El Camino’s takes some of the Mexican pop-cultural vibe and plants it firmly on Main Street. The Latin American street food influenced menu features a variety of familiar mainstays like tapas, tacos and empanadas then venturing into less familiar territory with arepas (stuffed white corn pockets), bocadillos (Mexican style sub sandwich), and antojitos (side dishes).
Inside, the modest space is packed like a can of hot sardines. The din of the dining room was deafening and appeared to amplify as the evening wore on; Case and I found we had to shout at each other to be heard. We were seated by our hostess and was brought water from someone we assumed was our server, but ended up waiting 10 minutes before flagging down someone behind the bar for some menus.
Case started with the house Mojito: Cuban rum muddled with fresh mint, lime, cane sugar and served over crushed ice with a dash soda — a refreshing taste of the Caribbean while I coddled an ice cold draught of Main Street Pilsner. A bowl of complimentary popcorn arrived shortly after: nicely seasoned with salt, butter and a squeeze of lime.
After 25 minutes, the popcorn bowl disintegrated to a few popcorn seeds and crumbs before our first dish arrived. The Chickpea Fritas were oversized, kit-kat shaped fritters: deep fried, crunchy and earthy, complimented by a smoky paprika aioli.
Next, the Arepas: a South American street snack of white corn pocket stuffed with (for us) sauteed prawns, then the pocket grilled until crispy on the outside and drizzled with paprika aioli and garnished with arugula.
We finished our meal with Pastel des Très Leches: a fluffy spongecake drenched with three types of milk, sweetened by maple Chantilly with a slight crunch provided by the crushed pecan praline.
Our meal was just under $42 with taxes and tips. However, since nobody identified themselves as our server, we didn’t know if we were tipping the hostess, the two random servers that brought our food, or the bartender that took our order then disappeared. We think the food is worth giving another shot, but nearly two hours later, the slow and inconsistent service noticeably devolved to a slightly disappointing experience.
— ♠ —