Little Diner

Chili Parlor | Diner | Mexican | Southwestern | Tex-Mex
Memorable
One of the best
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Outside 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.”

What to Eat
Little Diner, Flautas (4)
Flautas (4)
Must-Try
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.
Little Diner, Gorditas
Gorditas
Must-Try
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.
Little Diner, Tortilla Chips
Tortilla Chips
Must-Try
An only-in-chile-country taste experience: pure chile flavor in which to dip warm, just-made chips.
Little Diner, Chile Relleno
Chile Relleno
Must-Try
Lourdes Pearson gets her chiles each fall from La Union, New Mexico. Here one is stuffed with cheese, battered and deep-fried.
Little Diner, Green Chili
Green Chili
Must-Try
Green chile, made with chunks of pork is a stew that also contains potatoes and onion.
Little Diner, Red Chile
Red Chile
Must-Try
A bowl of Texas-style chile con carne: meat and chile, nothing else.
Little Diner, Tamales
Tamales
Must-Try
Directions and Hours
closed now
Sunday11am - 8pm
Monday11am - 8pm
Tuesday11am - 8pm
Wednesday11pm - 8pm
ThursdayCLOSED
Friday11am - 8pm
Saturday11am - 8pm
Roadtrips
This restaurant is featured in the following eating tours.
5 stops | 76 MILES | 1 hr 40 min

The Mesilla Valley in southern New Mexico is chile central, where the best are grown and where the hot pod is enjoyed at every meal. If you want to savor the state's official co-vegetable (with the pinto bean) at its finest, check out this all-chile itinerary. Have breakfast at Nellie's, where the motto is "A…

13 stops | 347 MILES | 5 hr 56 min

The Royal Road

One of the most delicious American Byways is El Camino Real ("The Royal Road") through New Mexico. In addition to spectacular natural beauty, travelers will encounter all kinds of opportunities to savor one of the nation's most distinctive regional cuisines, much of which is based around the state's two official co-vegetables: the…

Information
Price
$$
Seasons
Open Year Round
Meals Served
Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Yes
Alcohol Served
Yes
Outdoor Seating
No
Website

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