Located on Main Street near 16th Avenue in Vancouver, this small hip restaurant is drawing in locals and visitors alike with the promise of street food from various Latin countries from around the world. The manager/chef, Jason Carr, explained they are looking for a different type of Latino cuisine that was not limited to Mexican, but inclusive of South American, Spanish and Portugese influences. You will find a taste of Latin American street food at El Camino’s restaurant, but get there early to avoid the lineups.
It is difficult to accurately describe Latin American street food. Some of the menu could meet that criteria, but the theme is around smaller plates and some larger dishes. The menu is organized around Tapas (sharing dishes), Arepas, Tacos, Empanadas, Bocadillos and Desserts. There is a good selection of salsas and antojitos (side dishes). You will have choices from around the Latin world and ideal dining for couples and/or sharing with family and friends.
The spices and seasonings are imported from all around the world. Many of the dishes utilize some of the following seasonings: smoked paprika (delicate smoky flavour), ancho, cumin and chipotle. Meats are local and organic with the seafood selections being sustainably harvested. The ambience is casual and a place to hang out and share your meal. You will find a bowl of popcorn on your table on arrival.
Arepas are flatbreads prominent in the cuisine of Venezuela and Colombia. They normally consist of ground maize dough or cooked flour and can be served with a number of accompaniments. At El Camino’s you have five choices served in a white corn pocket, stuffed and grilled until crispy. The Carne Guisada is braised beef short rib, caramelized onions, chimichurri, aioli and lettuce served in a bowl. Full of flavour with a great balance of texture from the crispy outside shell to the softness of the ingredients inside. All the flavours come together and, despite its size, can be filling.
Next up were the Tacos (soft white corn tortillas) and the Carne Asada selection. Two tacos with grilled flat iron steak, monty jack cheese, horseradish and guasacaca (Venezuelan green sauce). The meat was tender and nicely seasoned, but no distinctive taste from the other ingredients. In total, there are five different tacos to choose from.
One of the Tapas dishes was the Lomo Saltado. This is Peruvian cuisine with its historical origin from their Chinese influence. Combination of rice (Asian) and potatoes (Peru) makes this an interesting dish. This representation is steak, tomato, peppers, onions with Spanish rice and potato wedges. Definitely a dish to share with three to four people. Again, the meat was well seasoned and perfectly cooked. There is some gravy to go with their delicious potato wedges. Vegetables are perfect consistency.
Bocadillos are sandwiches made with Spanish bread cut lengthwise and popular in Spain and Latin American countries. It is seen as a humble dish and served as a tapas in Spain and various parts of Latin America. Five choices to choose from and our selection was the Fried Pollo made with fried chicken tossed with smoky anillo de fuego hot sauce, chimichurri aioli, lettuce, pickled red onions and pico de gallo. This was a burst of flavour in the mouth. Tangy tongue due to the heat from the hot sauce. The chicken was crispy, bread fresh and the slaw crunchy. Very memorable dish with another great combo of flavours.
Empanadas are a stuffed bread or pastry with origins from Spain and Portugese Brazil. There is a vegetarian choice and a meat choice; Empanadas de Carne. Stuffed with beef, chorizo and red pepper picadillo with guasacaca. The pastry was flaky and the ground meat spicy. Dark brown pastry used and the guasacaca sauce was a good match. The meats were not a standout taste though.
The food comes very quickly at El Camino’s. Superb selection of cocktails from around Latin America and the Caribbean. Wine and beer choices will satisfy anyone’s interest. Prices range from $5.50 to the larger tapas dishes at $15. Desserts range from $7 to $8. If you can’t get to Latin America or the Iberian Peninsula, then this is a great place to sample those countries’ comfort food.
El Camino’s Vancouver
Address: 3250 Main Street, Vancouver (between 16th and 17th Avenues)
Phone Number: 604-875-6246
Monday to Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m.
Friday, 5 p.m. to midnight
Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight
Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.