By Jan Norris
El Camino, the popular Mexican chain that began in downtown Delray Beach, has expanded to Boca Raton. The Modern Restaurant Group’s fourth, and largest, location opened in December.
Known for authentic, from-scratch foods such as its tortillas, El Camino brings its fare to Restaurant Row in Midtown, 5377 Town Center Road. The 10,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor space is now the flagship of the chain.
Asked about expansion plans, the vice president of Modern Restaurant’s operations, Francis Lake, said, “We’ve always been looking at new markets to bring El Camino to, including Tampa, Orlando and Key West at the moment.” He explained the popularity at the restaurant, calling it a “cult favorite” brand. “We aren’t a food truck or street food-offering concept.”
Everything on the food and drink menus is chef-driven, Lake said, using all fresh ingredients — the restaurant has no freezers for food. Twenty-five sauces are made in-house daily.
Billed as Mexican soul food, the menu in Boca Raton includes new items, such as red snapper ceviche Veracruz using manzano chiles, pickled cambray onions, capers and organic green olives; a chopped salad made with chayote squash, jicama, red cabbage and spiced pepita seeds; and a cochinita pibil taco with habanero salsa.
Foods are sourced locally when possible, and some organic is offered.
New cocktails here include several margaritas — a mango lassi, blueberry, hibiscus guava and an avocado ’rita.
Another new house-made drink is a banana tequila. The bananas marinate in reposado tequila, then are combined with a banana peel Demerara sugar. A michelada has a house-made mix featuring Maggi seasoning and a smoky house-made salt using Tajin, smoked sea salt and ground chipotle peppers.
Design of the new restaurant follows those of Delray, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale with broad murals by Miami urban street artist Ruben Ubiera.
Two live trees anchor patio seating, with banquettes underneath. The indoor/outdoor bar wraps around the building and features a corner outside fireplace. Tables come in varying configurations.
As with the others, the Boca restaurant is open late night.
El Camino, 5377 Town Center Road, No. 100, Boca Raton. 561-980-7700; elcaminobocaraton.com. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Also new to the area is a “San Diego-inspired” Mexican eatery, A’Lu Mexican Cuisine in Boynton Beach. Described as “Tex-Mex without the Tex” and “elevated Mexican,” the menu includes short rib empanada; ceviche; and tacos such as birria (made as traditional with goat meat) and lengua (beef tongue), along with more familiar barbacoa (braised beef brisket) and smoked chicken.
Snapper Veracruz, smoked short rib mole, and a unique corn lasagna with roasted poblano gravy are on the entree menu, alongside the waffle made of street corn, chicharron, chorizo and sour orange pickled vegetables.
An extensive drink menu of handcrafted cocktails, a tequila and mescal list, and beers and wines complement the food.
A’Lu Mexican Cuisine, 1080 Gateway Blvd., Boynton Beach. 561-810-4572; alupalmbeach.com. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Other Mexican favorites
Looking for more Mexican restaurants? Other favorites in the area include:
Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar, 110 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. A small chain originating in West Palm Beach. Extensive tequila list.
Casa Linda, 701 N. Congress Ave., Boynton Beach. A blend of Mexican, Latin and Spanish cuisine. A longtime fixture in the area.
Tacos al Carbon, 4469 S. Congress Ave., Lake Worth Beach. A spin-off of the location at 4420 Lake Worth Road and a late-night go-to for people craving tacos. No frills — a few sides and drinks.
Cafe Tecun, 7 N. L St., Lake Worth Beach. A hidden gem with very fresh Mexican, Caribbean, South American and Latin fare in a nondescript setting.
Mi Casita Mexican Restaurant, 499 NE Spanish River Blvd., Boca Raton. This boasts an extensive menu that includes numerous vegetarian choices.
Enjoy sushi and other Asia-inspired dishes under the stars at Taste of Asia on Feb. 17 at the Morikami. Photo provided
Morikami's Taste of Asia festival is this month
The first big food event of the season is the Taste of Asia, 6:30 to 11 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
Numerous chefs and performers will celebrate Japan’s culture and cuisine at this inaugural dine-around in the gardens surrounding the museum.
Guests will be given cuisine passports to use while sampling Asian-inspired dishes from South Florida restaurateurs, and sipping fine wines, sake and whiskey.
Restaurants and drink providers include: Coco Sushi Lounge and Bar; Cornell Cafe at Morikami; Gaijin Taiyaki; Ito En; Kapow Noodle Bar; Ken Rose Catering; Lemongrass Asian Bistro; Niigata Sake Selections; Nobu Miami; Palm Beach Meats; Phat Boy Sushi, Kitchen and Bar; Ramen Lab Eatery; Sushi Yasu Tanaka; Sushi by Bou; The Sea Kitchen; Yakitori Sushi House; and Winebow.
A number of luxury items and experiences, including a Goodyear blimp ride, are on the block for a live auction that benefits the museum’s programs and exhibitions as well as a planned expansion.
Tickets are $200 per person. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to morikami.org/taste-of-asia.
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, 4000 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach. 561-495-0233.
Where to take your sweetie out on Valentine's Day
Braving the restaurant scene for Valentine’s Day? We bow to you.
(Major tip: Make reservations before you get to the end of this article if you want to eat out on Feb. 14.)
A few places have noted specials:
Something unique is the lunch special at the Morikami Museum’s Cornell Cafe. For $14, get lunch for two: mimosas, egg rolls or veggie spring rolls, shrimp dumplings or veggie dumplings, and California or veggie rolls. Stroll the relaxing gardens afterward.
Museum admission is required to dine here.
Le Colonial in Delray Beach is offering a special three-course dinner, with choices for appetizers and entrees at $115. A sexy atmosphere is a plus.
Elisabetta’s in Delray Beach is offering a featured menu item, cacio e pepe — a spaghetti dish to share a la Lady and the Tramp. Elisabetta’s “brother” restaurant, Louie Bossi’s in Boca Raton, will feature tagliarini al limone, another special pasta dish with lemon, mascarpone, pistachios and basil.
At City Oyster in Delray Beach, chef Jordan Stilley prepares a lobster risotto. The special ($68) comes with a half bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne.
A chocolate fondue dessert bar will top off the evening at the Atlantic Grille, inside the Seagate Hotel in Delray Beach. Specials include lobster bisque, a gin and beet salmon crudo, fettuccini carbonara, and wagyu surf and turf.
Unexpected restaurant closures marked the beginning of the year. Del Fuego, a restaurant many believe is in a jinxed location on the east side of the Intracoastal in Delray Beach, closed in mid-January after only a six-month run. High rent vs. empty seats may have been the real downfall of the Mexican restaurant. ...
Also closed: Burger Fi on the beach in Delray Beach. The chain underwent rapid expansion before 2020, as well as gobbling another chain, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. Other Burger Fi’s have closed as well. ...
Still closed, and awaiting a new tenant, possibly: the Delray Market food hall. After debuting in the middle of the pandemic as the state’s largest food hall, the massive space struggled to gain a viable footing amid the fierce downtown competition for diners.