Colorful, welcoming, and affordable, Camino Real offers food a notch above much of the spicy fare along Allston’s fast food row. For little more than pocket change you can fill up on plantanos, tostones, or sopa. For not much more you can partake of a tender sirloin steak with chimichurri sauce, or deep fried whole sea bass. Opened 11 years ago by a family of Colombians and their Guatemalan in-laws, the place is a favorite of immigrants, who bring their families on weekends for a taste of home.
Camino Real also caters banquets, and judging from the menu’s array of traditional Colombian specialties, these must be tantalizing affairs. There is something for all palates: grilled beef or chicken for taste buds residing firmly north of the border, boiled tongue, pork rind, and Colombian sausage for those with more paisa-worthy appetites.
We stopped for lunch on a quiet weekday, as a Colombian soccer match played quietly on a big-screen television. The bright yellow, red, and blue color scheme puts diners in a tropical mood, with help from a selection of juices ($2.80), including banana, soursop, guava, blackberry, mango, passion fruit, papaya, and pineapple. We ordered papaya juice and a platter of fried green plantains with guacamole ($7.48) to tide us over while we struggled with the menu choices; we craved absolutely everything.
It was unfortunate in a way that the plantains were fried to such perfection, the guacamole so irresistibly creamy and tart—we obliterated it without budgeting, stomachwise, for the copious offerings to come. Since we never pass up the chance to devour homemade tamales (right), we dug into a Tamal Colombiano ($9.81), a flavorful pillow of masa wrapped in plaintain leaf and laden with pork rind, chicken, pork ribs, and vegetables. The dish was accompanied by a mesa of buttery rice and fresh cole slaw with raisins. We were rewarded for our choice of Churrasco ($14.95). The juicy grilled 12-ounce sirloin steak, served with rice, salad, plump French fries, and a tub of piquant chimichurri, a green sauce made with olive oil, vinegar, parsley, and lime, is surely one of the better deals in town. A generous order of tasty Carne Asada ($11.22)—grilled beef—arrived with salad, sweet plantains, rice, and beans subtly spiced in the regional tradition.
Camino Real also offers a tempting list of seafood dishes, including shrimp, either six grilled, with rice and salad ($12.62), eight breaded and fried ($12.62), or folded into yellow rice with peas, carrots, tomato, and scallion ($12.62). Among other seafood offerings: deep-fried trout ($12.15), grilled cod fillet ($14.02), and deep-fried whole bass ($14.02). Soups (small, $6.54; large, $8.88) are fish, chicken, and Mondongo, a Latin American staple made from slow-cooked diced tripe and vegetables, including carrots, onions, bell peppers, and cabbage, simmered with tomato, garlic, and cilantro.
If any are left from the breakfast rush, be sure to try some arepa ($3.74) with cheese, the sweet, round, unleavened cornmeal patty that’s the native bread of Colombia and its neighbors. It also appears in some of the restaurant’s meat dishes, grilled like polenta.
We were too full for dessert, but four are available, including Crema de Caramelo, or flan ($3.74), and figs with cheese ($3.74). Camino Real is hoping to get a liquor license soon, but in the meantime there are all those juices, sodas, iced tea ($1.87), coffee ($1.87), and hot chocolate ($2.80). And yes, there are empanadas—beef or chicken, at $1.40 each.
Camino Real, 48 Harvard Ave., Allston, is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. The restaurant takes all major credit cards. For takeout orders, call 617-254-5088 or fax 617-254-9475. Delivery is available. By public transportation, take the MBTA Green Line B trolley to Commonwealth Avenue and Harvard Avenue, or the number 66 bus to the Brighton Avenue stop.
This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston lunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the comments section below. Check out our list of lunchtime tips on Foursquare.