El Camino. Go for the tacos but stay for the salad.

El Camino is the most trendy, of-the-moment, “it” hot-spot in Ottawa right now. Imagine a taco stand that’s achingly cool and a haven for O-Town’s social butterflies. Taking no reservations and making eager diners line up forever-and-a-day to gain entry only serves to perpetuate its mystique. But make no mistake about it, the food is worth the wait.

This gourmand outpost built its fast-developing reputation on the strength of the tacos. The tacos are what has lured most. And the tacos are good. Delicious, in fact. We sampled four of the five on the menu: Beef, Cripsy Fish, Pork and Ox Tongue. Surprisingly, the latter was the favourite of the bunch. Tender charred meat was well married with the sloppy collection of sauces, spices and toppings. The fact that the “winning” taco was delectable helped with the reality that I was tasting something that could once taste me back.

But if you’ve come for the tacos, please stay for the salad. What was a throw-away suggestion (…wanna try a salad?”) turned into a gastronomical event of epic proportions. I’m talking about the
Green Papaya Salad. This noteworthy gem combines strips of green papaya, bean sprouts and tomatoes tossed with fish sauce, peanuts, garlic and lime juice. This salad cleverly achieves the artful balance between sweet, spicy, tangy and amazing.

Now, am I suggesting that you run to El Camino to set your place in line with the mob of foodies, stumble-upons and downtown hipsters? Uh, yes. But once you get in, just don’t forget to order the salad.

El Camino is located at 380 Elgin St. in Ottawa.

Starting from the left, pork, fish, tongue and beef tacos.

El Camino on Urbanspoon

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