The brainchild of ‘it’ chef Dan Hong (Ms. G’s and Lotus) and Merivale mogul Justin Hemmes, El Loco has certainly caught the imagination of Sydney diners, becoming so popular that a Friday night here might see you making a dash for a free table.
The run-down back room to the Excelsior Pub (in Surry Hills) was transformed in a matter of days to a fiesta filled rainbow of a pop-up taco joint. But the pop-up appears to have become permanent, with the garden furniture, multi-coloured fruit table covers and spray-painted walls such a firm local favourite that an update of the space is moot. Order at the bar, grab a Mexican beer and then fondle the skull shaped salt’n’pepper shakers before your street-food styled dishes turn up.
Hong and Hemmes hit up LA to sample the city’s famous taco trucks, before Hong went solo to Mexico to research further flavours. The result is a keep-it-simple menu, and yes, it’s all about the tacos. Of course you can get other tasty treats (think churros and chocolate, hot dogs and steak sandwiches), but that’d be missing the point.
The $5 tacos are the real winner. Try the lemongrass beef or the spit-roasted pork with pineapple salsa for cases in point. But it’s the ‘mystery’ taco that really gets you going. And no, they won’t tell you what’s in it, no matter how much you bat your eyelashes at them.
Don’t forget to cast an eye over the drinks list too – a jalapeno margarita (tequila, Cointreau, jalapeno syrup, lime and illegal mezcal) sounds pretty good on a hot afternoon.