If EsCaLA’s décor looks as though it’s inside out, it’s by design. The open windows on the NE corner of 6th and S Kenmore Ave in Koreatown, blend the outdoor seating area and the indoor together. But there’s more than just that which bolsters the motif: The interior’s doorway is covered by a shingled roof that gives way to a tiered water fountain and the walls are covered with street art. All of which speak to owner, OG Chino’s story, rife with nods to his time spent working in the arts. And everything, from the gramophone-clustered light fixture to the two disco balls by the kitchen, amount to a casual, inviting milieu; appropriate for dinner, drinks, dates, what have you.
The menu is also reflective of Chino’s Korean and Colombian heritage. Through mutual friends, he connected with celebrated chef, Seoul Sausage’s Chris Oh. Together, they combine traditional Colombian dishes with subtle nods of Asian flair. Their ceviche (most popular dish) comes backed with black sesame seeded rice cakes that look like the inside of a dragon fruit, but only much more flavorful. Made of tilapia, shrimp, corn, and red onion, the spark in the dish comes courtesy of the diced Asian pear. Tamales, empanadas, crispy pork skin guacamole, loaded fried yucca, and a side portion of rice and beans, continue the Latin theme; but the menu’s star—for me—are the Colombian-spiced chicken wings. Perfectly seasoned, crunchy and juicy, these wings (large, I might add) come with a serving of their peppery hot sauce, “Candela,” and lime wedges. Make use of the lime wedges! The added burst of acidity on these wings is revolutionary.
Drinks? From a varied assortment of beers on tap to artisanal cocktails, EsCaLA has drinks aplenty: “El Jefe” features anise-flavored, Colombian liquor Aguardiente, the sweet and bubbly “La Mula Gringa” packs a punch in a tin mug—and they even have the Colombian beer Aguila in a bottle, along with the native soft drinks: Colombiana (which is a champagne soda) and Manzana (apple soda).
One disclaimer: If you’ve been to EsCaLA’s website, no doubt the fried egg, fried chicken and waffle combo caught your eye. This item is only available for brunch. Come during the week; come back on the weekend (if only to eat the chicken and waffle). That’s what I plan on doing. – Isaac Lekach