Last Update
Oct 4th, 2019

El Camino

817 E Las Olas Blvd
Fort Lauderdale FL, 33301
954 530-1188
Overall Rating
2.9
Food
Service
Ambiance
Value
Last Review
10/01/2019

Details

Dress Code: Neat Casual
Parking: Street Metered
CC: Yes
Alcohol: Full Bar
HasWifi: Yes
Wifi password: tacos817
Outdoor: Yes

Pros

Handsome New Space
Lots of booths
Great Taco Tuesday Deal

Cons

Chips and Salsa are Extra
Lime Green Upholstery
No concept of Mexican Seasonings
Only Flavored Iced Tea

Critic's Review

Review of Taco Tuesday

Taco Tuesday has become like Happy Hour; a senseless thing that every restaurant feels compelled to do just because everyone else is doing it. Some of the deals aren't so good. Rocco's $14.99 all you can eat doesn't appeal to me; I don't want to eat 10 tacos. El Camino has a better deal; All tacos are $2. I decided to check it out.

I was concerned it might be crowded, I parked at 2:50pm. I drove down Las Olas first to get some photos and noticed that Rocco's was dead empty. So maybe it wouldn't be too bad.

Surprisingly, it wasn't any more crowded than any other day. I asked for a table and got a mini-booth.

There were more people ate the bar than usual; cheap tacos during the day are a bar thing. I guess if you don't get the rice and beans you don't need a table?

They only have flavored iced tea here; why I ask? I wasn't drinking and didn't want to just drink water, so I went with raspberry. Not my favorite thing.

One of my peeves about the place is that the tacos aren't a la carte normally; they come in threes. If you want 3 different tacos you have to pay extra. On Taco Tuesday, they're all $2 and you can get any combination you want. I ordered 5 different tacos.

Music is appropriately festive; "Tu Como Estas". Joe Arroyo. The tacos came out in 10 minutes.

The steak taco, aka "Carne Asada", is a tender offering with cheese and corn. The steak was very tender if not particularly flavorful.

I'm not a big fan of corn; not sure why 3 of these are worth $4 more than other choices.

The Chicken taco was very spicy; finally something more like Mexico than Peoria.

Not a lot of chicken in this taco, but a lot of flavor. That's the way it's supposed to be.

I'd had the brisket on my last visit, and this time it was no more flavorful. They have a new recipe; this had some sort of brown sauce on it, but it was still very bland and boring.

One thing they have improved is the soft taco shells. Single shells that hold together. It's more enjoyable eating tacos when they don't fall apart the first time you pick it up.

The carnita was particularly disappointing; this was the best taco I had on my last visit, and this didn't measure up.

The meat was bland; not as cheesy. It just seemed like a half-assed version.

Surprisingly, the fish taco was the loser in the bunch; at some of the other taco joints in town the fish taco is the only worthy choice. But this version was just terrible.

Loaded up with a "papaya slaw" and a foul "Chipotle Aioli", this little finger was inedible.

A word for Fort Lauderdale Restauranteurs:

Stop putting Chipotle flavoring into food. It tastes like crap.

Something to note was that the servers here were much better than before; fewer tattoo worshipers and more competent service. My server today was excellent. Of course cheaper food always makes one feel more generous; 5 tacos and an iced tea cost me $13.91; less than Rocco's All you can eat deal without the drink. I wouldn't have wanted more than 5 tacos.

Conclusion

I don't like the bar here but I like the dining room; at the regular prices the food isn't worth it but Taco Tuesday is the way to go. The food lacks authentic flavors and this is more a food with your booze kind of place; for $2 / Taco it's lunch on Las Olas at a reasonable price, which is very uncommon.

What's interesting is that the pros and cons from my first review are EXACTLY the same on this visit. A nice restaurant with consistent Americanized Mexican food. I give them a slight bump on the service.

Intermediate Musings

I dont' get the popularity of El Camino; I guess Tacos are big with the kids. They have a weak menu, and the bar is such a narrow, uncomfortable space.

Review 4/10/18

Time to try El Camino. El Camino is clearly a copy of the wildly successful Rocco's Tacos concept, and it's one of the better ones. I wasn't impressed with their Delray location, which established itself before Rocco's Tacos opened in Delray. Also, Delray is the home field for this ownership group; while Big City, Louie Bossies and Rocco's give the Rocco's ownership a better understanding of the Las Olas Reality.

I'm never quite sure if I can park on Las Olas; the city has removed all of the meters on the side roads where I used to park; so I ended up parking in the rear. The rear is painted just as offensively as the front; the mural work in Delray is much cooler than the flowered garb in Fort Lauderdale.

There's no rear entrance; there's an alleyway that's probably not so great at night.

The bar opens to the alley, and there are some seats in the alley which are kind of interesting. So if you don't want to go into the restaurant you can sit out here. Great for freeloaders; you can just take off down the alley and they'd have no chance of catching you.

The alley takes you to Las Olas; I asked the hostess for a table. They score a gold star for not trying to steer me to the bar. They did a nice job with the interior, except for the lime green upholstery.

The bar is surprisingly narrow relative to the space. The price to pay to get another row of tables in. No tables in the bar area at all; less room for Happy Hour, which is only at the bar.

They have the mini booths, so if you're flying solo you're not getting a big table. They even had groups of 2 at the mini booths, which is kind of tight in my view. It's barely enough room for 1 person.

Water is complimentary, but it's warm and served without ice. The bad restaurant tricks start early. I tried to order an iced tea, but they don't have regular iced tea; only 2 flavored tea choices. As a protest, I stuck with the water.

