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Jun 8, 2008 07:06 AM

El Nayar in Catonsville?!

I noticed that an empty storefront on Frederick Rd in Catonsville (across from Record and Tape Traders) is now sporting a sign that says El Nayar. A quick search of this board revealed a before unknown to me restuarant with the same name in Elkridge...could it be that Catonsville is actually getting a chowhound worthy place to go? Any info would be appreciated.

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  1. Strange coincidence. I drove past El Nayar in Elkridge today, noticed it for the first time and thought "Is that a place I should come back to try." I'd love any information too.

    10 Replies
    1. re: HowChowBlog

      The Elkridge one is solid, or at least was -- I haven't been in a year or so. Also dirt cheap. It's a nice option.

      1. re: JonParker

        It's still solid. I wouldn't go very far out of my way, and the menu is very limited, but I very much like their tortas, burritos and tacos. I usually stick to the carne asada or lengua, both of which are very good there. Their tamales are pretty good as well.

        1. re: JonParker

          Checked out the one in Elkridge at lunch time. Pretty decent and reasonable, as you say. Had a brace of tacos (2 lengue, 2 barbacoa). The tongue was okay, not as savory and juicy as I like. The barbacoa was better with rich spicy flavors. A winner. Not quite as good as El Michoacan in Frederick (What? You didn't know about that?), but definitely autentico.

        2. re: HowChowBlog

          The name indicates the Owners are from Nayarit.... look out for regional specialties such as Pescado Zarandeado (a whole fish this is lightly smoked above a grill), Oyster Sopes, Chivichangas (a type of empanada made from a very thick layer of masa that is stuffed & deep fried... then served with an Avocado Salsda)... lightly poached seafood, marinated in a bit of lime of juice & a tangy tamarind-chile sacue and served inside green coconuts.

          If they nail those dishes then you know you have an exciting place.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            Yes, except that the El Nayar restaurant in Columbia has none of those things. Seafood is completely absent from their menu. They have more of a standard taco truck type menu in nicer surroundings.

            1. re: Jason1

              Would you be willing to ask them about such dishes? They might have them off menu or be willing to introduce some specials. If you get me a ph#... I will give them a call to see if they will prepare anything beyond their basic menu.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                Well, here's their website.
                For what it's worth, they do say that they have shrimp soup on weekends. They're not really set up to put out too extensive a menu, though.

                1. re: Jason1

                  Thanks.... I just got off the phone with proprietress. Tough break.... they come from a remote rural municipio up in the mountains adjacent near the state of Durango called El Nayar (Pop = 25,000 spread throughout 466 towns & settlements)... about half the people belong to the Huicol or Cora ethnicity... but alas the Flores family are Mestizo / mainstream (Catholic, Spanish Speaking etc.,)... and so they don't really know much about the local Native dishes (Venison stews, dried Venison, unique Cheeses, great variety of Squash & Pumpkin dishes, Tejuino & other fermented) and they don't know much about Nayarit's more developed cuisines from the Coast & the larger cities like Compostela & Tepic.

                  She did say that give a day's notice they would prepare some of their families special dishes.... Shrimp Ceviche Tostadas, the weekend Shrimp Stew & Shrimp Fajitas... but they don't really cook with Fish, Mollusks or Venison etc.,


                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    You should contact the chef/owner at Mari Luna Grill in Pikesville. He is a native Mexican and a French trained chef. He is very familiar with alot of cuisines from different regions of Mexico. As a matter of fact they are opening a 2nd location right up the street from their present location which promises to showcase more of the owner's culinary skills. It should be open in a couple of months....more upscale and innovative than their current restaurant.

                  2. re: Jason1

                    What do people think about Blue Agave? On paper... if you exclude the Burritos... the menu would be typical of a mid level urban restaurant in Mexico.

          2. I work in Elkridge and often go to El Nayar for lunch. It is FANTASTIC and authentic. I highly recommend it and if they are expanding, so much the better! Really, I would go there more often if I could- it's that good!

            8 Replies
            1. re: maddogg280

              Any other thoughts in Elkridge? I discovered the taco truck on Chowhound, and I detoured from my Sunday errands to try the truck and the vendors at the US Flea Market.

              1. re: HowChowBlog

                One of my coworkers (who's very into mexican food) discovered a place called El Dorado a bit further north on Rt.1. We've been there a few times now and the food is great. The space is a redecorated Chinese restaurant with the former name still engraved in the floor. I've not done the taco truck, but I'd guess the ambiance at El Dorado is better!

                1. re: maddogg280

                  Is this the place with the weird-shaped room, like a 50's motel lobby?

                2. re: HowChowBlog

                  On Rte 1 just past Rte 175 same side as the Holiday Inn is an Argentinian place called El Patio that has gotten good press...
                  Also have you hit Uncle Daves/Grubes on Dorsey Rd just of Rte 1(behind the Citgo station)

                  1. re: Hue

                    El Patio IS good! Killer empanadas!

