The Early Word: El Camion

Inside El Camion.
Inside El Camion.
Lauren Shockey

The East Village has its fair share of Mexican cantinas, but you can't really ever have too many tacos and tequilas in life, can you? So over the weekend we headed to Avenue A to check out the month-old El Camion.

Margarita Magic.
Margarita Magic.
Lauren Shockey

El Camion stocks an impressive roster of 23 different tequilas, so we started the day off (it was a Sunday, after all) with a margarita ($10). Made with Patr;oacute;n silver and fresh lime juice, it was well-balanced and very refreshing. We would have gone with additional cocktails (like the mojito-inspired rum drinks, plus some other fruity margarita-like tipples including the gingerita -- Hornitos Reposado, freshly squeezed lime juice, triple sec, and ginger puree), but we were already a little buzzed. But next time!

Chips, salsa, and guac.
Chips, salsa, and guac.
Lauren Shockey

Our guacamole ($6), however, cried out for more lime and cilantro. As it was, it reminded us of pureed avocado. But the chips, which are made in-house, were salty and crispy, and the accompanying roasted tomato salsa was tasty, if on the mild side.

Tostaditas, three ways.
Tostaditas, three ways.
Lauren Shockey

We split an order of the seafood tostaditas, which included chipotle-accented crab, slightly char-grilled shrimp with tomatillo, and fish with pico de gallo. The $12 portion was quite large, easily enough for two people to share. The fish was a little overcooked, but the crab picked up the chipotle flavor well. It was good, although not amazing.

 

Fish tacos, but not like in Baja.
Fish tacos, but not like in Baja.
Lauren Shockey

Less successful were the Baja-style fish tacos ($9), since the fish was bland and the tortillas too dried-out.

Fajita fiesta.
Fajita fiesta.
Lauren Shockey

The restaurant serves several different fajitas, and we opted for the chicken ($15), which was a huge portion. The moist, sliced chicken breast was topped with a light chipotle salsa over a bed of sliced bell and poblano peppers, and was served with rice and beans. Guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream accompanied the hot tortillas. The flavors were the most pronounced in this dish, and we'd probably come back to try the other fajitas (steak, shrimp, or veggie).

The final verdict? There are clearly better Mexican restaurants in New York, but there are also many worse ones. It's not really a go-out-of-your-way destination, but it fits the bill as a perfectly fine neighborhood cantina. The space is quite enjoyable and cozy (pressed-tin ceilings, a nice bar) and sun-drenched in the daytime with its two full walls of windows, making this a good boozy brunch spot. And come afternoon, there's a $5 (!) happy-hour margarita special.

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