As for the menu, it's pretty lame. A chili relleno stuffed with something other than cheese (squash I think); I would have liked to try the empanada but there was nothing else I could get with it that I wanted. Tacos are only available as a platter (3 tacos, rice and beans), and I wasn't sure what the Combo was; Could I order 3 $14 tacos for $13? Apparently yes, but I decided on the combo with a Barbacoa (Brisket), Chorizo and the Carnitas. The pinto beans I had in Delray stunk, so I decided to try the refried beans. I just made a batch of refried black beans myself, and homemade refried beans can be supreme.

No free chips and salsa at El Camino. That's how you know it's not a real Mexican Restaurant.

While waiting I took a look around. The larger tables are elevated, which makes you feel like you're in a pit at the smaller tables.

The bar area is separated from the dining room, I wonder if it would be too cramped when it's crowded.

There was something wrong with my cell service (an unauthorized iphone update that required some sort of activation), so I got the wifi password, but I couldn't do much. A speed test showed me why.

Their wifi is badly broken. Music was clearly mexican, with "Once upon a Time in Mexico" followed by a cool Mexican version of Hotel California. I wonder if this stuff is rep'ed by ASCAP?

The tacos came out in 14 minutes.

At first glance it seemed I made some good choices, although the beans were way too smooth. Chunks, people, you want chunks.

The brisket looked pretty good; sadly the shell ripped the first time I tried to pick it up.

The brisket was pretty bland and dry. Not a lot of flavor.

The chorizo didn't really taste like any kind of Mexican chorizo I've had; in fact it didn't taste like chorizo at all.

The chorizo taco was a complete nothing burger.

The rice was completely flavorless; did they get the recipe from Rocco's? That black thing in the beans was a stone, yes a stone.

Picking stones out of beans is part of the process; when the stone is a different color it shouldn't be missed. The beans were trash. The canned stuff is better than this. These people don't know how to use seasonings.

The Carnita taco was by far the best, probably because of the fundito (melted cheese). Very messy, but with a good amount of flavor.

Interestingly, the taco was fried, so it was the only one that didn't fall apart as I was trying to eat it.

I found myself needing another napkin about 1/2 way through, but my server was nowhere to be found.

The provided hot sauce added some flavor to the brisket, but I'm not one who usually puts hot sauce on Mexican food. Properly cooked Mexican food shouldn't need hot sauce.

I had some trouble getting my check; the girl walked by me twice without even looking to see that I was done and waiting. I considered stiffing her, but I didn't.

$13.78 for 3 tacos and warm water and cold, unfriendly service.

Conclusion

El Camino is a bunch of Americans trying to capture the ambiance of Mexico without understanding the ambiance of Mexico (or perhaps mistaking the malls of Cancun for Mexican ambiance). Real Mexico doesn't have big fancy restaurants with bland food, nor are there tattooed Millenials serving you.
The key thing they missed was the seasoning and spice of the food, which is the entire point of Mexican food. This place is just like Rocco's in that the food LOOKS authentic, but it doesn't taste authentic.

I'm not sure if they give you less for Taco Tuesday or they're cutting down on portions, but the tacos seemed less robust than before.

This is a better space than Rocco's and it's closer, but I can't see myself coming here to eat again; I'd rather go to a traditional Mexican Restaurant. Come here to drink and hang out in a nice space; but the tacos are no better than anything you can get anywhere else in town.

Previous Musings

The YOLO guys of Delray are bringing one of their restaurants to Las Olas in the old Voodka space. I reviewed El Camino Delray when they first opened; my impression was that it was a place were you could get overpriced tacos and booze. It's not really a Mexican restaurant; it's a Millenial Trap as is any place that features Tacos as a dinner food.

This group also owns Cut 432, a wildly overpriced steakhouse that failed to impress, and Park Tavern, a place where the menu never convinced me that I wanted to buy a $16 cheeseburger to try it despite standing at the hostess stand at least 3 times.

This is a corporate restaurant that uses the same model as The Restaurant People and Gary Rack; businesses first designed to pick your pocket while providing a fancy place to drink.

Comment Policy Add Comment
Roe
Reply
Excellent review. Just what I was looking for
Jim B
Reply
Tried it wasn’t impressed. No flavor, bland and tasteless just like Rocco’s.
Dave
Reply
Well these bad reviews are depressing...again. I think i need to move somewhere else to get any decent food. All hope appears lost for FTL.
Administrator
Reply
The Fort Lauderdale model is to build a big fancy restaurant, sell alcohol, and have food available to get the "special" cheap liquor license. Get used to it.
KevinFLL
Reply
Still completely gutted inside. I'd be surprised if they are open by Summer 2018. Las Olas Company cost basis is so low on what they own which is probably why don't mind that half of the street is currently vacant and aren't reducing rates.
Administrator
Reply
There's still an opportunity cost of not collecting rent for so many spaces. They're still trying to push the false narrative that Las Olas is Rodeo Drive or something; and not just a bunch of suburban kids partying on weekends. The rents they're asking are WAY too high, and real restaurant businesses aren't stupid. So they end up getting some guys opening a Sushi restaurant in Johnny V's who'll probably last 1 season unless LOC caved on the rent.
Administrator
Reply
They're getting hammered by the City in the permit process; the latest rejections coming on June 27. You'd think that the Las Olas Company would be able to recommend contractors who knew how to deal with the city's requirements.
Jessica
Reply
Wow. We're getting another Taco restaurant with liquor? How exciting!
Administrator
Reply
I don't see why they just don't rename Fort Lauderdale "Taco Town". Italian food and Tacos; you don't actually have to know how to cook.

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