Walter Mencken 10 a.m., July 23
El Vitral: “Window” joint open? Closed?
The place with 220 tequilas and awesome happy hour deals has a sign on the door...
Down at the ballpark.
The Proper Pub, 20 yards away, closed down for lack of interest, like no foot traffic on non-Padre days (and that’s maybe 200 days in a year), after what must have been a hugely expensive refit of the ancient Simon Levi Company building.
Now I see El Vitral (815 J Street, 619-236-9420), which also had to go through a megabuck refit to make this old brick building viable...
...to move in, has a notice about being closed…temporarily.
“El Vitral will be closed for maintenance and renovations,” says a sign on the door.
Pablo Becker, the owner, and force to be reckoned with in Chula Vista, has opened a kind of El Vitral II there (2015 Birch Road, Eastlake, 619-421-7067). His idea with both is to capture the rising generations of upwardly-mobile Mexican-Americans, as well as anglos of course, who want Latino-flavored places to take dates, have meets, that aren’t too down-homey or street taco.
He makes a big deal about tequila (220 brands in the EVEV - East Village El Vitral), cocktails, and making original, arty takes on, like, the humble taco.
And Happy Hour? Original! I still remember the stuffed guacamole, blobs of the green stuff filled with savory things like blue cheese, chipotle and bacon, or sweet, with melon, grape, pineapple and a bit of Serrano for kicks. Five bucks.
Same for tacos, excellent ceviche, tuna, salmon tacos, two for $5, if memory serves.
And anglos seem to like this “safe entry” concept for the cool side of Latino culture too. By all accounts, the new El Vitral (it means “stained glass window”) is going gangbusters, though I haven’t been yet.
So yes, now I stare at this sign and worry.
But still hope: On the same window they have an application asking authorities to allow live entertainment, and to set up a sidewalk café scene right on J, which I’ve been itching to see.
But that old buggy-boo about lack of foot-traffic down here is maybe the overall nightmare for restaurant wannabes.
So is this sign just a cover for closing?
I call their Chula Vista eatery.
“Month and a half,” the guy assures me. “They’re just making some alterations. They’ll be re-opening.”
Take his word for it. Hope the sidewalk terrazza’s part of the deal.