El Camino 2.0
El Camino's new menu will be unveiled Tuesday, May 2!
The Moonhanger Group – and their arsenal of powerhouse downtown restaurants – is widely known for their inspired, inventive approach to dining out, whether it’s The Rookery’s themed smorgasbord of milkshakes and burgers, H&H’s delightfully long list of breakfast biscuits, or Dovetail’s impeccable craft cocktails and farm-to-table finery. A little over a year ago, Moonhanger branched out into one of the largest markets in middle Georgia – Mexican food – when they opened El Camino taqueria & cantina next door to the Cox Capitol Theater; there, they’ve been offering innovative, fresh takes on traditional taqueria favorites, and pouring up some of the best margaritas and cocktails in town.
But the Moonhanger team, fueled by creativity and new ideas, is rarely happy to rest on its laurels; recently, they’ve been working on “refreshing. polishing, and turning up the concept” behind El Camino, as Katelin Yates, Moonhanger’s Director of Company and Community Relations, puts it. “It’s going to be a dining experience with a little more muscle behind it, a little more personality,” she says. The restaurant will continue to serve their delicious handheld tacos, but the menu will expand to include burritos, plated meals (new, substantial dishware will also make an appearance), and some new apps, among them the thrillingly delicious-sounding Tater Totchos, which is exactly what it sounds like – nacho fixin’s piled high atop tater tots. Yesss.
They’re not stopping with the menu, either – the entire décor and atmosphere of the restaurant is getting a little nudge towards something edgier and grittier. “It’s gonna have a dark, kitschy, kinda b-movie aspect to it,” says Chad Evans, co-owner of Moonhanger – “You know, sorta Tarantino-ed out.” For Evans, it’s not about ‘new and improved’ anything, it’s about the “manic tinker” (as he puts it) that is part of all Moonhanger’s operations – the restaurants are collaborative and creative, and they take their cues from not only the public’s feedback but also from their loyal employees. “We have good people on the floor, good people in the kitchen, good people washing the dishes,” says Evans, “and together we get that conversation going, find the energy, and lock it in. The formula doesn’t work in a vacuum.”
This endeavor has certainly been helped along by El Camino’s new general manager Joel Baker, who is a “juggernaut,” according to Yates. “He’s all about exemplary service, and he’s really put his imprint of leadership on the restaurant,” she says. “He’s an awesome, energetic guy.” The restaurant is in the process of slowly rolling out these changes; they intend to debut their new menu and new look by Cinco de Mayo, which also happens to be the day that Blues Traveler will be playing next door at the Cox Capitol Theater – so it’ll be a busy one.
“Almost every situation we find ourselves in happens because of the excitement of the people running things,” says Evans – and it’s true that Moonhanger is known for taking on challenges and making changes and tweaks that are unique to their particular smart-Southern-hipster vision and aesthetic. El Camino, in Spanish, translates to mean the way, the road, the course, the path – it’s a name with connotations of motion, movement, and exploration, so it only makes sense that a restaurant with that name would want to take the opportunity to stay in forward motion and reinvent itself whenever the time felt right. “We don’t want to be just good, or even just great,” says Yates. “We want to make a statement.” Stay tuned, locals – this statement’ll be showing up with a side of loaded Camino dip and some truly fine tequila.