Camacho’s Place – El Centro, CA

On a recent family trip to San Diego, we passed through El Centro, California.  Normally our I-8 run to the beach is in the morning and not during the dinner hour.  However, this time Sherri and I picked the kids up from school and left Phoenix in the afternoon.  I had done some serious research on the internet for a fun place to take the family for dinner.  El Centro has a few average taco shops and a bunch of serious junk food restaurants near the highway.  My search exposed the little known, yet legendary, Camacho’s Place.  As the dunes West of Yuma faded in the rear view mirror, I began to prep the family for Camacho’s.  Mind you this place is way outside El Centro.  In fact it is about half way between El Centro and the Mexican border, in the middle of some serious farm fields.  As we pulled off I-8, I quickly entered 796 W. Wahl Road, El Centro, CA,  92243 into the car’s G.P.S. The kids were not amused.  Sherri, much to my surprise, was ready for the adventure and convinced the kids to go along with the wild goose chase as we headed South down some very dark and narrow farm roads.  All reports on the internet said this place was very hard to find, it was.  You will not find this place without G.P.S., a map, or a local in your car.  After a ten minute drive we turned down a dirt two-track road that eventually took us, the back way, into Camacho’s Place.  The restaurant is in the front of  a few classic farm houses and out buildings.  The entire compound is surrounded by Salt Cedar trees.  As far as you can see it is dark, flat farm fields.  The lights of Mexico to the South and El Centro in the distance to the North.  The buildings are covered with corrugated metal.  There is one amber street light outside. Dogs roam the yard, the place is silent.  A few neon signs surround the door.  There are beer signs and hand drawn posters around the entrance.  An old 7UP sign sits out front.  This place has history.

Camachos Place sits in the middle of farm fields.

 As we walked in the door, a group of family owners greeted us.  The place was empty, no customers.  The walls were covered with tons, I mean tons of military posters, photos and squadron memorabilia.  There were signed personalized posters from numerous past Presidents of the United States.  Long tables filled the two dinning rooms.  Camacho’s has been in business for over 65 years.  It is run by the same family and it shows.  At first we felt like outsiders, then after a few minutes of personalized service and friendly smiles we felt at home.  Shortly after we arrived groups of people began to filter in.  Soon the place had lots of happy customers.  It was 8:00pm.  A group of guys from the El Centro Navy Airfield a few miles away told the owner that “everybody on base loves the place and that the Special Quesadillas where the talk of the base”.   We ordered a Special Quesadilla, the flat enchilada and some tacos.  Everything was very, very good.  However, I did make a huge mistake.  The Carne Asada Special Quesadilla is the only way to go, I did not order it, I wish I had, and I dream about it all of the time.  The Special Quesadilla is an El Centro dish that has never made out of the Imperial Valley.  It is a calzone looking piece of puffed pastry filled with delicious white cheese and deep-fried.  This is not a flat cheese crisp or regular folded quesadilla.  Recently, on his way to our big 600 person BBQ in Yuma for the US Marines,  my cousin Andy decided to stop in for a Special Quesadilla.  Andy is a well-respected chef and knows good food.  The next day, after the bbq he went back to Camacho’s ( twice in 20 hours) and had another Quesadilla along with an Enchilada, Chili Relleno and more.  After the meal he proudly proclaimed “Best Mexican Food I have ever had”,  I have to be honest, due to its bizzare, out-of-the-way location, strong military connection, long, rich history and great food, I agree with Andy.  Best ever!  Go there, and take me with you.

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~ by El Toro BBQ on April 19, 2011.

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