Valerie Herrera, a skillful cake manipulator and civil engineer, builds humble egg and flour foundations into towering dessert structures. The light texture of vanilla tres leches cakes ($20) wins over pitchfork-toting tongue mobs outraged at its unnatural fusion of three milk types, and strawberries doused in chocolate and dusted with sprinkles ($20 a dozen) tempt even even-tempered palates. Batches of nine walnut-infused brownies ($7.58) and batches of 24 carrot cupcakes ($21.65) prove desirable additions to any permanent dessert collection.
Authentic south-of-the-border fare headlines the menu at Villa y Zapata Xpress, where chefs incorporate market-fresh ingredients into their made-to-order plates of breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare. Like the staff’s wardrobe of pleather aprons, specials change regularly according to the head chef’s fancy, but currently include tacos prepared al pastor or de asada ($8.50 each). Frosty glasses of Jamaican horchata ($2) prime palates for chorizo-topped plates of piping-hot queso fundido ($6.99) and asada-topped fries ($8.75). Bowls brim with servings of signature menudo, offsetting the eatery’s slate of Mexican breakfast fare, which includes the huevos divorciados’ pair of salsa verde-smothered eggs, hash browns, and refried beans ($5.50).
About two years ago, a savory drink called dayvasos began to rapidly gain popularity in Juárez, Mexico. It was originally rumored to be a hangover cure, but people began sipping it for its taste rather than its function; " "Now kids have it, abuelitas (grandmothers) too," Dayvasos JN co-owner Miguel Ortiz told an El Paso Times writer. Clamato tomato juice, freshly squeezed lime juice, chile powder, and a secret ingredient called "Dayvasalsa" are the building block of a dayvaso; bartenders top this blend with additions such as beef jerky, fresh or dried shrimp, or clams. Some patrons like to mix dayvasos with beer, and Ortiz accommodates them by stocking Mexican and domestic brews, which are also available to take home.
The sight of foam balls raining from the sky would be unusual at any place but Jungle Jaks’ Foam Factory, where they’re part of a brightly decorated playground that kids aged 3 to 12 can roam to their hearts’ content. Young ones of all dispositions can find something entertaining among Jungle Jaks’ range of athletic and artistic attractions, such as a mini soccer field for pickup games and a well-stocked arts and craft studio where masterpieces can be created. Excess energy burns away in the disco area as danceable pop hits play, while the Wii room, equipped with numerous Nintendo games and a flat-screen television, keeps arms and legs engaged as players search for Princess Peach’s lost contact lens. Elsewhere, a toddler play area engages tots with age-appropriate slides and toys, and a snack bar reenergizes guests before they collide with fellow riders on indoor bumper boat and bumper car rinks. All this excitement led to Jungle Jaks' nabbing El Paso's Best of the Best award, "Where to Take the Kiddos," in 2012 and 2013.
Operating under the mantra Flavor Your Life, Bahama Buck's sends its patrons on a tropical holiday with every sip of its gourmet drinks. Island-inspired decor outfits each Bahama Buck's location, and the business's approach to flavor as an art form—with more than 90 flavors of shaved ice—carries over to its smoothies, which send creamy concoctions climbing through straws to rouse tasters with the zest of fresh fruit and juices. Hawaii's Kona coffee beans are used for Island House coffees, and island specialties, such as 100% natural juices, provide an afternoon pick-me-up without the pressure of negotiating with the intimidating children in charge of neighborhood lemonade stands.
Moonrise Spirits & Sushi's chefs pair the carefully balanced flavors of sushi with inspired fusion dishes. They craft friendly and familiar rolls, such as spicy salmon or the california. They also make some special maki, including The Last Emperor––a roll-up of lobster, crab, and avocado finished with a mango glaze. Behind the closed doors of the kitchen, they stick to seafood as their specialty, but broaden the range of flavors with ceviche, shrimp tacos, and salmon sandwiches.