Monday, June 15, 2009

El Camino Real

I can't tell if my take on El Camino Real is about really digging what's going on in Northern Liberties right now or about the restaurant. Because I have to tell you, the service was bad. Like hipster-slacker-mean bad. Yet somehow, I remained perfectly content there, looking out the window, taking in the scene, and even enjoying some of the dishes.

Having to pay for chips and salsa was enough of a deterrent to keep us away. Actually, the appetizer options are interesting enough that it didn't even occur to me to order them. The "barbecue mixer" app, which allows for a choice of three barbecue tastes was good; we went with brisket, short rib and seitan. Pretty tasty.

The menu is divided into "Mexico" and "Texas," ripe for some tough decision making. A plain old margarita (rocks, no salt) made the process a lot easier. As did an option of a "mixed tasting" platter of half of three burritos (yes it was a lot and yes the leftovers tasted good the next day). Of my carnitas, fish, and shrimp choices, the fish stood out as the surprise winner, the others being predictable bordering on bland. The fish was delicious and will be my choice as a stand-alone option, served with cilantro and lime.

MCRF, who has recently gone mostly vegetarian, had a lot of options from which to choose. El Camino offers many faux meat barbecue items, like wings, and plenty of grilled seitan - even in chiles rellenos. Bowing to a craving for onion rings, El Camino Real offered these delicious ones. Although it doesn't make a huge amount of sense to me for these to be on the menu, I didn't complain.

We managed to resist dessert, thanks to the call of a lovely candy and ice cream store just down the walk. And I managed to forget the rudeness of our servers and the unnecessary 45 minutes we waited from the time we were seated to when we actually received any food. If you go prepared to tolerate the debacle that passes as service there, the food actually isn't half bad. And really, you just can't beat the scene that Northern Liberties has become.

El Camino Real is located at 1040 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, Pa,

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