Van Horn is a small town that feels sort of stuck in time. That’s probably because it happens to be the last stop in the central time zone for Texans travelling west on Interstate 10, but before you head into the past or back to the future, you’ll want to take the time to stop and get some darn good Mexican food at Mom’s Kitchen. Despite the fact owner Maggie Espinoza is not a professional chef, the food there is as delicious as it is authentic.
Maggie’s been cooking Tex-Mex meals since she was little girl but she took a completely different career path as a hairdresser for most of her life. After 40 years of lobbing locks, her hands had had enough, and she knew she had to make a major lifestyle change. “I had carpal tunnel on my hand. So I went to the doctor and she said, that’s it. 40 years is more than people do hairdressing,” she explained. “Was it hard for you to have to give up hairdressing?”, I asked. “Oh yes”, she replied. “It was heartbreaking for me … [but] this is something new… and I love it”.
Before she dove headfirst into serving her delicious dishes, Maggie and her husband Oscar decided that after nearly five decades of marriage, it was about time they traveled the world together. So, they did just that. The couple jetted to Italy, France, Switzerland, and Austria, to name a few of their destinations, and along the way Oscar picked up a quirky habit. Everywhere they went, he would pick up a coffee cup. Now proudly displayed in her restaurant, to the delight of Oscar, Maggie never really warmed up to the idea of the coffee cups. But now she has one that’s close to her heart. “[The] one from Paris”, she said, explaining that it was a dream come true to go there. And, like the proud Texan she is, the cup from Oklahoma is her least favorite of the entire collection.
Eventually, Maggie got tired of being away from home and decided she wanted to be home with the armadillo, so she and Oscar happily moseyed back to their hometown to start a new chapter of life. When we asked Oscar if he would rather still be trekking the globe, he assured us, “It’s better seeing Maggie happy”. So now they run Mom’s Kitchen together with daughter, Betty, at their side.
Mom’s is well-known in these parts for their Mexican food, so we had Maggie make us one of her trademark combo specials. And let me tell you, she really put all her love into this one. It featured her red and green enchiladas, a crunchy taco, a scrumptious side of rice and beans, and a generous helping of their homemade salsa. “I dedicate myself to doing things the right way because … I go to places and I think, nope, this is not right”, Maggie said proudly. And I can attest, this is truly Mexican food done right.
The taco alone proved how the flavors across the Lone Star State are completely different, and the green sauce had a good combination of the regional flavors local to this area in West Texas. With a little bit of that green chili flavor from New Mexico, a little bit of Tex-Mex from the state, and then a hint of El Paso flare to it. The red enchilada was right up to par as well, made with cheese, a corn tortilla, and their own home-made red sauce.
Whether you’re driving two hours to El Paso or six hours to San Antonio, Mom’s in Van Horn is the perfect stop because this will fuel you up for the drive. “You’d be surprised how many people come off the interstate and find this little place”, Maggie bragged. With food this good, it’s easy to understand why.