Downtown taco bar El Rey opens today

First there was La Venadita, then Nixtaco, and now you can add El Rey to your fancy taco list.

El Rey opens today at the historic Oschner Building at Seventh and K Streets: the first restaurant—well, besides the incredibly short-lived Triple Double—to focus on serving patrons of the Golden 1 Center.

That means the hours are flexible. Generally, El Rey will be open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. If there’s a concert or a game on a Sunday, though, El Rey will open. The kitchen hours also might change depending on demand after events.

Similarly, the space can adapt to whatever vibe suits whatever is happening at the arena: LED lighting can switch to purple for Sacramento Kings games and there’s also a deejay booth sandwiched between two bar areas.

“The idea isn’t to turn into a nightclub by any means,” says general manager Elliott Ames. “It’s to keep the mood going.”

The interior looks modern with some rustic touches, such as an exposed brick wall and distressed wood panels. There’s some funk, too: shiny plastic, floral-print booth seating and bright turquoise and violet accents, for example. Then again, more than a dozen flat-screen televisions almost override those touches with a sports bar feel.

Ames says it’s important for El Rey to appeal to both the hip Midtown crowd as well as those driving in from Roseville to see Maroon 5. That effort to please everyone—be contemporary but also approachable—extends to the food and drinks as well.

Cocktails focus on mezcal and tequila, with lots of fresh juices and herbs. The food menu is primarily make up of tacos, which cost $3.50-$5 for one. Among the more unusual offerings from chef Bryce Palmer: shrimp with a spicy peanut salsa ($4.25), crispy duck carnitas with cilantro creme ($4.50), and chorizo with thin, crispy French fries and pickled onions ($3.75). Other playful dishes include black bean hummus ($7), a bacon-wrapped hot dog ($10) and a choco taco ($9) stuffed with Gunther’s ice cream. Palmer tries to source ingredients locally, such as the tortillas, which come from La Esperanza.

El Rey is primarily owned by Trevor Schultz, who also runs Barwest and Crawdads on the River, and he’ll open two more concepts in the Oschner Building, including Irish pub Malt & Mash.

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