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Aug 19, 2000 05:27 PM

Mexican Stew in El Paso--What Was It?

  • m

I realize this is a long shot, but thought it'd be worth a try.
In the summer of 1973, we vacationed in El Paso, and were recommened by some locals to try a Mexican buffet. The restaurant's name was possibly something like "Pablo's" or "Pancho's," and we recall it might have been located in one of the poorer sections of town. In spite of its location, it turned out to be an excellent restaurant, and you could have all you can eat for $1.10.
In addition to the usual Mexican dishes, they featured a special kind of stew. It was made with either chicken or pork, and also had carrots, corn, and possibly tomatoes. It had little or no peppers in it, for it was not spicy hot. But it had a most distinctive flavor, and was one of the most WONDERFUL meals we had ever tasted. Unfortunately, we could never find out what it was, for we don't know Spanish, and no one there could speak any English!
Could anyone out there refresh our memory as to the name of the place, or, better still, what that wonderful stew was? If you have even a wild guess, please drop me an e-mail at

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  1. Margaret, if your quest is important enough to you that you'd enlist our users to help you solve it, the least you can do is stop back to this message board and participate in the discussion it spawns. We're here to discuss stuff as a community, not answer everyone's food questions via email!

    Describe, if you can, the soup in more detail. You called it a stew...was it really that thick? Or was there plenty of broth? What color was the broth? Was the corn regular old corn, or the big puffy "posole" kind? When you say a "distinctive" flavor, what does that mean? Can you describe it?

    Frankly, I suspect it was simply chicken soup. And the flavor you enjoyed may have been cilantro (possibly with mexican oregano). That's something they'd be likely to have served non-Spanish speaking strangers, and it fits your description. Sounds like really GOOD chicken soup, at that!


    11 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      It does indeed sound like a plain-vanilla cocido, meat-and-vegetable soup, which is one of the staple dishes of the border region, and can be powerfully good.

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Thanks for the replies to my request. At 72 years of age memory fades. I can remember that the dish was a thick stew with yellow kernels of corn,carrots and the taste I can't describe, only that it wasn't hot or spicy. I appreciate any hints as to what this dish may be.

        1. re: Margaret R.

          I'd defer to the estimable Pepper, but I'm troubled by the thickness/stewiness issue. Pepper, do cocidos indeed get that thick around there?

          1. re: Jim Leff

            One more thing...have you eaten coriander much? If not, that might have been your flavor revelation. Go to the local supermarket's herbs/greens section, and sniff the coriander. See if it triggers memories. It's potent stuff, and I'm betting it'll be instant recall if so.

            If you've eaten tons of coriander, forgive me...and I'll keep mulling it over.

            Maybe Pete Feliz or John Fowler (our resident Southwestern chow authorities) will also have input on this.

            1. re: Jim Leff

              Maybe it was Menudo, it's made with Tripe, the lining of cows stomach!
              I've eaten it several times and each time it was made differently, sometimes the tripe was chewy and sometimes it could pass for chicken!
              One time I had it, it was like a bowl of red grease! That was the worst!
              Hope this helps!

            2. re: Jim Leff

              Cocidos can be either thick or thin, stewy or soupy--it's kind of a catchall Spanish term for what Frenchmen call pot au feu. Although if the soup was definitely thickened with masa or something, it could be another animal altogether.

          2. re: Jim Leff

            There used to be a chain of Tex-Mex buffets around Texas called Pancho's. They may have been around other places, but their MO was all you can eat for cheap, so they tended to be in poorer areas of town. They all sort of disappeared in the late 80's, but my recollection is that they a chicken soup with cumin, lime and cilantro. Ring any bells?

            1. re: Greg Spence

              Sounds very possible, but chains in Texas generally have English speaking employees, and the poster said it was all Spanish.

              1. re: Jim Leff

                I'll have to agree with you and Doug on this one, Jim. The one in Austin was part of a big chain but I didn't know any were left. I never thought the food was any good, but you never know what other people might like, or remember liking.

                1. re: Greg Spence

                  Pancho's the Chain.
                  Started in El Paso by of all things a Dentist. It was all you can eat for a cheap price. In the beginning wasn't all that bad, in fact faily good Tex-Mex. Quality went down and so did the chain. Someone took over and improved it enough to survive. Panchos is still alive with at least two places in Fort Worth

              2. re: Greg Spence

                Could this old "Pancho's" chain possibly be associated with the present-day Pancho's chain? Just curious.

            2. The chain was probably Pancho's I believe they are out of business, the stew was most likely Caldo and there is 1,000,000 different ways to prepare it some with corn some without. The last good caldo I ate had a piece steak with the bone still in the meat for added flavor. I hope this helps and am forwarding an e-mail with a few recipes.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Patrick

                Hi Patrick: What about the rest of us?? That's the thing about email, it only helps one hound and posting helps the whole pack! Pat

                1. re: Pat Hammond

                  Pat I was unaware I could post the recipes. How do I post recipes? Do I just include them as part of the message? Is there another place to post them? I am going to leave my web page below and there is a great program Called Mealmaster that imports and stores recipes you may d/l for free from a link on my web page. On the internet there are millions of Mealmaster recipes to be imported into this program. Each directory holds 65,000 recipes I have come across a few pages with over 1,000,000 recipes to d/l it is a easy to use program and it is all free. Talk to you later


                  1. re: Patrick

                    Patrick, Thanks for the behemoth link! I'll put a quote of Jim Leff here that explains posting recipes and copyrighted material:

                    "... if there is a copyrighted recipe (or article or anything else) you'd like to share with your fellow chowhounds, first try to find it somewhere on the web (use to search for a distinctive phrase or two), and simply link to it.

                    If not, then paraphrase. Describe the recipe and how it works in your own words."

              2. m
                Melissa Wicks

                Well I lived in El Paso in 1973 an we used to eat at Pancho's Mexican Buffet 2 or 3 time a month (where else could you stuff my bean-pole teenage brother for $1.99 - that's the last price I remember).

                Anyway I remember 3 Pancho's locations one on MacRae, one on Alameda and one on Dyer - We ate at the one on MacRae. Pancho's did become a mediocre regional chain, but the ones in El Paso stayed independent from the chain, and I think at least one is still in business.

                About the "stew": they served a green chile stew (one of our favorites-my Dad makes a version at home) that was kind of watery, not too "stewy" with pork, potatoes, mild green chiles, mexican oregano (not a lot), yellow hominy, & cumin. It's probably the cumin that you remember as the distinctive taste. It wasn't "spicy" hot, just yummy. I don't remember the tomatoes you mentioned, but there could have been a few thrown in.

                Can't give my Dad's recipe because it's in his head and changes depending on his mood. It's never exactly the same, but always good.