When I think of Rulis’ International Kitchen, I always picture Chef Ruli and I having a conversation about what “a great little gourmet dive” it is. His enthusiasm towards providing a multi-cultural culinary experience and his passion for food has set him apart from mainstream restaurants around town. One key element to this equation has been the type of beer he offers patrons to pair with their tasty cuisine. For eight years now, he’s hosted beer dinners and tap takeovers by breweries like Stone Brewing and Real Ale Brewing. We tip our hat to Chef Ruli as he’s helped push forward the craft beer movement in El Paso. We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his food and the emergence of the craft beer culture.
I’ve spoken to a few people and they mention Ruli’s International Kitchen as being one of the first places to introduce craft beer to El Paso. Is this true?
I was one of the first to re-introduce it to El Paso. Hemingway’s (now closed) was the first place in town were you could find craft beer. That was back in the early 90s.
How were you introduced to craft beer?
I started drinking imported beer first and got introduced to craft at Hemingway’s. I remember drinking Rogue, Sierra Nevada, and Red Hook back then.
The El Paso market has been dominated by corporate brands, was it a gamble to offer an alternative beer in your restaurant?
The real gamble was offering food and ambiance that El Paso was not used to. To me, food and beer simply belong together, so craft beer has always played a part in the overall experience at the restaurant. I opened because I felt El Paso was ready for something new, and 8 years later, I’m glad I was right.
Opening up your taste buds to new flavors is exciting and expands your palate.
Why is it important to offer craft beer?
It’s important to offer craft because it adds value to your dining experience. Opening up your taste buds to new flavors is exciting and expands your palate. It also helps the smaller breweries to get their story out there: and there are great stories out there!
What is your favorite beer, why?
That answer depends on the weather, what I’m eating, or what mood I’m in. But lately, I’ve been into the Gose style. It’s an old German style that is brewed with wheat and salt. Modern interpretations include different types of citrus. My favorite of those is Anderson Valley’s Blood Orange Gose from California. It’s tart and thirst quenching!
I refer to my restaurant as “just a great little gourmet dive” because I want my guests to enjoy great quality food without the fuss.
How does craft beer you offer compliment your food?
Craft and food belong together. Pairing a great beer with your meal elevates both the beer and the dish. Certain flavors in food get brought out by the beer and vice versa. To put it crudely, it’s a party in your mouth!
Tell me a little about your food?
My style is heavily influenced by all the cultures that have come through and live in El Paso. I take Native American, Spanish, Western, Chinese, Mexican, and Middle Eastern cuisines and I fuse them together. It’s my interpretation of everything I saw and ate growing up in El Paso. A modern take on comfort food, if you will. I refer to my restaurant as “just a great little gourmet dive” because I want my guests to enjoy great quality food without the fuss. You shouldn’t have to dress up to enjoy awesome food.
Anything else you want to add?
I just want to say how excited and happy I am to see more restaurateurs taking chances on different food. The variety that El Paso has to offer is night and day compared to 10 years ago. The food scene is growing and now the movement is shifting towards more locally grown ingredients. This shift is helping our farmers, our economy and our environment and it feels great to be a part of that change.
Text & Photos: Alex Durán