I have seen word-of-mouth advertising work on a small scale; friends who tell me that I should go eat at some new restaurant, or watch a movie. What I’ve never seen is word of mouth on such a grand scale as I did this past week.
Last week I found myself downtown. When I walked out of the El Paso County Courthouse, I was hungry, and thinking of just going to Subway, or the all-you- can-eat Chinese restaurant close by.
Standing at the corner, I overheard a group of people talking about a restaurant in the Chase Bank building. It wasn’t the El Paso Club, something different. I only caught part of the name, “Los.”
Walking on, over by J.C. Penny, I hear three more people talking about this restaurant.
This time, I had the name: Los Colorines. I had never heard of it. After hearing two different groups of people talk about it, I had to check it out.
As I was standing across from the Chase building, I overheard a woman talking to a small group of people. “Their breakfast burritos are to die for!”
I was inspired right then and there: I had to try this magical food.
Los Colorines was crowded. There were people standing in line, waiting for their take-out order, other placing their order. Still others filled the tables in the restaurant.
Even there I could hear people telling others – who had never eaten there before – that they needed to try the salad, or tortilla soup.
Amanda Narvaez, and her husband Carlos have owned the restaurant since September 17, 1999. Before that, her husband owned a butcher’s shop in Juarez, as well as another restaurant.
For the Narvarezs, food has been the focus of their lives for quite some time.
As Amanda pauses in our interview I notice a photograph behind her, and a trophy. In 2005, they won a local competition for the best salsa in El Paso. “They had festival, and invited different restaurants from town, and we won!”
Their location, in the Chase building, had been through a lot of different restaurants. “People would only stay about half a year, and then leave.”
So Amanda and her husband had the idea to offer something truly different. They wanted to offer “home-style” food. However, the food they would sale would truly be home-style. Nothing is prepackaged, or pre-cooked in the kitchen.
“The food is very simple. It’s like what you would get at home,” she says. “You go home, and say, ‘rice again, mom?’ But, you eat it.” The food does remind me of home. My favorite dish is the tortilla soup. It’s not like any other tortilla soup I have ever had. I mentioned this to Amanda, and she agreed. “The recipe is original, it’s our family recipe. But we changed it a little. Made it not so spicy. Everyone says they love the soup.”
It was voted, at one point, the best tortilla soup in El Paso.
Mario has been eating at this restaurant since it opened. “My favorite soup is the tortilla soup,” said Mario. Stephine readily agreed with him.
Another popular dish is the Los Colorines salad. “It was made by our daughter, Jasmin. She wanted a dish with a lot of protein.” Amanda said. “It has lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, chips and avocado. You also get chicken or brisket.”
Carla and Rocio said their favorite dish is the Los Colorines Salad. Karl, who was also having lunch, said the salad is unique, “It’s wonderful. Before this, I never had a salad with brisket before.”
I had to ask them how they heard about the restaurant, as Los Colorines does not advertise, and doesn’t even have a Facebook page.
“I heard about it at work,” Rocio said. Seems that is how most people learn about the place. A friend, or co-worker. Someone talks about it, and you should try it yourself.
Their biggest fan is John Taylor, the security guard on the first floor. For the past seven to eight years he has been frequenting Los Colorines two or three times a week.
“My favorites are the tortilla soup, all their soups….especially the potato soup and spaghetti.”
The spaghetti, I think, is his real favorite.
“They make it a point,” he says, “to call me when they are making spaghetti,” Taylor adds with a grin.
Have I eaten there? You bet…three times just since last week.
The food is really to die for. I love the tortilla soup, and the grilled cheese sandwich. The sandwich reminds me of the times I would spend the night at my grandmothers. She would make me grilled cheese. It’s just like that.
On any given day, Monday thru Friday, you can see a who’s who of El Paso. State and Federal judges, members of city council, former Mayor John Cook, and more. Even students from UTEP will call, and ask they hold a table for them.
Los Colorines is truly one of downtown El Paso’s hidden treasures.
Author & Photographer: Steven Cottingham – Special to the Herald-Post