Despite being three blocks from our home, my husband and I never cared much for the old incarnation of El Camino. They billed themselves as “SoCal Mexican.” Spoiler alert: NO. Also spoiler alert: OVERPRICED. And super spoiler alert: Their tres leches cake was TERRIBLE. I don’t think they had even dos leches, let alone tres.
So when El Camino reopened recently and I saw that they were maintaining the same menu, I was very skeptical. Wouldn’t you need to redesign the menu when the place is under new ownership?
We started with happy hour margaritas. I wanted the watermelon margarita but $6 was too good to pass up, so we each ordered one (they were boozy) and scarfed down some fresh, hot chips.
We ordered the ceviche de pescado. The menu was literally just inherited from the old restaurant, so it had the descriptions of the fancy-pants, trying-too-hard, not-actually-SoCal-Mexican dishes they previously served. When the ceviche arrived, it was clear that it was not the same because it didn’t contain sweet potato like in the description (thank god).
It was a limey, spicy, fresh, and refreshing appetizer, and rather large at that. Your standard ceviche, in the best possible way. You know, real, actual Mexican food, not some colonialist bullshit.
I ordered two tacos: pollo tinga and al pastor, and my husband got the carne asada plate because…macros.
Taco time! The al pastor was super delicious with its juicy meat and juicy pineapple. Double juicy! The tinga was…okay. The sauce was thin and weak.
The carne asada was huge and actually rare. I don’t know how it’s possible to cook a skirt steak to rare, but it was slightly underdone for my husband’s tastes, although I found it perfectly cuttable and edible. Traditional accompaniments.
It had become clear that El Camino had been taken over by real-life Latino chefs, a suspicion that I confirmed with the bartenders (the new owner/chef is Salvadoran). We ordered a shot of a new mezcal (they have four) and the tres leches cake. Come on, El Camino. Show me you’ve changed.
In this picture: real, actual, soaking wet, cream-topped tres leches with milk aaaaaaaaaall over the plate. Not some dry-ass yellow piece of crap with crushed pineapple on top. This was in the top five pieces of tres leches that I’ve eaten in a restaurant. For perspective, I’ve eaten a lot of tres leches.
We talked to the owner/chef at the end of the meal to give him our regards and he was very grateful and receptive. I hope that they will find their own style and give up trying to mimic pretentious white people food and just make authentic Central American food (more pupusas, please–Bloomingdale needs a pupusería!)
Price: $40 per person, including a solid buzz.
Bottom line: Finally, we have the Mexican food we deserve instead of the food equivalent of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Still slightly overpriced but at least now it’s good.