If the Brady Bunch had moved to Mexico and opened a swanky lounge, their place would look a lot like El Camino, Brunswick's hip new Mexican restaurant on Cushing Street.
Established this past June, El Camino is self-consciously kitsch but not cloyingly ironic. With its burnt-orange walls, green glass lanterns, red vinyl seats, and huge arc-shaped mirrors, it's just cute enough to make diners feel as though they've entered a special hipster den, one that everyone, regardless of age or music taste, is welcome to enter. Indeed, the Foodie could imagine Mike Brady leading a family meeting over dinner right next to a table of intellectuals wearing horn-rimmed glasses and ankle-bearing vintage Levis.
There was a multi-generational crowd at El Camino the night the Foodie dined: she sighted several families, some elderly couples, and even?aha!?a few Bowdoin professors. The Foodie and Foodie Friends may have slightly lowered the mean age of patrons the night they dined but they didn't feel out of place. Their waitress, dressed in a light blue, polka-dotted dress and tourist-shop Mexican apron, even told them El Camino wants a young crowd and will keep the bar open late if patrons so desire.
Students may find this cozy spot to be a refreshing respite from the stale quality of other Brunswick joints, not only because of its funky décor but also because of its high quality food, which, according to the menu, is made with locally-grown, organic ingredients whenever possible. Prices are a bit high for Brunswick?$8.50 for most entrees?but the Foodie is willing to pay such prices for food that doesn't taste like it came out of a can.
The focus on locally-grown goods makes a difference; the Foodie could actually taste the vegetables, which weren't doctored with butter or salt. All tortillas are homemade and the freshly fried tortilla chips were thick and crunchy, good for digging into the chunky guacamole or the smoky salsa.
The Foodie's soft tacos, a special of the day, were filled with slices of squash and squash blossoms?a unique filling surely not found elsewhere?and topped with roasted corn and a chunky tomato, onion and cilantro salsa. The Foodie had to do some maneuvering to get a full bite with all the fixins, but when she did, she was in rapture. Other soft taco fillings include beef, chicken, Maine shrimp, haddock, or chorizo and potato.
The Foodie was equally pleased with a Foodie Friend's quesadilla?at long last, a crisp quesadilla! The filling, in this case well-seasoned chicken, stayed stuck to its monterey jack when a steady slice was lifted for a bite. Though the quesadillas are listed as an appetizer to be shared, an order makes a filling meal for one and can even be paired with black beans and white rice for an extra $1.50.
El Camino's hard-to-find location on a Brunswick back street and hut-like, windowless form make it look a little creepy from the outside, but those factors didn't daunt the Foodie, who had heard raves, and they shouldn't daunt readers either. March on in and give this place some business!
If you seek for El Camino: Walk down Maine Street, take a left onto Route 1, and then take another left on Cushing. El Camino is just up the hill.