Thursday, February 16, 2012

Amazing Cocktails, Sub-Par Food

The Esquire
Food: skip it
Drinks: amazing!
Service: good
Atmosphere: cozy

I have to say, my expectations for this joint were low. It’s on the Riverwalk, which should mean that it’s overpriced and mediocre. But my husband’s friend was in town, and he wanted to go somewhere downtown, and my husband wanted to try some of The Esquire’s famed cocktails, so I was out-voted.

The bar look as if it hasn’t been remodeled since it opened in 1933, but for them, it’s a bragging point. The tin ceiling, the old wood bar, the tile floor, the bar tenders’ dapper attire, and the dim exposed light bulbs all gave the authentic ambience of a bygone era. One narrow path leads from the bar’s E Commerce Street entrance to its Riverwalk entrance. On one side is the long, sturdy, wood bar, and on the other is a row of intimate booths. The backs of the booths rise up high, like horse blinders, so each one feels like its own restaurant. This privacy makes The Esquire a great choice for an intimate date.

The service is a little awkward: you must order your food at the bar. However, once we ordered, service was prompt, courteous, and attentive.

When I looked at the menu, I noticed that there are no vegetarian options on their standard menu nor on their winter menu (but I assume that as the seasonal menu changes, vegetarian items may be added). Well, there is grilled cheese and salad, but I just can’t bring myself to pay for someone else to make me a grilled cheese or a salad, no matter how good. The Valentine’s Day menu, which included a beet risotto (yum!), was advertized on the table, but they wouldn’t let me order it because it wasn’t Valentine’s Day. Major bummer. I hate getting forced into eating seafood. Instead, I ordered the Maque Choux, spicy battered shrimp over creamed corn. The heat in the batter was nice, and the shrimp were well cooked. However, the corn tasted as if it came out of a can – if it didn’t, I want to know where they found uniformly colored corn that sweet in February. Unfortunately, the questionable corn made up most of the dish, and the cream softened the batter.

The meat-eater says:  I thoroughly enjoyed my cheesy, spicy sirloin burger, and my friend enjoyed his tacos con papas (which reportedly had meat in them, even though it is not mentioned on the menu description) and chalupitas.

After dinner, we ordered cocktails: the Doxycycline, Only the Besh, and Smokey Tiny Dancer. The last two were definitely the stand-outs (the doxycycline was a bit too mediciney, which is likely how it got its name). Only the Besh was creamy and spicy, yum! And Smokey Tiny Dancer tasted just like it sounds, smokey. Desserts accompanied the cocktails. The snickerdoodle ice-cream sandwich was good, but the bread pudding was amazing.

Recommendation: Only cocktails and desserts. Skip the entrees.
The Esquire Tavern on Urbanspoon

UPDATE, 2/21:
I received a message from the chef regarding the corn and questionably vegetarian tacos:

"I appreciate the time you took to give us a review, it seems as though you questioned a couple food items and I just wanted to clear them up for you. The corn comes from a produce purveyor Unifresh and it comes on the stalk... we add Texas honey to it to give it the sweetness that it might lack during this time of year. Not all of the corn is nice and some of it simply turns into corn stock. As for tacos they most definetly are vegetarian and we take that seriously. There was not and will never be meat in the tacos unless specified. I hope this helps.
Chef Brooke"

It's nice to know that the veggies are fresh, but the honey just made them taste syrupy, which is why they reminded me of canned corn. Also, it looks like my dining companion was mistaken about the tacos.

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