The barebones Elkridge restaurant advertises authentic Mexican food in a casual setting -- ordering at a counter, eating at small tables beneath plate glass windows. The draw is the food. Breakfasts with eggs, tortillas, beans and unusual ingredients like chorizo or catcus. Lunches and dinners heavy on tacos, sopes and burritos.
The owners just opened a new El Nayar in Catonsville whose menu seems to run to fajitas and enchiladas. But the original Elkridge location goes for the basics -- although there are menudo and shrimp soup on the weekends. For my first visit, I started with a beef taco, a lengua taco, rice and beans. They were good, if a little basic. The tacos ($1.89 each) are the small tortillas with filling, grilled onions, and radishes. With a squeeze of lime, the tacos have a flavor close to the carne asada at Pupuseria Lorenita's, the truck that I love south of El Nayar on Rte 1. (And Lorenita's gives you two tortillas so you can break each taco into two wraps.)
El Nayar echoes the trucks -- which is a compliment in my book -- with flavorful, authentic meals for under $10 a person. Breakfasts are $5. Don't expect a downtown restaurant. Don't expect Chipotle's ridiculous portions. Go for the smokey chipotle salsa because I was looking down on the beans and rice until I spooned a little red sauce on them. That was delicious. Next time, I'll try the chips & salsa and the guacamole to get a little more.
(Update: Check out this Yelp review if you want another view of what to order.
If you like Mexican restaurants, definitely try El Azteca in Clarksville. There is interesting ceviche at both El Azteca and at La Palapa Too on the Laurel/Columbia border. If you like Mexican food, stop at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia for fresh corn tortillas, a Mexican butcher, great baked goods and all kinds of Mexican and Central American groceries.
If you are going near El Nayar, check out this post about all the wonders that you find along U.S. 1.
6790 Business Parkway
Elkridge, MD 21075
NEAR: This is in sight of Rte 1 just south of Rte 100. There is a light at Business Parkway, and El Nayar is in the first building on the left next to a Subway.