Barstool: The paloma at Camino Real

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by Eric Ginsburg

I learned two important things on my first trip to Camino Real: that palomas, despite not being on the menu, are still an option, and that tie-dye is making a resurgence as a fashion trend.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not advocating for the style for anything beyond children’s art projects — but just remember as the trend emerges that you heard it here first. I’m mostly here to talk about what I learned about palomas.

The grapefruit and tequila-based Mexican cocktail resembles a margarita in many ways, both in taste and presentation. The salted rim, the tequila, the sour taste. Some recipes call for lime juice, deepening the parallels to Mexico’s more famous adult beverage.

Fancier versions, a la Bon Appétit, prefer grapefruit juice and club soda and a grapefruit garnish to the alternative — cutting to the chase and just using grapefruit soda.

Camino Real, a small restaurant on Spring Garden Street in Greensboro that may be most popular for its tacos, serves up a sweet and sour, yellow-hued beverage in a pint glass. Skip the hoity-toity highball glass Bon Appétit calls for and those idiotic margarita glasses; palomas at Camino Real arrive in a more user-friendly vessel.

It’s a fizzier, slightly less sweet version of a margarita in many ways. Here, where some version of grapefruit soda might be in use, the grapefruit arrives primarily as an aftertaste, with tequila and salt comprising the majority of the vanguard.

Tequila isn’t really my thing. The last time I drank a margarita or tequila sunrise — both of which were on special when I dropped in at Camino Real — I was sitting poolside in Cancún. But that when-in-Rome approach extends to restaurants here in my book, and a paloma is an appropriate companion while chowing on fajitas or a torta.

And if you’re going for tequila, it should be front and center in the taste, as it is at Camino Real. Otherwise the drink could be mistaken for a salty dog — a vodka or gin drink with grapefruit juice, ice and a salted rim.

The paloma tasted pretty strong — an aspect that could possibly be attributed to the fact that it was mid afternoon as much as the actual alcohol content — and was more enjoyable than a margarita. I even briefly considered buying grapefruit soda at the Mexican tienda next door to try replicate the paloma at home.

I learned one other very important piece of wisdom, maybe even more important to impart than the fashion warning — don’t drink the last sip. Enough salt settles at the bottom of the paloma, even if you aren’t a particularly slow drinker, to make the dregs overpowering.

Visit El Camino Real Mexican Grill at 4131 Spring Garden St. in Greensboro or at elcaminoreal01.com.