What do Ballard High School students and staff have that very few outside the Southwestern states have? A great and reasonably priced Mexican restaurant, that’s what. During the school year, driving past El Camión Adentro, you’d likely see a passel of hungry students lined up outside to pick up a taco or two, or any number of street foods that would substitute for whatever the cafeteria is serving at lunchtime. Before 2013, locals knew the location as once belonging to Zesto’s and, more recently, Roro’s BBQ. And also pre-2013, foodies were very familiar with the three stylish, black El Camión food trucks that were doing business in Ballard (south of the restaurant), SoDo and North Seattle since 2010. It was only early last year that the owner decided to add a brick and mortar operation to serve the sit-down crowd.
There aren’t that many tables and booths inside; the space can accommodate roughly 50 people. Outside, at the south end of the restaurant, is a seating area covered with umbrellas, more appropriate for when the weather is nicer than today (rain showers). Upon entering, you place your order at the counter to the right, then are issued a receipt with an order number. When your number is called, you pick up the order at another counter facing the dining area. A salsa and condiments bar has two martajada salsas (roja and verde), sliced red radishes and pickled whole jalapeños. Martajada salsas are traditionally made by crushing roasted tomatoes (red) or tomatillos (green), roasted chiles (jalapeños or serranos), garlic and coarse salt in a molcajete. Also at the salsa bar are squeeze bottles of various less chunky salsas.
Three of us had lunch here today.
We ordered three kinds of soft tacos: fish, carnitas and carne asada. The unbattered fish, likely tilapia, was fresh and flaky, combined with chopped cabbage, crema, cilantro and pico de gallo (☆☆☆½). I didn’t get a chance to taste the carnitas, but my daughter thought they were very good. Simply dressed with pico de gallo, the carne asada tacos were excellent (☆☆☆½).
A special of the day, carnitas taquitos dorados (☆☆☆), though mild in flavor, were wrapped in nicely crisped corn tortillas and drizzled with avocado sauce and crema.
An entrée we’d seen for the first time was pollo enchipotlado, a chicken quarter (leg and thigh) simmered in a tomato-based sauce, smoky and spicy from chipotle in adobo sauce (☆☆☆). The kitchen did a fine job of preparing tender chicken as it did slicing the vegetables into uniform matchsticks: red from red bell pepper, yellow from summer squash and green from zucchini. Listed as one of El Camión’s specials, the entrée came as a full-size meal, complete with rice and (whole black) beans, pico de gallo, avocado and radish slices, tortillas and four lime quarters. Most of it came home with us.
Mexican breakfasts are also served (all day) in the form of burritos (jamon, chorizo and vegetarian). Quesadillas, tamales, gorditas, mulitas and tortas also are on the menu, as well as a list of seven specialties. Beverages include aguas frescas, sodas, hot chocolate and beers on tap.
From customer reviews, the El Camión enterprise is successfully serving all manner of tasty Mexican dishes. It also had the distinction of having been named one of 2013’s 101 best food trucks in America by The Daily Meal.
El Camión Adentro
6416 15th Ave NW