An East L.A. apartment inhabited by a young Chicano gangster and his grandmother is the design inspiration for El Camino, a Mexican restaurant from the owners of 1905, which opens in Bloomingdale next month. Crushed red velvet tufted booths mimicking the insides of a tricked-out ride and concrete blocks are contrasted with a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe and vintage plates. Light fixtures made of steering wheels illuminate a shrine-like U-shaped bar and, eventually, a mural inspired by brightly patterned oilcloth grocery bags.
"It's a little subconscious," says designer Lauren Winter of Edit Lab at Streetsense. "It's not directly in your face." (The design firm is also responsible for nearby Red Hen and Boundary Stone.)
Owners Tony Lucca and Phil Rodriguez decided to do a Mexican restaurant in part because they felt it was a niche missing in the neighborhood. Like the decor, the menu will also have an L.A. bent. "Southern California Mexican food tends to be a little bit more traditional than, say, Tex-Mex," Lucca says.
There will be tacos and tortas, but also tostadas, sopes, esquites (corn salad), a shrimp cocktail, albondigas (meatballs), and ceviche. Some larger dishes, like chilaquiles, will also be available. Meanwhile, the bar will boast an arsenal of Mexican and local beers and a small selection of wines, with three reds and three whites. Expect plenty of tequilas and mezcals plus cocktails, including a michelada and, of course, a margarita.
Lucca also hopes El Camino will become a late-night hangout, especially for bar and restaurant industry folks. The plan is to have the kitchen open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with a late-night menu of tacos and tortas until midnight. Food will be available an hour later on Fridays and Saturdays. "So many industry people not only work here but live in this neighborhood," Lucca says. "Hopefully they'll be swinging by here on their way home."
El Camino, 108 Rhode Island Ave. NW
Photos by Jessica Sidman