Mexican eatery happy hour good but dinner better

St. Patrick’s Day made Mexican the obvious choice for a dinner, so I met my wife and a couple friends at Taco Escobarr, a full service eatery and drinkery specializing in all things south of the border. Located on Congress St. in the heart of what I’ll call the Congress restaurant district, they are always busy when I go which is usually during happy hour on Friday. This time was no different.

The restaurant is pretty tight and taking a seat at a table or standing usually both mean that you’ll literally be rubbing elbows with another person. And so I did while adding a fourth to the rest of my party that was already there. They enjoyed some drinks and food they had already ordered and I obsessed over the menus. Before long a waitress visited to see if I wanted a drink. Her first visit was a “no”, but with her second, I had some thoughts.

“What are the happy hour specials?” I asked. She mentioned something about discounted margaritas and drafts. I inquired as to what was on draft.

“Beer!” My wife interjected the obvious, though slightly vague, answer to my question with unflinching confidence.

We got a half-joking look of amazement from the waitress at my wife’s response before she added her own, listing the brews on tap. I ordered Dos Equis and was asked if I wanted the amber or lager. I responded with a “yes”. The waitress nearly passed out, realizing that, like my wife, I had given an answer that was well outside the bounds of clarity and normalcy. I changed my response to “amber” as the waitress walked away shaking her head.

When I got my beer, it was limed and I reiterated my stance that it is okay for a man to have a fruited beer as I squeezed the citrus into it. A few sips helped me get down to business with the food. I contemplated my options, knowing I had to start with some chips, sort of a mandatory order for my trips to Mexican eateries. I decided to go with the Chips and Salsa Trio – pico de gallo, roasted tomatillo, and mango habenero. I again got a strange look from our server who thought that was my entire meal. I assured her that was only a starter and when I got that, I’d have the rest of my meal decided upon.

My chips came and I threw in an order of the Burrito – choice of filling, flour tortilla, queso fresco, pinto beans, rice, guacamole, cabbage, pico de gallo, and crema. I went with the Al Pastor filling – slow braised pork with pineapple and guajillo chilies, and got it smothered in queso for an extra three bucks. Everyone at the table – there were three of us left at that point – started working on the chips.

Triple salsa and chips was a nice start to the meal. I preferred the pico, but the tomatillo was pretty tasty too. The mango was delicious but difficult, because the chunks of fruit were large and didn’t mix well with the other parts of the salsa. Though I was sharing, I ate plenty of all three myself. As I was winding down my work on the tortillas, the burrito came out.

Smothered in queso as requested, my burrito was garnished with a lime wedge, radish slices, and a knife with cutting power. I gave the hefty wrap a shot, cutting into it like I was on a mission. I was impressed by the amount of pork filling. I tasted it and found pork exceptionally flavorful with the sweetness of pinapple and just a mild heat. The one issue I had was that the buritto was a bit on the not-so-warm side which was somewhat peculiar since the smothering involved throwing it in the oven after it was doused in cheese.

I considered sending the burrito back for some heat, but it was riding the line of just warm enough to keep eating and I was hungry, so I stuck with it. The taste was good with pork, plenty of cheese, and all the fixins contributing to a very full and better-than-basic main course. The rest of the table worked on food and drink they had ordered before and after my arrival including guacamole, a variety of tacos, and varying types of margaritas.

It took some time, but I finished the burrito and settled my tab which came to somewhere around $25 bucks prior to tip. Taco Escobarr is a fun place to go. While their happy hour specials aren’t anything to write home about, it’s the drinks and the atmosphere that make it a worth while place to stay for a spell. And though I had a slight issue with the temperature of my food, it was really solid otherwise. I’ll be returning reasonably soon – maybe on another non-Mexican holiday.

Stay hungry.

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Peter Blanchette

About Peter Blanchette

Peter Peter Portland Eater grew up in Lewiston, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in English. After college, he left the state to work in Massachusetts, but the allure of a more comfortable life in his home state brought him back after eight years. Upon his return and after meeting his now wife – Mrs. Portlandeater, he slowly integrated himself into the Portland food scene by trying as many restaurants as he could afford. That and a desire to write for others again led him to start where he reviews restaurants and blogs about whatever Portland/Maine food topics he finds interesting.