I wasn’t going to write more tonight because I’m in such a foul mood. But then a friend of mine, who read my latest TripAdvisor review of the Esquire Tavern of San Antonio, said I could have “scathed” more. And since I’m in a shitty mood tonight, maybe it’s a good time to write an expanded review of this bar, which disappointed the hell out of me and Bill.
Yesterday was Bill’s 49th birthday. Late in the afternoon, we were hoping for a couple of celebratory cocktails. Bill loves a good martini, but rarely gets to have them when he’s not at home because he does most of the driving and does not wish to drive while intoxicated. Since we were staying in downtown San Antonio and there are a lot of bars in the area that we could walk to, we figured it would be no problem finding a place that could hook us up, even though it was a Sunday.
Originally, we were going to go to the Mexican Manhattan Restaurant, which we know has excellent and inexpensive margaritas. But that place was closed… and then I spied the steps leading up from the Riverwalk to the Esquire Tavern, which promised lots of interesting beers on tap. We walked up the metal steps leading to the second storey of the building and entered the bar, notable because it has the longest wooden bar in Texas and has been operating since Prohibition ended in 1933– the year my dad was born. Actually, we heard that the bar closed for a few years in the 2000s, then opened again. It has a young chef who is supposedly really good at her craft. Not that we’d know. No one gave us a menu or anything.
Our initial impression of the place was decent. A couple of people said hello as we walked in. We nodded a greeting. I liked the bar’s ambiance, which was kind of dim and elegant. We sat down at the very long bar on leather covered barstools with backs. So far, so good. I noticed a lot of really interesting looking gins, which I knew Bill would like. He loves trying new things and doesn’t mind paying a premium if it means he gets to taste something unique. Curiously, I didn’t see any beer taps, but in a pinch, I like cocktails too. The barkeeps at the Esquire Tavern could have easily made me happy and earned a nice tip for their troubles. Alas, they couldn’t be bothered.
We sat there and waited. And waited. There were at least three bartenders behind the bar– so far as I could tell, anyway. One guy had a beard that resembled Rasputin’s and appeared to be trying very hard to impress a couple of young ladies with his flare bartending skills. I know he saw us. He looked right at us. But he didn’t even say hello or kiss my ass or anything… and neither did any of his colleagues. Time passed and we were feeling more and more stupid by the second.
I could tell Bill was getting really pissed. He’s usually a very mild mannered guy and rarely gets upset with people. Being ignored the way we were was making him feel foolish, which is one thing he can’t abide. Since it was his birthday, “foolish” was definitely no way for him to feel. We waited over ten minutes for some sign that these people wanted our business and could make us a decent cocktail or two. We got nada.
I was very puzzled by the reception we were getting in this place. I mean, all they had to do was say hello and let us know they’d be with us shortly. I don’t mind waiting if the staff is really busy. But it was like we were invisible. The reception we were getting was very cold and felt deliberately unwelcoming.
When another couple came in after us and the bartender spoke to them and continued to ignore us, I just looked at Bill and said, “Let’s go.”
Poor Bill. It’s bad enough turning 49 without being completely dissed in a bar. I was shocked by how rudely we were treated. I can’t remember an experience in a bar or restaurant quite as awesomely shitty as what we experienced at the Esquire Tavern.
We walked out of there feeling really low and embarrassed. And we had NO REASON to feel low or embarrassed. I mean, we’re normal people… or at least we appear that way. But it was like they had no need for our business. I am generally pretty lenient when it comes to people who work in restaurants. I worked in one myself for awhile and I always figured no server or bartender in their right mind would purposely give someone bad service… not when they typically get paid practically nothing by the bar or restaurant and depend on tips. There were times when I unintentionally gave bad service when I was weeded out of my mind. I might have been much more patient had the Esquire Tavern been really crowded or busy. It wasn’t, though. There were plenty of empty tables and it looked like there were a lot of people on duty. I see from reading Yelp! and TripAdvisor that people other than us had complaints like ours about terrible service. Do they not like tourists? Hey– in a few weeks, we won’t be tourists; we’ll be residents!
Bill was still fuming about it as we walked down the street. We went to the Menger Bar, which was at our hotel, and mentioned what happened to us to the bartender on duty. The bartender dished a bit about the place. He said he went there once and they tried to talk him out of the drink he wanted. He also told us that the bar was a bit hyped. Granted, he was a bartender at a competing bar, also very historic since that was where Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders hung out back in the day. Maybe we should take what he said with a grain of salt.
Bill and I are good drinkers and good tippers. We like good food. We shower regularly. I was even wearing makeup, for Chrissakes!
It doesn’t really matter, I guess. We are moving to San Antonio in a little over three weeks and we’re both pretty sure we won’t be giving the Esquire Tavern another chance. In fact, I think we’re both a little sick of the Riverwalk and probably won’t be hanging out there much anyway. But if we do go downtown, it’s extremely unlikely we’d try that bar again and knowing how much I like to chat, I imagine I’ll be bitching and writing about it a lot. I’m good for that.
Bill has lingering issues with embarrassment and shame and that was how he felt when these people failed to recognize him as a paying customer. And that embarrassment turned to anger… especially on my part. I have a very long memory when it comes to these things. As a matter of fact, I still hold a grudge against a place that dissed me over twenty years ago, when I was still a college student. They surely don’t care… and back then, we had no outlets like blogs or TripAdvisor for public venting. But I remember… and I’m still pretty bitter. 😉
I don’t have time for people who don’t have time for me; certainly not when it involves money. Besides, Bill is my favorite bartender. I know his prices are a hell of a lot less expensive than any I’ve encountered in a bar.
We won’t be darkening their door again… despite the loads of liquor…
Edited to add… a friend of mine read this article and passed along this link, which may shed some light on the subject. Perhaps the Esquire Tavern is one of those new “hip” bars where the bartenders have a snotty attitude about the libations they sell and their clientele. The author of the article uses a word that describes exactly how it feels to be ignored the way we were… “degrading”. What a damn shame!