WALK INTO THE El Camino Inn downtown on S. Fourth St. and you’ll be stepping back in time, yet stepping forward into a well-sated appetite and exceptional eating experience. You’ll hear vintage tunes flowing from a genuine turntable. Yes, kids, this is spinning vinyl – as in needle-on-the-record without the “Wikki-Wikki” rap stuff. Nowhere else has a server taking our order ever asked, “Do you mind just a second while I flip to side two?” (Yes, we mean the record.) The atmosphere is simplistic and reminiscent of I Dream of Jeanie meets Gunfight at the OK Corral. There are trippy lights, a simple chalkboard drink menu, a large sailfish over the bar, and an old 7-Up sign menu with pop-in letters.
This is a seat-yourself kind of place, but it’s comfy. The staff is extremely polite, yet real. Become a regular, show some personality, and they’ll become “fun-snarky.” They are allowed to be themselves. It’s also one of the reasons you won’t find us ever recommending the generic chains where your experience begins with the ever-predictable, “Hellomynameis _________ (insert trendy Abercrombie model name) andI’llbetakingcareofyouthisevening. CanIstartyououtwithsomethingtodrinzzllzzll?” We’ve all heard it too many times: the greeting that all drones together as one word, and then trails into monotonous drivel. You’ll find none of that blandness at El Camino. They are real people with real personalities; it is very refreshing.
The menu seems limited at first, but get creative if you want. They’re eager to let you have it the way you like it. The chips and salsa are a must, and so is the guacamole. Get the large. You’ll want it for your chips and to add to your meal. Heck, you might want some for who-knows-what later. The tomatillo salsa is amazing. There’s also a habanero-infused, spicy green salsa. It’ll help greatly if you need an excuse to drink your margarita faster. (But please drink responsibly. Besides, this stuff is too good to chug.)
Speaking of, do order a pitcher of the made-from-scratch margaritas. There is no pre-mix going into these, so be prepared to have your #tastebuds titillated. We’re thinking the magic is in that bottle of brown gooey goodness you see them squeezing. That, plus the choice booze. It’s just an absolute winner.
The food is quick, but not fast. The delivery time allows perfect amount of time to chow down on your delicious and house-made chips (with the aforementioned salsa and guacamole, of course.) When you do get your entrée, don’t be fooled. It may look like your normal, inexpensive Mexican food, but it is definitely not. Everything is fresh—meats, veggies, salsas. It is just the way we would make at home if we had the skill to do so. Only we don’t. (At least not like this.)
All-in-all, El Camino Inn is a wonderful experience that is very reasonably priced. You may see us there, bellied up to the bar, with our faces in the guacamole (Yes, it has happened!), and chasing it all with a margarita or three! Since the #tastebuds have two hands each and four thumbs between us, we give El Camino Inn -- Four Guacamole-Covered Thumbs Up and a ¡Salud!