So we were cruising down Hwy 1 this past Thursday and feeling a little too hungry to negotiate a dining spot in SB so we ventured on to Ventura and stumbled upon the El Rey Cantina on Main St. (named for the King, Elvis Presley).
Let me just say that this is One Great Room....lots of velvet Elvis', two funky glass chandeliers, one mounted deer head adorned with bras, an enthusiastic emphasis on tequila, and a small, but very nice Mexican menu.
A word about the interior: The bar is long, the wall booths are even longer, and the whole room gives off a very campy, whacked-out vibe that is refreshingly hip, but not so heavily designed as to lose its intention which is serving good food and drink. Undoubtedly this place hops at night, but at 1:30pm on a Thursday it was pretty calm so we decided to cool it for a bit and try a few bites.
We ordered nachos as a tester and they were very good....crisp chips with lots of roasted Anaheim chiles and a binding layer of refried beans, tomatoes, cheese (not overloaded) and fresh salsa on the side. Feeling confident about the food, we tried a couple chicken tacos with their homemade corn tortillas (excellent) and just the right garnish of white onion and cilantro. Didn't even have to ask for the Tapatio...it's a given here that you should want a little splash of it on your taco. Next we tried the Agave Wings which even if you are not of the "Buffalo-Wing" persuasion you should give a try because the sauce they are basted and served in is wonderful. It's got a little hint of tequila and red chile, but not so burning hot that you need a fire hose. Ranch dressing on the side cools it off anyway if you're worried. I wanted to try the Tomatillo Pork Ribs, but that will have to wait til next time. Got the T-shirt...and the T-shirts are way cool plus you can pick up a temp tatoo or two if you're lucky. I didn't have to dance on the bar to get one, but don't be surprised if I don't go back for a reprise.
So the bottom line is, next time you're in Ventura (or the vicinity) head on over to the El Rey, pick a couple songs on the juke box and order up a marg or a shot of one of their many tequilas and get your Elvis on!
El Rey Cantina, 294 E. Main St., Ventura. 653-1111