Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
El Take it Easy's staff made the transition to Hubcap with blinding speed and not a moment too soon.
Well, that was fast! Not much sooner than I foretold the coming of Hubcap, the restaurant opened up for business. I would have speculated that some unknown delays might have prevented the changeover from El Take it Easy to Hubcap, but the staff clearly had all their ducks in a row and the switch happened almost overnight. I gave the new restaurant a little while, but I had to get in there and grind a burger sooner rather than later.
At first glance, Hubcap is still very much like EZ in appearance, although the addition of some polished metal and a few well-placed racing stripes gives the interior a Cannonball Run makeover, albeit a subtle one.
The menu is impressively streamlined. A $9 burger forms the basis of the operation and a few, $2-$9 side dishes and starter plates round out the menu. That’s about it. In that respect it couldn’t be more unlike EZ. The focus may be narrow, but the appeal will be much broader. And perhaps that’s already showing results. Even on a weeknight, there were plenty of people in the dining room. I was always tentatively in support of El Take it Easy, but I can see that Hubcap is already the better restaurant.
I ate the burger, and it was good. Grass-fed beef, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, mayonnaise and “fluffy cheese” (a mixture of cream cheese, cheddar, and blue cheese, or so I was told) exploded out of the bun. I grabbed a fork and knife, finishing the burger via utensil rather than watch it disintegrate. Paying an extra $1 for caramelized onions was a good idea, but the $5 addition of uni paté didn’t seem to offer much in the way of extra flavor for a 50% increase in price.
On the side, fries with red eye gravy and fluffy cheese ($9) impersonated poutine in a huge basket. The fries themselves were insufficiently crispy--something Hubcap will have to mind in the future if it’s going to bill itself on burgers and fries--but the smothering in gravy and cheese made them delicious.
Jalapeno poppers ($7) were filled with the everpresent fluffy cheese and served with a thin, tangy ranch-style dressing. There’s some irony in conceptual restaurants emulating Hooters, and I’m OK with it for now.
Pickled eggs ($2) were perfect, not yet rubbery from over-curing, and they’ll always be wonderful provided the restaurant sells enough of them to keep using fresh ones. Woe befalls the patron who bites into an egg that’s sat too long in the pickle, for that way lies rubbery chewy madness instead of briny whites and creamy, alkaline yolks.
With the food being delicious, Hubcap’s biggest challenge going forward will be dealing with the service. EZ (much like the Linkery) struggled with ineffectual service and Hubcap seems no different at the outset. The servers seemed overworked or undertrained, perhaps both. I’m aware that the concept is new, but the staff worked together at EZ and should be on their game and up to the level of the burger. No amount of tasty beef can erase the bad taste of poor service.
Still, it was a very good burger.
3926 30th Street
Closed Mondays, 5-Late Weekdays, 12-Late Weekends