Sunday, June 9, 2019

El Tio Grill Food Review

New York Steak special at El Tio Grill

Great company can make up for a lot of things, but even a long overdue visit with one of my best friends (Hi Rhonda!) couldn't mask a wealth of disappointment at El Tio Grill in Columbia Heights. I'm sure a lot had to do with timing (late lunch, after 2:00) and a near-empty restaurant, but with prices this steep (especially in this neighborhood) I expected more.

Atmosphere: It's probably (a lot) better when it's busy/full, but at two in the afternoon, all I can say is... dark and depressing. I can't recall any music; and although they didn't rush us along, we couldn't help but notice a trio of servers waiting for us to finish (less than six feet away.)

Fried Calamari with chili marinara sauce

Food: Chips & salsa? Passable, but I expect hot (or at least warm) chips. Bland salsa too + obviously frozen Calamari = a bad start. Then our entrees arrived, followed by further disappointment. Cold, tasteless fries, hard rice (rice molds in 2019?) and a fatty, tough-as-boots grilled NY steak that any place should be embarrassed to get rid of/serve. Saving grace? Nice chipotle sauce.

Complimentary Chips & Salsa

Service: Nice enough, but there was a definite language barrier, which resulted in a last-minute order change (for fear of getting something wrong.)

Shazam Test: N/A. To be honest, my friend & I were so busy talking, I didn't even notice any music playing (yet alone, taking out my iPhone to Shazam.)

Value: Thank Heaven for the weekday lunch specials, because the regular menu is crazy expensive. $10 margaritas (at lunch) is OK (as is an $11.95 steak & fries + rice.) That said, $60+ for two entrees, one app and one cocktail is too much.

Bottom Line: I'm surprised locals can afford to eat here; but then again, the real money's in the booze, and everyone loves a colorful, well-made drink, right? Unfortunately, we were there to eat, and it's difficult/impossible to say anything positive (save for a zesty sauce atop a terrible cut of meat.) No mas.