There’s little information available explaining how or why the El Camino achieved the muscle-car celebrity status that it managed in the United States. Nevertheless, with its half-car and half-truck body, this car conjures images of kitschy dashboard figurines and laid-back road trip excursions with friends.

The same can be said for El Camino in Brunswick. In business since 2004, the locally sourced Mexican cantina is a place everyone in the area knows about, but no one can remember how they learned about it. El Camino is just there.

If its namesake makes you think of kitschy 1960s America, El Camino takes it one step further by playing up all that kitsch in a fun and not ridiculous way.

From the license plates and hubcaps on the burnt-orange walls to the red vinyl seats throughout the bar and restaurant area, every step you take inside feels like you are sliding across the vast back seat of a cruising vehicle. With a few obvious nods to its Mexican cuisine and atmosphere, El Camino reminded me of a hipster lounge 10 miles over the border.

The bar area is totally separate from the restaurant area, and can be accessed from the exterior door at the front corner of the building or immediately to the left of the restaurant entrance off the parking lot. The bar, a huge U-shaped metal chrome beast with a dozen red vinyl bar stools surrounding it, somehow fits perfectly into the lounge area.

For people who don’t like to sit at the bar or want a more private conversation with their group, there are a few short-top tables in the lounge with red vinyl bench seats.

El Camino has built a large part of its following by committing to sourcing most of its establishment locally, which means the drink menu changes seasonally and is sometimes limited to the ingredients available.

My friend wanted to order a cranberry margarita, but they were unfortunately out of juices that night. Instead, at our bartender’s urging after a few drink preference questions, she devoured the Passion Fruit Mojito, which was refreshing and unique.

Mexican margaritas and mojitos with seasonal adornment are not the only drinks on the menu at El Camino. Bartenders Megan Cundy, Maggie Sutton and Dan Trefethen are constantly mixing and experimenting to create new and unique drinks that are like a delicious party in your mouth.

Blending the smoky flavor of whiskey with the tart taste of grapefruit and bitters, one particular drink created by Trefethen may be my new favorite bourbon drink out there: the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (bourbon, grapefruit juice, bitters and lemon garnish). I could easily have downed two or three if I had not been driving afterward.

Mexican and Spanish beers are available by the bottle ($3), and list the standards such as Dos Equis, Tecate, Corona and Modelo. On tap, El Camino likes to feature local breweries as much as it can, with standards such as Geary’s and Maine Beer Company ($2.50/$4).

When I visited in October, the venue also had Ox Barrow and Rising Tide, which was a nice trip away from the heavy-hitting Maine microbrewery scene. If you are not looking to drink alcohol, El Camino has Geary’s Root Beer on tap, which I have never seen out and about before.

Although there’s not an extensive wine list, the one blend you must try if you are not a wine purist is the Sangria de la Casa (house sangria, $7.50).

The best food to munch on with your drinks is the handmade tortilla chips, fresh salsa and guacamole appetizer ($9.50). The salsa is so tasty that El Camino actually sells it by the jar, so you can bring a little taste of the bar home with you. I may have downed at least three-quarters of the massive scoop of guacamole my friend and I got as well.

When you are looking for a totally off-the-wall fun and Americana kitsch place to kick back with a uniquely blended drink or local beer, check out El Camino in Brunswick.

Elisa Doucette is a freelance writer.


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