The owners of Walden's General Store in Hahndorf have built a Mexican-inspired bar and casual eatery in the retail store's backyard, serving tacos, tequila and crushed margaritas.
Introducing Hahndorf taqueria and bar El Camino
It’s the hottest day in February when CityMag arrives at El Camino in Hahndorf.
It was a tenth of a degree shy of 38°C, and even in the milder Adelaide Hills it beat down on us in waves, sweat gathering on our brow and down our back.
We couldn’t have picked a more fitting place to end up on this savage summer day.
El Camino is a casual taqueria opened by Kat Romeo and Jon Di Pinto, in the backyard of their other business, Walden’s General Store, a retail love letter to the United States’ southwest.
There are two tiers of seating at the venue (including adobe-inspired rendered booths), carved out of the once sloped lawn. The bar and cooktop sits under a ramshackle shade, with Jon behind the charcoal barbecue producing three versions of taco: beef, chicken and a vegan option. The flavours will change seasonally, but this will be the standard offering,
More importantly for this particular day, the fridge is stocked with a range of Mexican beer, some El Toro pre-mixers, and a range of agave spirits which sit atop the unit, including Wahaka mezcal, Los Sundays tequila, Rooster Rojo tequila, and a flagon of Tromba Blanco tequila.
Crushed margaritas will be a specialty of the venue.
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El Camino, like Walden’s comes from Kat’s obsession with the expansive landscapes of the American southwest and Mexico.
When she and Jon opened Walden’s, the backyard was a grassy hill, but they saw potential to create a gathering spot that drew on Kat’s interest and Jon’s history operating bars, such as Cry Baby, Shotgun Willie’s and Memphis Slim’s.
“We realised what we’re doing is pretty different to what happens here, which we think is a good thing,” Kat says. “We want Hahndorf to move in that direction of progressing outside just German origins.”
It’s also different in its casual approach. The food menu has been designed so that visitors can order and have their taco in hand within five minutes – making it a convenient stop for locals on lunch break or shoppers with places to be.
“You’ve got places like Comida, which is great, Gepetto’s – Italian, Spanish – you’re starting to see it all, but they’re still restaurant restaurants,” Jon says.
“Just easy, cheap food, super basic, on the go, because around Hahndorf, what we’ve found, with the shop, if you want to get a quick lunch somewhere, it’s a German pub, which takes a long time, but there’s no quick ready meals.”
It’s so far hit the local market as they’d hoped it would.
“All the locals came in saying, ‘We’ve been watching you build for months. We’ve been so excited’,” Kat says.
El Camino is still in its early days, but it’s Kat and Jon’s intention that, though the food service is quick, it becomes a place for people to spend extended time.
“We want to do live music, we want to have a place where the young people can go before their meal, which, I guess, is what Hahndorf’s been missing,” Kat says.
El Camino and Walden’s are the latest ventures Kat and Jon have embarked upon up in the Adelaide Hills, but not the biggest. The couple recently made a tree change, purchasing Marble Hill Cherries, an orchard in Ashton.
“We’ve got like 2000 cherry trees, and we run a pick-your-own thing, so people can come, pick their cherries, and away they go,” Jon says. “We weren’t really in the market for a cherry farm, but it’s such a cool property. It’s got an old quarry on it and all sorts.”