Tag Archive: mexican food

Avilas-Restaurant Memories 4

Coming home to El Paso for the holidays?  If you are from the West Side, going to Avilas is like checking in on Facebook.  It is something that has to be done.  You are guaranteed to run into at least one person you know.  Whatever size your group they will get you a table quick.  If you go at lunch time, you will see some first dates, pre-date lunchtime romances from the Coronado kids.  If it is before a holiday it is an ad hoc class reunion.    Service is good and speedy.  Everyone in my family has their thing that they order.

They quickly bring some fresh made tortillas chips and house made salsa.  One is hot and the other is not.  You be the judge. I always order #8. Cheese chile rellenos. I love the sopaillas  I don’t need a menu.  Krista gets crispy beef tacos because that is what she always has.  Cameron gets crunchy tacos too, Maddie likes soup & rice and their Momma Amy gets a 1/2 order of chicken fajitas.  Andy also likes the fajitas or the combo-Enchiladas, taco, chile rellenos, guacamole.  All of the above with beans and rice.  Don’t forget to save room for the Sopapillas.  Fresh and hot with honey.  If you didn’t leave room, make some!

For more than 50 years, Avila’s Restaurant has been dishing out quality Mexican food and consistent good service.  Andy Avila, who runs the Avila’s at 6232 N. Mesa, with his sister Annette Avila Chavez, said not much has changed — either in food or service — since his grandfather Evaristo Avila and his father, Guillermo Avila, opened the business in 1952 in the Toltec Building Downtown.

Devoted diners may be surprised to find that the owners of Avila’s are related to the owners of another popular Mexican restaurant and Best of the Border nominee — Leo’s. Evaristo Avila married Carmen Terrazas — the sister of Leo’s co-founder Willie Terrazas Sr.

In fact, the Avila elders opened their restaurant under the name Leo’s. It wasn’t until a few locations later, when Andy Avila’s brother Bill Avila and his wife, Carol, opened his restaurant on the East Side in 1983, that the two restaurants became Avila’s.

After decades of running their restaurants, the Avilas are sure they have seen generations of families at their restaurants.

“We’re probably on the fifth generation … and half of our customers don’t even open their menus. They just order the same thing,” Bill Avila said.  I don’t know that we are 5 generations deep but we are at least three.  It is a family tradition.

Mexican Hamburgers

I grew up in West Texas during the oil boom of the 50’s and 60’s.   The oil flowed like water and everybody who wanted a job had one.  In those days oil field workers worked 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365-days a year.  Holidays were hard to squeeze in with family.  We sometimes had Christmas on an alternate day if Daddy was not going to be home.   Wink is 7 miles from Kermit (nothing to do with the frog).  Wink is famous for the “Wink sink hole” and Roy Orbison (He sang Pretty Woman).   We are talking big west Texas oil towns here.  Some of the best tastin’ food I have ever eaten was right there.  Hamburgers as big as a dinner plate at the diner after  football games, Frito pies at the DQ at lunch,  hot dogs and hamburgers at Cook’s store across the street from the elementary school,  soup and a sandwich at the drug store counter at lunch in Jr. High.  Good memories.  I was sick and missed a class reunion.  I guess that’s what got all this started.

Do you know what a Mexican hamburger is?  I (living in El Paso) had never heard of that, but my mother introduced it to us and even took my family to Wink to eat one.  You would have thought they had invented sliced bread.  Those were the talk of the town at afternoon coffee.  I made these more often than grilled burgers for a while.   The little diner where we went to eat these was deserted.  I wasn’t too sure about this, except my mom was a very picky eater and loved good Mexican food.   The plates of food they produced were huge.  Platter size white flour tortillas were spread with refried beans (pinto not black beans) and filled with fajita flavored burgers fried on the flattop griddle, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions and green chilies or jalapeños, and cheese.  These were served with sides of guacamole, cream cheese, and salsa.  These are more or less a folded burrito.   But “drippin’ down your elbows” good food!

I sort of “healthified” these, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.  If my son had been home they wouldn’t have been so healthy.  I made my own refried beans from leftover beans I had cooked by reducing the liquid and mashing them.  I used whole wheat tortillas.  They actually tasted good toasted on the griddle.

Mexican Hamburgers

  • 1 pound ground meat
  • Fajita seasoning blend
  • 1 can refried beans (I made my own from pinto beans I cooked with not so much salt and no lard)
  • grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese
  • lettuce shredded (like for tacos)
  • diced tomatoes
  • chopped Hatch green chiles (roasted, peeled and diced)
  • grilled onions
  • salsa (hot or not to your taste) (I used my home canned salsa)
  • sour cream
  • avocados sliced or guacamole
  • sliced pickled jalapenos
  • large flour tortillas (I had whole wheat)

Form the ground meat into patties about 5” long by 3” wide.  Sprinkle with the dry fajita seasoning blend or seasoning of your choice.  Set aside.

Grate the cheese, dice the tomatoes, prepare the avocados.  Set up a serving station with all the burger toppings and sides in small dishes so everyone can make theirs according to their taste.

Fry the patties and allow to form a good caramelized crust on both sides.  Meanwhile toast the tortillas in a non-stick skillet or on a round griddle.  Toast just until slightly crisp and warmed.


  • A layer of beans spread on the entire surface of the tortilla
  • Meat
  • Grilled onions
  • Cheese
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Green chiles
  • Avocado/guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Fold over to make a very large taco
  • Several napkins

This will make 4 very large Mexican hamburgers.


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