I'll never forget the time I was at the Excelsior, watching a band in the cramped uni-lodge-esque back room, and I saw convicted paedophile Dennis Ferguson.
(Side note: This blog has been nominated for an award for "best restaurant review to begin with a reference to paedophiles". In a few days I'll post details on how you can vote for us.)
He was rocking the fuck out to some psychedelic prog rock, with no shirt, oblivious to the dozen or so guys in the audience that were plotting to bash him at the first opportunity.
Today at El Loco, that spot is occupied by an Asian family of all ages. There's about fifteen of them and they're huddled over the bright blue table, earnestly deciding what dishes to order.
I'm a few metres away on an equally bright red table, in the general region of where I was standing that fateful night last year, watching my friend portion out El Loco's hotdog. Part of me is being greedy and wants the whole thing, the other part is wanting to try even more dishes from the menu.
The Excelsior and the drab back room have changed massively since Merivale bought it out 9 or so months ago. And while my beloved post-rock may be gone, it has been replaced by fresh food, a breezy room and droves of hipsters. Hipsters aside, it's been a significantly positive change.
Tacos arrive. They're all good. Fresh and refreshing. The tofu taco is good enough to please meateaters too, so don't skip that one. On my second visit I skipped the secret taco, not being the most adventurous offal eater and not being convinced by the honeycomb tripe that was in the last one I had. Sometimes it's a bit hard to find the main ingredient of the filling, but it's no disaster.
I get my part of the hot dog and it's just as good as my last visit. A nice dog, piquant salsa, mayo and mountains of cheese.
The grilled fish with fennel salad and salsa verde is pretty awesome, held together by the deliciously balanced salsa. It's probably my favourite dish so far.
Corn chips with guac and salsa sit on the table and are great to pick at before, between and after dishes.
El Loco is the sort of place that Sydney has desperately needed for the last... oh... ever. Fresh, tasty, cheap, fun and non-stodgy Mexican food. The value is excellent and the venue is, to the best of my knowledge, now paedophile free.
RATING: Will return to [?]