Do one thing well: EscoBar’s burger

I think the people at Escobar misread the famous quote as ‘better to do one thing well and 10 things poorly.’ This is actually the most difficult review I’ve had to write. Escobar is a maddening conflux of peaks and valleys. I guess the only way to review them is to start from the beginning and bring you along for the ride.

I crave authenticity. I love going into a traditional ethnic restaurant and you feel as if you’ve been transported to that location. Walking into Escobar smacks of ridiculous tackiness, not authenticity. The bar is coyly named after the humanitarian/monster Pablo Escobar; the most famous Colombian drug dealer in history. Obviously there is a fantastic mural of Havana in the bar. Wait, what? You mean to tell me Cuba and Colombia are different places?

Pablo EscoBar

Minská 88website

Opening the menu you’d expect to see some Bandeja Paisa or Ajiaco. Maybe some Cuban dishes? Nope. Just tomato soup, burgers and club sandwiches. Not exactly what I had in mind. If you ignore the butchering of their theme, the bar is a fun place to be. It’s a comfortable place to grab some drinks or a bite to eat. They have a fantastic no smoking back room. The service is also great (more on that later).

Escobar is, first and foremost, a bar. And they do shine in that area. They have a great selection of drinks and some fantastic cocktails. My most recent visit was right after New Years, so I was in no mood for alcohol. Yet, they managed to delight me with their passion fruit tea. Despite my initial reservations, things start looking up.

And then come crashing back down. We started with some nachos and a tomato soup. I didn’t know it was possible to make a bland tomato soup, but they managed. There was no flavor at all. The Nachos were just a plate of tortilla chips from a bag warmed up and a tiny cup of tomato sauce (with a dash of chili powder in there for kicks).

At this point, I’m ready to write a skewering review of the place. Being perfectly honest, I couldn’t have had lower expectations for a burger. And they couldn’t have exceeded my expectations any more (unless a unicorn served it to me).

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We ordered two burgers and two sandwiches. I had a bacon burger with jalapenos on it. The burger was jaw-unhinging large, juicy and topped well. The bacon was delicious and the veggies were crisp and flavorful. Their bun wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it was very good.

I asked for my burger medium and it had the perfect level of pinkness and juiciness. It was seasoned well and hit all the high notes a burger should. My friends ordered the grilled pork sandwich and the chicken club sandwich.

The pork sandwich was disappointing. It was bland and dry. But again, the club sandwich was a homerun. Big and tasty with a perfect blend of veggies. The sides were also a mixed bag. The coleslaw was a let-down, but the fries were pretty good. They reminded me delicatessen fries in NY; not very big, brown and oily. They aren’t for everyone, but we all liked them very much.

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My last note is about the service. We were pleasantly surprised with the level of service here. English isn’t their strong suite, but they were actually very accommodating.

I’ve been to this place five or six times. The last time I was there, the food came out of the kitchen cold. I don’t judge people by their mistakes (it was the only time I experienced that here), but I do judge them by how they deal with it. Our server (Míša) was apologetic and made very generous gestures. He offered to get us new ones, but we didn’t want to waste the food. It was great to receive the check with another apology while being informed we got a 10% discount.

So do I recommend Escobar? I’d have to say yes, with caveats. This is not a place you go looking for a good meal. But if you are going out with friends and happen to be hungry, this is a great bar to go to. You can stick to the burger and fries and have a great meal in a fun pub.

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