20-seat restaurant located at TI:ME at Montecillo, in the up-and-coming entertainment district on Mesa Street. Owned by Pan Y Agua Restaurant Group, Octavio Gomez, Nick Salgado and Chef Rudy Valdez, who are behind the successful Crave concepts, Hillside Coffee and Donuts, Malolam, and Independent Burger, decided to give their Mexican flair to their ramen.

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.

Latin American restaurants that go beyond Mexican in the Borderland

In the neighboring cities of El Paso and Juarez, a border region where Mexican and U.S. cultures intertwine, divided and connected by the Rio Grande, you can find a great number of authentic cuisines, from the typical U.S. burger and fries to homestyle Mexican tacos and enchiladas. Although this variety is satisfying for Borderlanders, it often leaves me craving “pupusas” and “tamales de hoja de platano,” two dishes common to one-half of my ethnic background which is Mexican and Salvadoran. This means I usually need to wait for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays to satisfy my Salvadoran taste buds, when my Mexican-born mom cooks up traditional Salvadoran dishes she’s mastered since she married my Salvadoran dad 25 years ago. Hopefully, one day someone will open a Salvadoran restaurant on the East side close to home. Related story: Popular Latin American foods show common characteristics, diverse accents

I know I am not alone.