Sausage? Fah-goetta-boutit.

Cincinnati Bites
Banh Mi from Pho Lang Thang

Posted Monday, March 14, 2016

When the popular Mount Lookout breakfast and brunch restaurant Annabel's closed up shop last year and owner Annabel Stolley retired, two former BrewRiver GastroPub employees decided it was time to take the space and fulfill their lifelong dream of opening El Camino, a Latin American restaurant emphasizing the best of the culture's street food.

el camino tacos Tacos and Tostones

Owners Sean Morgan and Chef Brad Johnson offer a cozy, divey nook of an eatery that's able to squeeze in about 25 people. And while the place is often quite busy juggling both dine-in and takeout orders until the wee hours of the morning, its seat turnover rate is quick enough that diners shouldn't be too concerned about having to wait too long for a spare table.

We arrived on a Sunday evening and noted several seats available. A menu board above the counter displays El Camino's more stable menu items, while supplemental chalk boards behind the counter highlight the daily specials. The regular menu includes a number of sides, tapas, bocadillos (sandwiches) and tacos. Notable items are the Cubano, with braised pork shoulder, thin-sliced ham, Swiss cheese and house-made mustard and pickles on crispy, pressed, Sixteen Bricks bread; pulled pork, "El Jefe" tacos topped with pickled tomatoes, caramelized onions, sweet corn salsa and cilantro; and Caribbean-style empanadas.

Ordering at the counter, my girlfriend chose one of the daily specials: three Ropa Vieja tacos ($9.75), braised beef topped with seasoned black beans, sweet plantain fries, cilantro and drizzled with sour cream. I chose the El Jefe tacos ($9.75) along with a side of the tostones from the daily special menu ($4.75). Tostones are twice-fried, thin slices of crispy plantains served with a side of garlic mayo ketchup.

el camino tacos El Jefe taco
Ropa Vieja taco Ropa Vieja taco

The food arrived fairly quickly given how busy the place was, and I was pleased to see the workers keeping close watch on diners' water glasses, ensuring they were ever filled. When the tacos arrived, I was initially disappointed that they'd employed flour tortillas instead of corn, but given the saucy, juicy nature of the ingredients, it ultimately proved a wise choice: corn tortillas would never maintain their structural integrity under such conditions.

The El Jefe tacos were a celebration of rich, pork flavor, the meat's richness elevated with a smart, acidic pairing of delightfully tangy pickled cherry tomatoes. The surprise hit of the evening, however, was my girlfriend's Ropa Vieja tacos. The richly complex flavor of the braised beef offered deep, dark chocolate notes. The wisps of plaintain added another layer of heartiness to the tacos, cut nicely by the refreshing hit of sour cream.

The tostones were crispy, hot and pleasantly seasoned, starchy morsels of goodness amped up when dipped into the mildy spiced garlic mayo ketchup sauce.

We were quite pleased with our first El Camino experience and look forward to our next street food fix.

El Camino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
El Camino

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.0 out of 43.0 stars

Other Recent Reviews

  1. Seitan Worship: Losantivill3
    -posted Wednesday, March 7, 2018
  2. Chinese Impressions: Kung Food Chu's AmerAsia
    -posted Monday, February 26, 2018
  3. Bow to the Hoagie: Italianette Pizza
    -posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018
  4. Dinner Impressions: Envision Cinemas Bar & Grill
    -posted Tuesday, January 16, 2018
  5. A Taste of Hawaii: Poke Hut
    -posted Thursday, January 4, 2018
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From TJ Jackson about Bourbon Smokehouse:
    Best pulled pork in town: webbs bbq in Newport, open ONLY on Fridays. and cheap.
    posted: Thu., Feb 1st, 2018 @ 12:39 PM
  • From Natasia Malaihollo about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thank you for the review and background on the restaurant history! I was a huge fan of huit and super disappointed when they “closed.” Was wondering what’s going on with this musical chairs of a restaurant strategy so thank you for clarifying!
    posted: Fri., Jan 26th, 2018 @ 6:50 PM
  • From Jeff about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for the thorough review! It honestly does seem like a new restaurant is opening every other day..but the thing about the wait staff..they might be getting paid a higher hourly rate because they are only open for lunch. I’ve worked at a restaurant where I was paid $10 an hour but the owner kept the tips, it sucked but sort of made sense for the lunch shift.
    posted: Fri., Dec 22nd, 2017 @ 9:00 PM
  • From heather about Wild Eggs:
    we liked it too - things are fresh and made from scratch and high quality - good experiences all around
    posted: Wed., Dec 20th, 2017 @ 10:55 AM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for writing, Heather. I definitely like their other restaurants. Lalo's pazole and fish taco are better than Mazunte's, I think. But I agree they are definitely hit-or-miss. I'm still rooting for them, though. There's talent there. :)

    posted: Mon., Nov 20th, 2017 @ 1:30 PM
  • From Heather JOhnson about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    I tried Huit & Lalo and they were both expensive and so mixed - one thing great - another thing barely mediocre. More of the same it sounds like - hits and misses for a really expensive lunch. Nope on Dope.
    posted: Sun., Nov 19th, 2017 @ 12:41 PM
  • From TJ Jackson about Udupi Cafe:
    I do not know if it is truly a match for the product you remember, but Frostop Root Beer is sold at Jungle Jims and is a personal favorite of mine.
    posted: Fri., Sep 29th, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
  • From Jones about Haru Korean Restaurant:
    As a long time reader, I found this review to be one of your loveliest and most enthusiastically vivid. I can't wait to try this place!
    posted: Tue., Aug 29th, 2017 @ 9:48 AM
  • From Jordan about Grand Central Delicatessen:
    posted: Sat., Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 12:16 PM
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design