Mexican food is insanely popular in West Palm with its bright mix of flavors, fruits, and muy delicioso tequilas.
The second-floor prime location in The Square is home to El Camino, a big, buzzy space with custom interiors and plenty of terrace dining.
It’s big – more than four times the size of the one in Delray with 8,500 square feet of combo indoor and outdoor space. It has two bars, one inside and one on the sweet, rounded terrace overlooking the plaza.
The spot serves lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, and two daily happy hours.
“This is the biggest restaurant so far,” says El Camino co-founder Brian Albe and it was a massive undertaking.
Albe says they gutted it down to the studs from the previous BBQ incarnation. And while it looks heavily industrial with raw concrete and brick walls, huge wall fans, and big windows that bring in lots of light, it’s all new. The budget was a cool $6 million.
South Florida muralist Ruben Ubiera painted two large murals with floral themes of women’s faces amidst the roses and orchids, one inside and one up in the domed terrace bar.
The bars are tiled with a graphic pattern, and the booths are covered in sage green. Lots of wood and metal accents add to the earthy vibe.
This will be the second El Camino outpost to debut since Albe and his two partners opened the original Delray taquería location in 2014. The trio then opened an El Camino restaurant in eastern Fort Lauderdale in 2018.
Albe and partners Brandon Belluscio and Anthony Pizzo all worked at Pranzo, a former Mizner Park hot spot.
The West Palm Beach menus are reinforced by El Camino’s everything-from-scratch kitchen.
The kitchen does a daily juice fest of limes, watermelons, lemons, and oranges. They make their own hot sauce and tortillas to ensure top quality of local, sustainable, and highest quality providers.
Since its opening, they are serving up tens of thousands of meals a week and the place has been filled almost nightly.
On a Friday night, there were diners at the seat and at the bar overflowing on the terrace overlooking the action on The Square’s new courtyard bar.
Taking a back booth near the kitchen to watch the action, we started with a tequila drink of guava habanero with spiced chile salt on the rim. A bowl of creamy perfecto guacamole arrived with warm chips.
A starter of Ceviche with radish and spiced pepitas was cool and tasty. For entrees, I had the chile-rubbed carne asada fajitas which came sizzling in a generous cast iron skillet filled with peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Warm tortillas arrived with the condiment dish of sour cream, cheese, salsa, and guacamole.
I got two large fajitas out of it and had enough left over for lunch the next day.
My dining companion had one of the specials – grilled swordfish with a mole-type sauce. Thick and perfectly grilled, this is not a fish you see too often in Mexican restaurants, so it was a real treat.
Was there room for dessert? Si amigo!
The server suggested the Tres Leches cake with strawberries, a real winner oozing with creamy milky goodness and sweet-tart fruit. We also tried the churros, long fried doughnuts rolled in cinnamon and sugar with chocolate and fruit dipping sauces.
The menu has all the Mexican faves with some added surprises like Chihuahua Cheese enchiladas, a kale salad done south of the border style, squash blossom quesadillas, and ten types of tacos including chorizo and carnitas, and something called Cheetos Chicharrones as an appetizer that sounds orange and fried.
El Camino is a fun, festive place, loud and lively at night, calmer and sunny during the day. A great new addition to the ever-changing dining scene, El Camino has the horsepower to rev up downtown.
Address: 700 South Rosemary Avenue, Suite #232, West Palm Beach, FL 33401. Online at elcaminofla.com