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Little Diner

7209 7th St., Canutillo, TX - (915) 877-2176
Posted By Michael Stern on 1/14/2007 4:56:00 AM
Just beyond El Paso, far from the interstate and several blocks off the main road that runs through the village of Canutillo, is the Little Diner. Here are the finest flautas and gorditas in West Texas.

Flautas, which means flutes, are tightly rolled, crisp-fried tortillas packed with either seasoned chicken or beef. The chicken is moist and savory, the beef is brisket, cooked until falling-apart tender. About the size of a hefty asparagus stalk, a Little Diner flauta is perfect finger fare: pick it up and crunch away; juices from inside will dribble down your chin.

Gorditas are sandwich pockets made of cornmeal, griddle-cooked then stuffed. They have an earthy corn taste and moist insides with just a hint of flaky crispness all around their skin. Many cafes in this region serve them, but Little Diner’s gorditas are notable for their refined texture and gay orange hue. Inside is ground beef, along with melted cheese, lettuce, and tomato. To spice it up, the restaurant offers dark red, chunky sauce with a Tex-Mex wallop.

Curious about the punch of the table salsa, we visited the kitchen, where two ladies sat at a dinette table hand-shredding cooked brisket for the flautas. Here we found Lourdes Pearson, who bought the Little Diner from her mother, Irene Gallegos, in the early 1990s. Lourdes grew up in the business, and with casual expertise she explained that Sandia peppers were the secret of the sauce. “They have the most heat, so we wouldn’t stuff them for chilies rellenos,” she said. “For rellenos, mild Big Jim peppers are best. We try not to serve anything too terribly hot at the Little Diner. Late in the summer, though, the salsa can get pretty powerful. That is when we get our chilies straight from the Mesilla Valley.”

Lourdes said she buys her chilies from La Union, New Mexico, each autumn during the chili harvest. "I buy as much as I can," she said. "We roast, peel and stuff them, then freeze them. That will last us through December and January. Then we buy chilies from Mexico."

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Flautas (4)
Red Chile
Gorditas (1)
Tortilla Chips
Chile Relleno
Tamales
Green Chili
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

The demure cornmeal pockets known as gorditas pack powerful flavor. The one in the foreground is loaded with chile colorado. The one in back contains ground beef and garnishes.
"The demure cornmeal pockets known as gorditas pack powerful flavor. The one in the foreground is loaded with chile colorado. The one in back contains ground beef and garnishes."
Michael Stern





A bowl of Texas-style chile con carne: meat and chile, nothing else.
"A bowl of Texas-style chile con carne: meat and chile, nothing else."
Michael Stern


Flautas are named because they resemble flutes. They sure made me sing a happy tune. I got two filled with chicken, two with shredded beef. The guacamole, sour cream, refritos, and salad are fun to push around on the plate with the flauta as you eat it by hand.
"Flautas are named because they resemble flutes. They sure made me sing a happy tune. I got two filled with chicken, two with shredded beef. The guacamole, sour cream, refritos, and salad are fun to push around on the plate with the flauta as you eat it by hand."
Michael Stern


Green chile, made with chunks of pork is a stew that also contains potatoes and onion.
"Green chile, made with chunks of pork is a stew that also contains potatoes and onion."
Michael Stern


A pair of tamales: one loaded with beef, the other with shreds of chicken
"A pair of tamales: one loaded with beef, the other with shreds of chicken"
Michael Stern


An only-in-chile-country taste experience: pure chile flavor in which to dip warm, just-made chips.
"An only-in-chile-country taste experience: pure chile flavor in which to dip warm, just-made chips."
Michael Stern


Lourdes Pearson gets her chiles each fall from La Union, New Mexico. Here one is stuffed with cheese, battered and deep-fried.
"Lourdes Pearson gets her chiles each fall from La Union, New Mexico. Here one is stuffed with cheese, battered and deep-fried."
Michael Stern


In the middle of nowhere, a large portion of Roadfood heaven
"In the middle of nowhere, a large portion of Roadfood heaven"
Michael Stern



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