Instead of telling you what my party ordered, it might be more effective to tell you what we did NOT order. Honestly, every item on the menu appealed to us.
Alas, I am getting ahead of myself. I have yet to tell you my boring backstory.
So…it’s my birthweek and my actual birthday. My sweet husband suggested we try El Camino and invite another couple to join us. Food and socializing? And margaritas? I am totally there!
We had noticed El Camino the weekend they opened (when I first tasted the sinful breadsticks at Impellizari’s…OMG…butter….bliss). We were going to change our plans and go to El Camino instead because the torches and fire pits on the patio looked so inviting and fun, but it was a soft-open, invitation only. The warm weather was just beginning to wane and we didn’t have an opportunity to go back before the polar vortex took over.
As a couple, our favorite cuisine is Mexican and we eat some form of it weekly. Traditional Mexican, Tex-Mex, Baja, Fancy Mex,
or even Qdoba. We have finally mastered a tasty carnita recipe, a tomatillo salsa, guacamole, and a version of Mexican rice. Considering how much we love Mexican food and our skill level in the kitchen, it is surprising that we aren’t very good with that style of food. My husband does make a killer margarita, though. I said all that to explain that we are forced to go out for our Mexican fix and we haven’t found a place in Louisville we really love. I would appreciate your suggestions!
WARNING: I’m going off on a tangent. El Nopal is like the McDonald’s of Mexican to me. Sure they have killer salsa (i.e. killer fries) but I want great entrees too, not those fake soybean burgers. The fish tacos at El Mundo are, in my opinion, their best offering, but I want variety. We were obsessed with Senior Iguanas long enough to gain ten pounds but when the entire staff changed it was never the same again. I could go on, but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say, we are looking for a home.
Speaking of my husband’s margaritas, there were margaritas all around at El Camino and they were very good. Pricey, but good. We sampled the chips and dips (chips and mucho guac) consisting of a traditional salsa, a tomatillo salsa, a guajillo salsa, pickled veggies, and guacamole. The chips were wonderful. They have to be fresh-fried tortillas…thicker than the usual chip. They arrive at your table in a folded-over paper bag, sack lunch size. The pickled veggies were loaded with jalapenos, the guacamole had great texture and plenty of cilantro, the traditional salsa had nice heat and great flavor, the verde and guajillo salsas were also good. There are plenty of places where you can get a taco with complimentary chips and salsa, but this selection was worth the $7 we paid. (Unlike the store-bought chips and lackluster salsa you have to pay for at El Mundo.)
We tried to order the crab/corn thingy (esquites con jaiba) but they were out of crab. I think that really means someone forgot to buy the crab, but since it was the only misstep of the night I can get past it. Instead of the corn/crab, we ordered the queso fundido for $8. It was served in a small cast iron skillet which made for a fun presentation indeed-o. (I crack me up.) The guys were so in love with this item that we girls only got to dip one chip into it. Gooey, cheesy goodness.
After studying the menu on-line, I had already decided that I would order a couple different tacos. I love it when there are “small plates” so I can sample a lot of things without exploding. There was a shrimp torta on the menu that sounded great to me and our knowledgeable server explained that any of the tortas could be conveted into three tacos, but three tacos would mean I could only eat that one dish. Maybe next time, camarones.
I ordered a mahi mahi taco and a kale/black bean taco. And my husband threw in a tamale for good measure. The others in our party ordered combinations of mahi, battered cod, and pork tacos. My husband practically inhaled his pork taco…so fast that I could not insist on taking a bite. Drat!
We interrupt this review to bring you a public service announcement: beware of the low individual item prices. A taco will set you back only about three bucks. Other appetizers, sides, and salads are inexpensive. It makes you want to order lots of things. Based on my experience as an accountant I can tell you that lots of little amounts can add up to a rather large amount. I have no problem with the pricing at El Camino. Item by item, the prices appear very fair. It’s just easy to get carried away so don’t be shocked at your total bill.
My tacos were delicious. Starting with the corn tortilla, I was in love. The tacos are stuffed so full it was a bit of a challenge to get all the ingredients into your mouth, but it was worth the effort. I absolutely loved the kale/black bean taco. The kale is tender, the black beans creamy and the slight bite of the cheese is a winning combination. The mahi taco was good but overshadowed by my other choice. (The flavor of the charred avocado tomatillo did not come through for me.)
The tamale was delicate in texture and melted in your mouth. The toppings of onion and cilantro gave it a flavor kick. Generally, I like that they aren’t afraid to add some heat to the food here. (Have you noticed that the little peppers next to the Chinese menu items are supposed to signify hot and spicy but none of those dishes are truly spicy when you get them? Really? Me, too! I hate that. False advertising.)
We were seated by one of the garage-door windows and it was somewhat drafty and cold. Solution: drink more margaritas. Seriously, when the weather gets warm that table is prime Louisville real estate, right next to the patio seating where I WILL BE. I am already thinking about my next visit: ceviche, kale/black bean taco and a pork taco. Third visit: the shrimp torta turned tacos. Fourth visit: well, you get the point. El Camino will be my go-to Mexican fix all summer long.
I give El Camino 4 out of 5 and an earnest recommendation. Ole!
1314 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204