By Sylvan Hardy
Call it Esquina de las Artes’ second act.
La Placita restaurant, which opened a month ago in space originally occupied by small shops, is intended to be the anchor of a revitalized Esquina de las Artes. Unlike its coffee shop partner, MeLatte, at the front of Esquina, La Placita offers a full menu of what it calls “traditional food.”
The owners of Placita envision the restaurant as a gathering point for visitors to the large upstairs art gallery (coming soon), the customers of craft shops that front Av. Doce de Abril, and attendees to meetings and social events in the large events space directly above it. It will also be a convenient meal stop for those who who come for the public events, such as a Saturday organic market, being planned for the open plaza between La Placita and MeLatte.
“We want to create a space that is full of activity, and where people will want to gather for leisurely activities and a good time,” says Cornelio Vintimilla who, with his father, Juan Pablo Vintimilla, is directing the Esquina make-over. “It will be a few months before we have all our plans in place but we are very happy with the progress so far, and La Placita is a big part of it.”
In addition to La Placita and MeLatte, the Vintimillas plan to add a small second-floor bar upstairs on the Doce de Abril side. “It will be a casual place to relax and talk to friends, with a nice view of the river,” says Cornelio.
The restaurant and bar business is not new for the Vintimillas, who also own and operate Villa Rosa on Gran Colombia, and the Santa Lucia hotel on Presidente Borrero, which includes two restaurants and a bar.
La Placita fits well with the new Esquina theme of casual sophistication. With two walls of windows, it has a bright homey feel. Brick archways add a touch of tradition. Outside seating contributes to the kick-back attitude
The menu mixes traditional Ecuadorian fare with North American, Mexican and Chinese dishes, with the idea of appealing to a large audience.
There’s a good choice of appetizers ranging from comida tipica standards, salchipapas and locro de papas, $3.60 and $3.50, to platters of seafood, meats, and chicken wings, at $8 and $4.50. The shrimp and Peruvian sea bass cerviche are meals in themselves, at $7 and $9.50. Salads include the La Placita, Greek and Mexican, at $4, $3.50 and $4.50.
The main courses also offer a wide variety at good prices. The beef dishes (churrasco, Milanese and “a la diabla”), accompanied by rice and fries, are priced under $10, except for lomo mar adentro, or surf and turf, that runs $13. There’s also a beef al la plancha offering with choice of mushroom, cheese or pimienta sauces, all of them excellent. Chicken choices cost $7 and $7.50, with one coming with the choice of the three sauces.
There is also spaghetti with pesto or carbonara sauce for $6. Add shrimp, chicken or beef for $3.50, $2 or $3.50. The pesto is outstanding.
Shrimp dishes, garlic or sweet and sour, are $7.50 and $8.50, and include salad, rice and fries. The grilled corvina and salmon are priced at $11 and $12.
Among many other offerings are BBQ ribs at $12; a plato típico, $8; Mexican fajitas with choice of meat, chicken or shrimp, $9.50, $8.50 and $8.50; Chinese chaulafán, $7.50; and grilled meats and shrimp. There are beef, chicken and capresse sandwiches, and a choice of three over-sized hamburgers, priced from $5 to $7, accompanied with fries.
There are five desserts. The Key lime pie is especially good at $3.
La Placita may be a second act, but it has the taste and feel of a play that will have a long, successful run.
La Placita, Esquina de la Artes, Av. Doce de Abril at Agustin Cueva; Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Monday.