Monday, July 28, 2008

The Charcoaler Restaurant- El Paso, TX

The Charcoaler in El Paso, Texas, looks like it fell out of time capsule from the 1950s. That is a good thing. A beautiful glass fronted open building sits back from busy Mesa Drive with an expansive lawn stretching to the seriously retro sign out front. This is truly a classic drive through restaurant.

You pull your 1955 Chevy up to one of four speaker signs depicting a chef holding a big sign with the menu on it. A helpful voice crackles on the speaker asking you for your order. You reply Cheeseburger ($1.95), French fries ($1.00), Onion Rings ($1.55) and a chocolate shake ($1.20). “Sorry, we only have vanilla shakes today.” The voice crackles back. You answer that is fine. “That will be $6.19. Please pull around to the window.”

You oblige and pull up behind three other hamburger hopefuls in the queue. When you get to the window, a neatly dressed young man takes your money and hands you three identical white paper sacks, with the Charcoaler logo on them and a small red cup with your vanilla shake. You thank the man and pull the car under one of two 100-foot long awnings, that will shield you form the Texas sun while you feast.

In bag number 1, you see your hamburger, wrapped in white paper. It is a thing of classic burger beauty. Maybe 2 or 3 ounces of a thin beef patty sitting on a pillowy white bun with sesame seeds. The diameter of the bun and hamburger patty are identical. You take a bite and savor the combination of meat, bun, onion pieces, pickle chips, and American cheese. But what’s this? The ketchup is spicy - an unexpected pleasure for your taste buds.

The onion rings are something completely unexpected. Huge slices of sweet onion, lightly battered in tempura-like crust. Perfect if they only had ranch dressing in which to dunk, but spectacular none-the-less with ketchup. The fries disappoint in relation to the rest of the experience. They are hot, thick and a little too greasy, but not bad.

You get ready to pop the clutch in your muscle car and hit the streets, when you remember you are driving a Chevy Tahoe burning $4 gas every 12 miles or so.

Burger 4 spatulas out of 5
Fries 3 spatulas
Onion Rings 5 spatulas
Vanilla Shake 4 spatulas

The Charcoaler Drive-In Restaurant
5837 N. Mesa Drive
El Paso, TX


Anonymous said...

Oh how I miss the Charcoaler frankfurter, onion rings, and chocolate malt! We lived in El Paso for 4 years and I was a frequent customer. Just wondered if it is still open?

Anonymous said...

I drove through for burger and onion rings but was completely ignored. No one took my order at the "menu" boards, which were almost faded beyond comprehension, and was summarily ignored at the service window. I was invisible. After a couple of polite minutes on my part, I slowly drove away. I was not going to give the staff any reason to gloat and cheer my hasty departure. So, I drove slowly. Never to return. I hear the food is not what it used to be with the original owners. Adios, cabrons!

Anonymous said...

Of course it's still open, and it's very delicious! I love charcoalers! n_n