Hop In The El Camino

(Staff Photo: Richard Davis) El Camino Real's salsa is an explosion of mouth happy deliciousness. And the green salsa? Even better!

By Rachel Birdsell
TFW Contributing Writer

El Camino Real
815 S. School Ave.

Preamble Ramble

A reader sent an e-mail suggesting I try El Camino Real. For this review, he will be known as The Most Mighty and Excellent Reader.
The Most Mighty and Excellent Reader spoke very highly of the restaurant, and I could have just copied and pasted his e-mail as my review of the place. But I didn’t think that’d be very fair to him, and I sure wasn’t about to give him the banana that I’m paid to write this column.

Food for Thought

I had trouble deciding what I wanted to eat because there was so much on the menu that sounded good. I went for the chile relleno and chicken enchilada combo, which was served with beans and rice.
As per the usual at any Mexican restaurant, salsa and chips and placed in front of you approximately 24 seconds after you are seated. At El Camino Real, they bring out their standard red salsa which is salty and sweet. It’s very good and is fresh, but if you want something a little spicier, you have to ask for the green salsa. It is a blend of tomatillos, jalapenos and cilantro and is delicious. The cilantro gives it a bit of a kick, which rounds out the flavor of the tomatillos. I may or may not have eaten this salsa directly out of the bowl with a spoon, and may or may not have received some strange looks for doing so.
The chile relleno was super cheesy. I would suggest that if you’re sitting across from someone who you’d rather not see you with cheese strung all over your chin, you order something else. I figured that since I was alone and had already received a couple of sideways glances for eating salsa with a spoon, having cheese all over my face wouldn’t faze my fellow diners. The cheese is pretty mild, so it doesn’t detract from the taste of the pepper, and it was cooked perfectly.
When I cut into my white sauce-smothered chicken enchilada, the first thing I noticed about it was that there was chicken in it. Real chicken. Not chicken from a can. Real, cut up chicken breasts. And the enchilada was completely stuffed with the real, not-from-a can chicken. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had chicken enchiladas that were skimpy on the chicken and what chicken was in there tasted like it should have been fed to a cat. Thank you El Camino Real for not making your enchiladas out of cat food.
The Most Mighty and Excellent Reader also suggested I stir a little of the green salsa into my beans, so I did, because I will eat anything you guys tell me to — as long as it’s not something I don’t want to eat. I’ve never been a big fan of the ever-present beans and rice served at Mexican restaurants, but beans with green salsa in it?  Totally awesome. I’m not sure what El Camino Real seasons their beans with, but when you put it with the salsa, it’s like a tiny, little mariachi band is playing in your mouth.
I only had a taste of the rice. It was pretty much like rice you get from any other Mexican restaurant, but I’ll never eat plain beans again.

Bottoms Up

I had water with lemon as my drink du jour, but El Camino Real has a handful of wines, domestic and imported beer, margaritas and other mixed drinks.

The Sporkcast
(1-5 sporks)

Atmosphere: 3.7 green, white and red sporks with lighted handles
I think the atmosphere can best be described as “random.” I love the tile floors and brick walls, but the 1985 glass chandeliers would be better suited to a restaurant located in a double wide trailer that happens to be in 1985. There are a lot of green plants, and I think that at least the majority of them are real.
The one thing I absolutely hated about the atmosphere was the table of guys next to me who were discussing sports — loudly and without the benefit of alcohol, so I couldn’t even give them the excuse of being drunk. They were just loud and had the blond one uttered the word “threepeat” one more time, I was going to scream mean things at him. And possibly poke him in the eye.
Food: 4.5 genuine, not-from-a-can sporks.

This was some of the best Mexican food I’ve had in town. And I swear they had it to my table in less than three minutes. I’m not exaggerating. It was crazy fast. I’m not sure how they get food that good to the table that fast unless they have some type of time machine in the kitchen. Or maybe one of the employees is a mind reader and knew what I was going to order before I did.
Staff: 4.75 sporks with ruffled aprons tied around them.

The owners and staff were awesome. They were very accommodating and did their best to make sure I was taken care of.
Dollars spent: Are you sure you’re ready for this? If I haven’t convinced you that El Camino Real is worth the trip, the price will. I spent six bucks and some change for my combo dinner. Their combo’s are $5.75 for a two entrée combo and $7.25 for a 3 entrée combo. These are what you pay for crappy fast food combos, people, not for really good meals.

Chance of returning:
I will make it a point to visit El Camino Real way more often than I have lately. Where else can I get a meal for fast food prices and served with fast food speed without the impending feeling of doom you get after eating fast food? I sincerely thank The Most Mighty and Excellent Reader for steering me back to El Camino Real.

Categories: Legacy Archive
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