The newest El Camino in West Palm Beach — set to open this Independence Day weekend — is ginormous compared with the original taqueria and bar eatery in Delray Beach. Sprawling over 7,000 square feet inside and 1,500 outside, the restaurant is on the second floor of The Square, the downtown dining/shopping/entertainment/residential hub.
The new El Camino is more than four times the size of the original 2,000-square-foot eatery in Delray Beach, which opened in 2014. And compared to that flagship, the Fort Lauderdale location, which opened in 2018, is roughly three times bigger at about 7,500 square feet.
“It’s been a bit of growth for each one,” says Francis Lake, vice president of operations for Modern Restaurant Group. “It feels like it’s matured a little bit. This is the first location where we have an outside bar as well as a bar inside.”
Next up will be Boca Raton, with an El Camino anchoring Restaurant Row, a dining destination slated to open in October. With combined indoor and outdoor seating (including a fire pit), the Boca Raton location would cover 9,500 square feet.
The boutique brand’s signature dishes include Mexican street corn, brisket quesadillas, crispy fish tacos, achiote chicken, chili-rubbed steak as well as burritos, enchiladas and fajitas. Menu prices per person range from $15 to $25 for lunch, $10 to $15 for happy hour, and $20 to $35 for both brunch and dinner.
At the new El Camino in West Palm Beach, the dining room can seat around 200 people, plus there’s “north of 80 seats outside,” Lake says. “The bar seats 25. It’s beautiful. And kitchen is open. The floor plan is a little different. The dining room is sunken, and you step up to the bar and it’s a wrap-around bar. In the kitchen itself, you’re looking out over the entire restaurant.”
One thing that isn’t different: As with the other El Camino locations, the work of muralist Ruben Ubiera is featured.
Modern Restaurant Group also own two other Delray Beach eateries: Cut 432 and Park Tavern.
Here’s more about El Camino WPB from a question-and-answer session with Lake.
Q: Will there be anything unique to this new West Palm Beach location?
A: We’re super excited to go ahead and launch brunch. We’re starting right out of the gate, every Saturday and Sunday from 10-3 with some signature items [such as] taco al pastor coming right off a spit and carved to order. We also have rotisserie here.
Q: What’s the vibe?
A: This restaurant in West Palm Beach, it came out beautiful. There’s not a bad seat in the entire restaurant. There are these micro climates in it, banquettes. There’s a full wall of windows.
Q: What exactly is Mexican soul food?
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A: It’s a couple of different things. One thing, it’s a complete scratch kitchen. We have like 20 or 30 different kinds of chilis. The sauces are made daily. We make our own hot sauce in-house as well. We are super proud of the quality of the bakery we use. It’s also the length of time. The carnitas and the briskets, those are a two-day cooking process. On the beverage side, there are no shortcuts taken. We’re known for … the largest selection of tequilas and mezcals. Every juice we use here is fresh in-house. Those are all done internally.
Q: Any time you go by El Camino in Fort Lauderdale or Delray Beach, they are both packed, so what do you think is resonating with so many South Floridians and visitors?
A: It all goes back to the original in Delray, the blueprint for the brand. It’s the value that is associated with the menu. The owners are playing the long game. They have a daily Happy Hour that’s not just your average Happy Hour. There are $3 tacos and [three cheese] quesadillas on that menu as well. We have a late-night Happy Hour as well that starts at 11, and then weekends it goes from 12 to 2 a.m.
Q: How does it work with Modern Restaurant Group’s three founders?
A: A lot of love is poured into the menu, the bar, the environment. That’s one of my favorite things. It’s the ownership, the three founders. Brian Albe has curated … the tequilas and mezcals … and the wines. Our chef and founder, Anthony Pizzo, pours that passion into the food. Brandon Belluscio is a restaurateur through and through, you know, with his family (his father, Ron, owned the former Catch 22 in Boca Raton). These are solid operators — the trinity that makes it happen.
Q: What will make you stand out from all the other food and beverage venues at The Square?
A: The price point is a little bit different. You really get a value. And, you know, in my mind, I don’t know if there is another restaurant in the country that does what we do. It’s a production every day. There’s literally someone in the building around the clock. I mean, for example, we go through 30 cases of limes a day. But I think it really just comes down to our restaurants are fun.
- El Camino is located at 700 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 232, West Palm Beach.
- Hours are 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Sundays.
- For more information, visit ElCaminoWestPalmBeach.com.