Ankara's El Paso: Where comfort food becomes nouvelle Turkish
If going back to a particular café or restaurant time and again is your thing, you might feel tempted to add an alternative to your existing Top 10 -- unless of course you have been there already.
Ankara's El Paso -- not just one, not just two but one of the three branches of this ever popular locale -- could very well become your new favorite.
Operating three outlets has not resulted in negative uniformity. The three branches join as one and show that the management's foresight and increasing number of customers made expansion possible and quite logical.
What I like about El Paso besides its simply great food and superb selection of beverages is that the place changes its atmosphere according to the time of day (or night). Lunchtime is a somewhat quiet affair, with businesswomen and men in the majority. Afternoons are solidly in the hands of university students, whereas late afternoons and evenings attract once again a more mature crowd.
The décor resembles an English club more than a pub, although El Paso is actually both, heavy leather sofas and armchairs included. No need to eat unless you really feel like it -- many locals just “stop by” for a tea, coffee or drink while standing at the bar and having a quick chat with staff and fellow patrons before continuing on their way or with their daily errands. The music is piped in, and there's a DJ some nights. There may be live football shown on a large screen on important match-days, but even then it remains first and foremost a place to eat and drink where you will at the same time find the space and quiet to talk, relax and, of course, to work -- free wireless as has become industry standard all over!
Fish, meat, vegetarian, pizza -- El Paso has got it all
El Paso's major raison d'être, of course, is food, and food is a real treat here. It takes time to navigate their extensive menu, and many return visits to make the most out of it. I must admit when I first came here I was being lured by recommendations of where to have what many would call the capital's best pizza. Progressing over time (i.e., trying other dishes) and not only visiting alone but with colleagues both Turkish and foreign, too, I began to appreciate the diversity of the menu and the presentation, a feast for the eye indeed. If you like a lighter meal, why not try El Paso Soup, a house special followed by a freshly prepared larger than average sized bowl of salad? Alternatively, opt for fillet of beef. Side dishes can be substituted without El Paso's friendly staff raising as much as an eyebrow.
Food for thought
I feel even more comfortable in their indoors sections since the smoking ban kicked in a few years ago, but that is of course a matter of personal choice. It has, however, helped to portray El Paso as a family friendly restaurant, especially if visiting for lunch or during early afternoons. It is one of the places I have come to appreciate in the Turkish capital that has neither changed management nor its very high quality standards for the best part of an entire decade. Highly recommended!
Selected items from the menu
Starters: El Paso soup, TL 7; salads: TL 14; pizza TL 17-20; mains TL 20+ (including fillet of beef, salmon); sweets: TL 9. El Paso is famous for their cheesecake -- not the ones resembling plastic or made with any untoward ingredients but “real” cheesecake, beautifully presented on real china, too.
Drinks: soft drinks, alcoholic beverages (for example, wine by the glass TL 9, cocktails), tea, Turkish coffee. Average meal for two not during promotional hours, including either starter or sweet and entrée plus a drink each plus coffees: TL 70-80.
Where and when
Bahçelievler, 2. Cadde No. 31/B (Tel.:  222 55 71); Bahçelievler, 3. Cadde No. 12/A (Tel.:  222 00 49); Kızılay (main shopping district) Karanfil Sok. No. 48 (Tel.:  417 59 06). Opening hours: noon until midnight. Promotional offers during certain times, please inquire before ordering. No website as of yet.