Sunday, 30 March 2014

EL CAMINO - not your regular neighbourhood spot

Rachel reviews Ottawa's trendiest taqueria

March 29, 2014

Ok I am going to tell you a secret: I didn't want to like this place. The hoopla I've heard about wait times, texting to say your table is ready (ode to modernity) and the nouveau Elgin hipster crowd made me doubtful.

But a girlfriend and I decided to take the plunge. And ooooooooh did I fall....

We arrived just before 6:30 on Saturday night to an already 45-min wait line and a crowd milling outside waiting for their take out orders (this will be tip number 1 later on). No problem we said, a cold beer is waiting for us patiently two doors down at the Manx. And yes, it's true, they say they'll text you when your table is ready. This is much more agreeable in reality than I thought it would be, I must admit.

After an hour, we decided to head back of our own volition to find we had to elbow our way through throngs of hungry hungry hipsters (wasn't that an 80s kids game??) to wait another 15 min before being seated next to the door. By this point, it could have been minus 30 and I still would have taken the table. We watched throughout our meal as people were told how long the wait would be, even up to 9:30 when the host told two customers it would be a THREE-HOUR wait. I laughed out loud... we're not in Spain.

Now, here comes the biggest however ever: the food is amazing. Hands down without a doubt worth the wait before during and after your meal. Our server was cute, yes. But we waited 10-15 minutes before she came over to take our drink order... good thing we weren't in a rush.

The "not tacos" portion of the menu is actually much more interesting. Prawn stuffed betel leafs that are a deep-friend mouthwatering version of mint tea. Pork belly served with mango slaw, peanuts, and some mystery sauce... and I never go for pork belly.

The tacos were really quite good. The beef was pulled and a reasonably moderate portion. If you had shared a starter you could eat easily two or three. The fish tacos are a bit bigger, and because it's battered, a tad heavier, but oh so worth it. 

The kicker?? And the point when I understood why there was such a demand: the whole bill with 4 beers, 3 starters and 2 tacos, including tax was 60 dollars. Whaaaaat? We walked out of there as smug as the lady from the Ikea commercial. El Camino for the win.

Rating (tips): get take out. The food would be just as good and you're not missing out on much else... If you really want to sit and eat: arrive before 6 and don't sit by the door.


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