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The Early Word on Bardstown Road's El Camino

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Photo: Whitney Harrod Morris

El Camino is the new Bardstown Road spot that pays homage to all things So-Cal- think Mexican food, surfer decor and tiki drinks. It's only been open for about a week, but the reviews are already pouring in. Most diners are impressed by the ambiance, split on the food, and underwhelmed by the portions and the prices. Here's what people are saying about El Camino.

The Good but Expensive News: This reviewer is impressed by most of El Camino's food, but not by the prices: " Everything was excellent and served with the house made salsas, delicious. The guac is some of the best we have had locally... The fire roasted corn side definitely stole the show. The combination of the smokiness, the sweetness of the corn and the salty tang of the crab blended perfectly...For the price ($4 average if memory serves) and in comparison to size of sides served at their sister restaurant, The Silver Dollar, I think they could put a little more on the plate. Its rice, beans and corn. Its not going to break the bank.
[Louisville Restaurant Forum]

The Bad Service News: This Urban Spoon Review took exception to the unpleasant service: "I live around the corner and walked over for dinner this past weekend with a friend from out of town. The staff in front looked past us and one rudely said to stay only if we wanted to wait at least 1.5 hours as there were no tables. We counted over 10 tables empty outside alone and saw no line waiting. If they did not have enough help - they could have been friendly, welcoming and explained this to us." [Urban Spoon]

The Rip Off News: This Yelper was not satisfied with the food or the prices: "They use that crushed, hail-like ice for drinks. That is the most profitable for the business and the worst deal for consumers. It's been proven that using that ice is the best way to make people believe they are getting a value when in reality you get ripped off. Second, the portions for their tacos are all "tapas" style meaning you are paying $3-4 for a 2 bite taco. Tapas are also another way to over price the consumer by offering more variety for a higher price. The fish was bland in my taco and they over use that chili pepper flavor in all their items. Salt doesn't equal flavor....the drink menu was good. I'm hoping once they smooth out their process they can offer a better deal to their consumers." [Yelp]

The Foursquare News: Angela T.: "Chicharron (fried pork skins) app makes for a great crunchy, spicy & sharable starter." Curtis M. : "Maybe the best corn tortillas in the city." Carrie C.: "El mastor tacos delicious. Must try" Rebecca V. : "Esquites Con Jaiba.. do yourself a favor and get them shits with the green sauce. So good." [Foursquare]

The "You Get What You Pay for News": Yelper Victor R. notes that the pleasant setting is reflected in El Camino's prices and that some of the tacos taste the same: "The great thing about authentic Mexican 'street-style' food is that is delicious...and inexpensive. El Camino has one of those things down. To make up for the latter qualification, you get to eat in what is really a pretty cool atmosphere. There are three distinct environments: outside around fire pits, in the loud and lively bar, and in the back room. For our first visit, we sat in the back room - and couldn't have been happier about that decision. For the time of year, outside was a bit cold...and the bar a bit loud. Service was great, drinks were strong, and the food was good. We had tacos, and my only criticism is that the flavors are very similar, even if you compare al pastor and might be hard pressed to tell the difference." [Yelp]

The Spicy News: This reviewer was pleasantly surprised by the heat in El Camino's caldo tlalpeño: " The caldo tlalpeño soup is based on chickpeas it says and I was expecting it to be a mild change between bites of chips & salsa. The soup LIT ME UP! I mean that in a very grateful and happy way. I LIKE to be lit up! If this was in a Thai restaurant I wouldn't have been so taken aback but I actually had to go for the glass of water instead of the beer after the first portion went down a little the wrong way due to the surprise of my autonomic nervous system." [Louisville Restaurant Forum]

The Amazing News: This reviewer loved everything about El Camino- the food, the setting and the service: "Went this weekend with my family and had amazing food and service. Started with the guacamole which was some of the best we had ever had. The restaurant has a great atmosphere with its tiki bar theme. Unlike anything else in louisville. Our waitress was awesome and attentive. Would definetly recommend checking it out!" [Urban Spoon]

The Bland News: This Yelp reviewer thinks that there was not enough flavor in her tacos: "The tacos we ordered were all a little bland. Without the green sauce in the squeeze bottle, they didn't have much taste. We asked the bartender for salt. EVERYTHING tasted like it was under seasoned. My three friends also felt the same. I also ordered the posole roja (which is a favorite Mexican dish of mine) and the menu stated it came with "a variety of toppings". Well, toppings meant ONE topping. Radish slices. That's it. I felt cheated. The salsas were ok but the guacamole had no oomph. Tasted like just mushed up avocados with no chilies, lime, cilantro or salt." [Yelp]

The Best News: On blog, Urban Sacred Garden, Jessica Pendergrass files a rave review: " I experienced my best first meal at a restaurant. EVER...The Tortas, Mexican sandwiches, were served on a house baked bread that was surprising. In a restaurant focused on Mexican food, you don't expect to stumble upon amazing sandwich bread, but there is was. Really something to come back and eat again and again... also chowed down on a hearty plate of Cochinita Pibil, an Achiote Seed Slathered Pork Shoulder Slow Roasted in Banana Leaves. This dish was perfect with a side dish of the Arroz Con Ajo (Aromatice Rice with Garlic and Serrrano)...The Port Light was tart fruit and Bourbon-y goodness in a terra cotta style Tiki glass that stayed pleasingly icy to the touch throughout dinner. The drinks served around our table were varied, and flavors of smoky and bitter danced in the glasses along with the sweet and tart. There is a drink on the menu for every palate." [Urban Sacred Garden]
— Layla Khabiri and Daniel Alten

El Camino

1314 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204 502-454-5336 Visit Website