Escala Latin Bistro

126 Airport Rd., West Milford, NJ 07480. Phone: 973-506-6096. Fax: 973-506-4563

Escala Latin Bistro

Escala Latin Bistro is a relatively new restaurant in West Milford. Located at the Greenwood Lake Airport in the newly remodeled site of a former eatery, the interior of this restaurant is bright and cheerful with Latin American travel posters on the wall and tabletop graphics that look like airport runways. Just sitting there makes you want to book a flight to somewhere warm and exotic.

We had heard good things about this restaurant, so I really wanted to like this place. I was looking forward to a pleasant first-time lunch there with my husband, but this is an honest review of my personal experience at Escala. My first disappointment was the menu — not one vegetarian entrée! Well, we’ve faced this dilemma before, so I tried my favorite tactic; I ordered the San Pedro Chicken Salad, minus the meat, and requested that grilled vegetables be substituted for the chicken. The waitress consulted the chef and came back with the news that he had only squash as a grilled vegetable. That didn’t sound very appealing, so I settled for the Avocado Salad and Yucca Fries instead. My husband ordered the Caribbean Caesar Salad with green plantain croutons and a Cheese Quesadilla (from the children’s menu). The choices for vegetarians seemed mighty slim. We both ordered iced tea, brewed and unsweetened for me, bottled sweet for him.

When they arrived our salads were large and pleasing to the eye, however, while eating mine I discovered many wilted and yellowed leaves among the baby salad greens. The waitress offered to have the salad remade using only romaine lettuce, but knowing how fast my husband eats and how slow I am, I decided to just keep the salad I had and push the objectionable greens off to the side. The sliced avocado was fresh. Besides that the only other adornments to this salad were a couple of grape tomatoes and a few strips of mild cheese (maybe 4). The oil and vinegar dressing was unseasoned and unremarkable. Honestly, the salad was unimpressive. On the other hand, this was the first time I’d ever had yucca fries and didn’t know what to expect, but they were delicious! (I offered one to my husband and then had  to stop him from eating them all himself!) The home-brewed unsweetened tea was very weak — almost as clear as water. He was satisfied with his bottled sweet tea, so unless you are staying away from sugar that would be the better option.

As underwhelmed as we were with our lunches, we decided to try one more item. Strawberry/Nutella Empanada was the featured dessert on the tiny plastic menu stand on the table , so we ordered one to share. While waiting for our dessert to be served, we turned over the tiny plastic menu stand and lo and behold, there was a list of Empanadas that could be ordered individually… no fewer that 5 were vegetarian! Why weren’t these printed on the main menu? Why didn’t our waitress tell us about them when she knew we were diligently searching for something that didn’t contain meat? Major failure to pay attention to detail on several fronts.

When delivered, the Strawberry/Nutella Empanada was beautifully presented with strawberry syrup swirled on the plate and a cloud of whipped cream holding two chocolate cookie sticks on the side. That little treat was enough to make us decide to give this place one more try. We will return to Escala sometime in the future. Hopefully, by then they will have added some vegetarian entrees to the menu. If not, we now know to look behind the dessert menu for the list of vegetarian empanadas!

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