El Camino will ride again; groundbreaking expected in Germantown later this spring

El Camino looks to finally return sometime in 2019 in Germantown. | Courtesy

El Camino, the quirky Highlands Mexican restaurant and tiki bar, will finally ride again.

Two years ago, it was revealed El Camino, which closed in 2016, would reopen on Goss Avenue, and that plan is moving forward. Co-owner Shawn Cantley told Insider Louisville he expects to break ground “in the next couple of months,” with a target open in late 2019 or early 2020. His wife Vanessa and Larry Rice also are partners in the restaurant.

Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger PLC, a law firm of which Cantley is a partner, purchased the 0.6 acres that span 1031-1041 Goss Ave. in 2017 for about $893,000, and plans were announced to open the restaurant on the property. Then things went quiet. But plans are again in motion to open the restaurant in a new structure that will be built in the parking lot adjacent to the law firm, the building formerly home to Yesternook; the original building will stay.

A street view of where the new El Camino will be built. | Google photo

Currently, Cantley is still working with the city to enlarge the footprint of the restaurant and rearrange some of the 29 parking spots planned for the development, with a public hearing set for April 1. Plans include adding about 700 square feet from the original plan for the restaurant.

The total footprint of the restaurant will be about 5,700 square feet, including an outdoor covered dining area of about 820 square feet. Cantley also has filed permits for alcohol sales inside and out. The cover on the patio will be translucent, similar to the back patio at Silver Dollar, he said.

“It will feel like you’re outside. You know how it is here in spring: It will rain 45 minutes and then be pretty again the rest of the day. It sucks when you have to clear out your patio when it rains every half hour,” Cantley said.

El Camino was lauded for its brunch menu, but also offered fare like ceviche, shrimp cocktail, tacos, burritos, as well as entrees such as roasted chicken, pan-seared salmon and cochinita pibil, a pork shoulder dish. Brunch ranged from plantain pancakes to huevos rancheros.

Cantley said the food menu will likely be pared down, focusing less on entrees and more on items like tacos and tortas, which were popular in the original restaurant. But brunch will return on Saturdays and Sundays, and the cocktail program will return as it was previously, he said, with fresh juices, a wide variety of spirits and “the best tiki cocktails you can get anywhere in the world.”

The restaurant will have a brick veneer, and Cantley said the balance of how it has been designed has been a little tricky at times.

“It’s tough when you’re building a new building in an old part of town,” he said. “We don’t want to do anything that feels fake. We’re going to try to make it feel like it’s been there forever and not stick out, but not in a forced kind of way.”

He added achieving that while keeping costs down has been measured, as the goal is to keep the construction affordable enough for the restaurant to still have “$4 tacos and $3 Tecates.”

Cantley, along with Larry Rice and his wife, Vanessa Cantley, also are partners in The Silver Dollar and El Camino. Shawn Cantley and Rice also own The Pearl of Germantown.

This story has been updated.