                    What is Uncle Daves?

                    1. re: baltoellen

                      Uncle Daves , BBQ, Pit Beef..great sliced pork sandwich

                      1. re: Hue

                        Smokey and Uncle Grubes. Their Pit Beef's decent.

                3. re: maddogg280

                  that's all great news...I will definitely report back once they've opened the Catonsville location.

                4. El Nayar sounds like a great addition, yay! Sistereurope, have you tried Catonsville Gourmet yet? I've only been once, but I really enjoyed it and it's defnitely chowhound-worthy.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: pomme de terre

                    I hate to sound like a grouch about my pet peeve, but Catonsville Gourmet is yet another BYOB place with a corkage fee, which pretty much knocks them off my list. E. Large reviewed them in the Sunpaper a few weeks ago and didn't find much outstanding there.

                    1. re: JonParker

                      This review?
                      three out of four stars across the board seems pretty good. Hey, when they are finally able to get their liquor license you can come back and pay the 3X markup for your wine. Until then, I'll gladly pay $5 to bring whatever I want.

                    2. re: pomme de terre

                      I always forget about Catonsville Gourmet! I guess I'll have to give it a try - and when do I will be sure to report back. The corkage fee doesn't bother me as long as the food is good. Of course the $25 corkage fee that some places in CA charged is a whole other story!!

                      1. re: sistereurope

                        The Sun said it was a $5 corkage fee, which is chump change when you figure in regular restaurant mark-ups on wine.

                        I probably wouldn't drive across town just to check CG out, but it's definitely worth a visit if you're a local.

                        1. re: pomme de terre

                          It's not much compared to restaurant markups, but the salient point is that they don't have a liquor license. I refuse to pay to be inconvenienced. This is all OT here, but I ranted about it at some length in this thread:

                    3. I've been to the Elkridge location of El Nayar a few times and whether you'll like it depends on what you're looking for: it's what I'd call "authentic" Mexican like what you'd find in Mexico. In contrast for me the epitome of this cuisine is Tex-Mex, particularly like that in San Antonio or the Texas Hill Country, and of which I don't think there are any great examples in this region.

                      I can think of four distinct common styles (Tex-Mex, California Mex, New Mexican, and authentic Mexican). Generally I find the quality of the meats and toppings is better in the American variations (juicier meat, more seasoning, sauce, and cheese), and the main difference I've found in New Mexican is that everything is available with red or green chilies (rendered down into a kind of sauce).

                      If you're looking for Tex-Mex, the closest I know here are Don Pablo's or Tampico Grill in Laurel, while Baja Fresh is somewhere between Tex-Mex and California Mex. Anita's in No VA is New Mexico style. I know some folks from Texas who like La Palapa but it was pretty bland to me. Diego's in Severna Park is supposed to be good California Mex but I've never made it there.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: 2stepper

                        I think both Don Pablos and La Palapa are just awful.

                        1. re: hon

                          I noticed that no one has mentioned El Salto on Ritchie Highway... location isn't so great (an old fast food building in a strip mall parking lot) but the food makes up for it!

                          1. re: igrowveggies

                            If it's anything like the El Salto in Parkville - blehk!

                            1. re: hon

                              El Nayar in Catonsville is now open. Went there for lunch and was surprised by the limited offerings of both their lunch and dinner menus. Maybe once they get rolling they will have specials, but for now I would say it was very so so. Oh, and they are BYOB with no corkage for those of you that are interested.

                      2. We ordered lunch from el nayar. We were feeding a staff of 20. Each ordered an entree. Serving size was really small. Everyone was hungry afterwards. Food tasted ok but nothing to rave about like some of the postings about the elkridge location.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: cakeguy

                          I know that Paolino''s in Catonsville is supposedly chow-worthy. for sicilian pizza.
                          and I'm sure there's more such as Korean.

                          1. re: cakeguy

                            Interesting. The Elkridge location was is very solid, but I wouldn't have overly high expectations. It's certainly not the best tradtional Mexican, and they have a very limited menu, but it's still very good, fast, and cheap. Now, I just noticed on their website that their Catonsville menu has some major differences: it's more expensive, they highlight platter combos, they highlight fajitas and quesadillas, there's no lengua. Carne Asada and Lengua are the way to go at the Elkridge location, and I recommend focusing on the tacos, tortas and burritos. However, I'm not sure if that holds up in Catonsville.


                            1. re: Jason1

                              Had the Carne Azada platter in Catonsville and was very unimpressed. Dry, overcooked, overseasoned piece of steak. Won't be ordering that again, but look forward to trying other things. Also, the Chorizo and Black Bean soup was delicious and I overheard the owner or manager talking about the plans for weekend brunch. Something this area definitely needs.