One of the most anticipated fall openings is almost here. El Camino, a Mexican eatery and bar in Bloomingdale, is poised to debut this week. Owners Tony Lucca and Phil Rodriguez, who both live in the neighborhood, are adding tacos and margaritas to an increasingly lively restaurant/bar scene that includes the likes of Red Hen, Boundary Stone, and Showtime.
The focus here is a little different from most Mexican spots in Washington. Chef Dot Steck, formerly with Taqueria Nacional, takes inspiration from the lighter—and at times more traditional—cooking of Southern California as opposed to heavier Tex-Mex dishes (think Chuy’s cheese-laden platters). A large bar area is set for sipping local and Mexican beers or margaritas with snacks such as chorizo tostadas, tequila-spiked shrimp cocktail, or albondigas (meatballs) with salsa roja and quail eggs. While the tequila and mezcal selection varies in style and price point, the lineup is meant to be more accessible than encyclopedic.
Tacos follow suit, and aren’t overly complicated. Expect fresh corn tortillas filled with chorizo and potatoes, beef tongue, or chicken tinga, priced between $2.50 and $3.50. Heartier plates come in the form of braised pork shoulder with chichilo mole and barley-mushroom “risotto,” stewed chicken, or seasonal fish. Desserts also run traditional, with flan and abuelita’s rice pudding (see a full sample menu below).
Design firm Edit Lab at Streetsense, which is also behind the look of neighbors including Red Hen, matches the menu’s homey notes with some added edge. Tables fashioned from old car rims, red crushed-velvet booths, and chain light fixtures evoke a grittier LA vibe, as well as the restaurant’s namesake, the Chevy El Camino. Other elements are meant to be more grandmotherly, such as brightly painted walls and flowery vintage china plates.
One thing Grandma might not approve of: late hours. The full kitchen is open until midnight Friday and Saturday, and until 11 other nights. A smaller late-night menu will run until 1 on weekends and 12 otherwise. Good news, given that tacos and tequila taste even better around the witching hour.
El Camino. 108 Rhode Island Ave., NW; 202-847-0419. Dinner Sunday through Thursday 5 to 11, late-night menu until midnight; Friday and Saturday 5 to midnight, late-night menu until 3.
Chips & house made salsas (v/gf) – $2.50
Table made guacamole (v/gf) – $9
Seasonal empanaditas, salsa roja – $5
Tostada, black beans, rajas, lettuce, pico de gallo, onion, cilantro, house made salsas and crema (vt/gf) – $3.50
Add meat (gf): picadillo, chicken tinga, chorizo, carnitas – $4.50
Esquites – warm roasted corn salad (vt/gf) – $5
Cóctel de camarones – house made saltines, splash of tequila – $10
Albondigas, salsa roja, quail egg – $9
Scallop ceviche, lime, grapefruit, pomegranate (gf) – $11
Sopa del dia – $6
Seasonal mixed greens salad (vt) – $6
DE LA CALLE
TACOS (gf) – $2.50 each
chicken tinga; chorizo & potato; rajas de poblano, potato & squash (vt)
TACOS (gf) – $3.50 each
carnitas, lengua, camarones
TORTAS – $9
Chorizo, potatoes, caramelized onions, queso fresco, lettuce, tomato, house made crema, guajillo sauce
Carnitas, onions, cilantro, lettuce, salsa verde, pickled onions
Chilaquiles, rajas, salsa verde, caramelized onions, smoked Gouda, house made crema (vt/gf) – $11
Add chorizo (gf) – $13
Fish of the day, seasonal preparation – market
Chicken estofado, fried potatoes, pickled green beans (gf) – $14
Braised pork shoulder, barley-huitlacoche “risotto”, organic mushrooms, chichilo mole – $16
Beef short rib, manchamanteles mole, corn cake, jicama and chayote slaw (gf) – $16
Chile relleno, barley, raisins, almonds, queso fresco, house made crema (vt) – $11
GUARNICIÓN – $4
Barley-huitlacoche “risotto” (vt)
Black beans (v)
Lodo del rio (gf)
Jicama and chayote slaw (v/gf)
POSTRES – $7
Fried plantains, house made crema, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream (vt)
Flan del dia (vt/gf)
Abuelita’s rice pudding (vt/gf)
v = vegan
vt = vegetarian
gf = gluten free