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El Caporal

Camdenton MO

323 e hwy 54, suite 101, camdenton MO 65020

El Caporal (Camdenton MO) - taco review

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Rating: 90
Price: $$-$$$

The To-Go
Unbeatable atmosphere and an unexpected victor in the taco challenge: chicken! Expansive menu, friendly vibes, good food. Recommended if you're in the area.

The Sit-Down
Immediately preceding a trip to a castle of great commercial integrity, business associate Erin & I decided to seek out some tacos in southern Missouri. Using the tried-and-true 'text to Google' function, we identified three options in our approximate noon location, Camdenton MO. Sans map, our navigation was based entirely on addresses and highway names, and the first of our options we saw along the road was El Caporal.

The long and the short of it is, I doubt either of the other two options could have beaten out El Caporal.

We began to get optimistic while pulling into the parking lot, which was total mayhem. Lots of vehicular traffic often portends good things in the restaurant reviewing world. A quick rundown of the other good omens and/or aesthetically appealing attributes of El Caporal:
-Huge cowboy decal on the door
-Rack of potted plants and accompanying bucking bronco rocking horse toy.
-Whiteboard prominently displaying daily lunch special (including 22 oz draft beer)
-Booths were designed spacious, private, and had made-in-Mexico clay tiled roofs
-Wall paintings were intricately done by hand
-Lots of bright colors on menu
-Crowded with Missourians

Impressed by all this, we quickly sat down and received a basket of chips and a decanter of salsa, for DIY distribution. The salsa was finely pureed. Though it had a good overall tomato flavor, the non-chunkiness made it hard to identify individual flavors within the salsa mosaic. The spiciness level was low, so I topped it off with some of the El Yucateco they also provided. The chips were thin, crunchy, and virtually salt free (which allowed us to apply our own salt at the desired level).

Our orders came shortly thereafter. Business associate Erin had ordered the 'Speedy Gonzales', a daily special that included 1 taco, 1 enchilada, and her choice of rice or beans (she chose rice). I had put in an order for 3 tacos of varying price levels. From the top tier, I chose the carne asada and the grilled chicken. From the lower tier, I ordered a ground beef. Note that there are two chicken options. I, out of character, selected the more expensive of the options.

To allow rapid differentiation between meats, my tacos came on three separate plates, and were presented in two different manners. The ground beef was pre-made, in a crunchy corn tortillas, topped with lettuce and a bit of cheese. The chicken and pork both had flour tortillas full of meat, which were wrapped separately in a tortilla. This tortilla was then placed on a plate next to a healthy pile of lettuce, cheese, and pico de gallo.

From best to worst, I'd rank the tacos chicken-beef-asada. The chicken was well-marinated and impressively flavorful. Chicken tacos can often be fairly bland, as the meat doesn't naturally have as much flavor as a ground beef. However, El Caporal's chicken had a good texture and its flavor was well represented in the taco, even after being topped with cheese & pico de gallo & salsa. The beef and asada were both perfectly respectable, if not outstanding. Mildly spiced but enjoyable. The beef takes second place simply because I love crunchy corn tortillas more than anything (except crunchy corn Doritos-flavored tortillas).

Overall, both business associate Erin and I were both glad that we ended up at El Caporal during our journey through Missouri. On our way out, we finished with a treat from the self-serve candy display. Our experience at El Caporal was perhaps best epitomized by the looks of joy on the young boy riding the rocking horse near the entrance when we walked in: just along for the ride, and having a great time.

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