The restaurant scene in Little Italy North is soaring.
Witness Camino Riviera, the revamped eatery that used to be El Camino. There’s a new co-pilot, the tapas menu is in the clouds and airplanes aiming to land at Lindbergh Field still roar overhead about every three minutes.
When El Camino first opened, being in the flight path was spun as a unique treat. It was fun to get a table on the outside patio and try to time it so you got an aerial photo right as a rapidly descending 747 was aiming for the nearby tarmac.
It’s still fun. However, I was the only geek aiming his camera phone at the skies while diners noshed on small bites indigenous to the Riviera Maya region of Mexico.
Camino Riviera (2400 India Street) is now run by the SDCM Restaurant Group. SDCM’s Matt Spencer teamed with El Camino owner Mauricio Couturier on the dining room’s traditional Mexican décor.
Spencer brought in chef Brian Redzikowski, who previously helped raise the roof in North Little Italy at nearby Kettner Exchange.
Redzikowski’s menu at Camino Riviera is both wood-fired and seafood-centric.
Fun note: The menu lists prices in both U.S. dollars and Mexican pesos. Our server divulged that a few customers have, on occasion, paid in pesos.
The Riviera Menu
Camino Riviera’s Hamachi ceviche with squid ink chicharron.
My wife and I split half a dozen items. Roasted baby carrots were sweet. The Hamachi ceviche was blended with avocado, tomatoes, radishes, Yuzu pepper and served with a flaky squid ink chicharron. The crispy fried Brussels sprouts were a bountiful panoply of tastes.
I got the Gordita Crunch. No, this isn’t your standard Taco Bell fare. Served on a bao bun and topped with cheese and a hard tortilla, the centerpiece is salpicón with Wagyu beef that’s been brined pastrami-style.
Jules ordered The Taco. As if it was as simple as it sounded. This upscale taco is tempura-fried seabass served on a corn tortilla and garnished with edible gold leaf.
There’s an item on the menu that if you played “Which one of these is not like the other?” everyone would guess the 45-ounce Creekstone Ribeye ($90/1,800 pesos). That’s not tapas-sized (or priced). We didn’t order it. Turns out, it comes sliced to share.
Share the news that Camino Riviera has taken off.
SMALL BITES, ETC.
Inside Karina’s Cantina Gaslamp (art by Katy Yeaw).
SEE FOOD: The gorgeous Karina’s Cantina (755 Fifth Avenue) opened in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. Come for the Mexican seafood—ceviche, tacos and surf-n-turf burritos—and hang around and admire the immersive and colorful artwork by Katy Yeaw. Great Happy Hour prices!
MORE LITTLE ITALY NORTH: Restaurateur Junya Watanabe is casting his net wider with RakiRaki Commons (2254 India Street). The expanded location now includes RakiRaki Ramen, JCK (Junya’s Crispy Karaage) and sushi offerings The Yasai (vegan) and Matsuoka (non-vegan).
Coffee for now, until Swami’s gets its liquor license.
FRESH VIBES: Swami’s Café has expanded to downtown at 611 B Street (formerly Salad Style). The local chain is known for healthy breakfast and lunch offering. Open for business, just waiting on a liquor license.
MEATING SPACE: Brazilian Churrasco purveyor Rei de Gado (939 Fourth Avenue) closed off half its street-level dining area. The plan moving forward is to expand downward, into a basement location that will also do tableside service of prime cuts of meat.
CHICKEN, OUT: Corner Chicken (owned by the Tajima management team) has served its last jumbo tender. The spot at 721 Ninth Avenue (formerly Café Chloe) couldn’t rally out of the pandemic. SD Sun
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