Meandering down the long stretch of Lakeland Drive, local gems inconspicuously blend into the chain restaurant landscape like deer in the woods. You know they are there but it takes focused determination to hunt them down.
Eslava’s Grille occupies the shell of a former fast food restaurant, mixed in with the likes of Primo’s, Saigon, Fusion, Grant’s Kitchen and Table 100 from Jackson to Flowood. The former chef from AJ’s on Lakeland (the lakeside location closed) took off on his own and has operated Eslava’s for just over a year.
Similarly as hearing about a book I’d like to read and then promptly forgetting the title, I had wanted to eat at Eslava’s but it escaped my mind time and time again.
Recently my husband ate lunch there and I snagged a highly discounted certificate on the Restaurant.com website, which was a perfect reason to go back for dinner. The weekend rolled around and we took off for a date night.
Upon entering we saw a fairly full dining room, open doors and no host or hostess. We looked around aimlessly – wondering if we should sit or wait – and were rescued by other patrons who said we seat ourselves. A waitress rushed by shortly after and apologized for the confusion. She came back and promptly took our order of crab cakes, salad, Red Fish for me and Cajun Pasta for him.
Inhaling a basket of warm, buttery crostini with the kitchen in full view, we set in for our leisurely meal.
All four of the listed appetizers sounded great, but the other three might have been better options than the average crab cakes. Their version was thick, lightly breaded, accompanied by a light mango salsa and plated on a creamy sauce. The fresh green side salad was unembellished and came with a lovely house-made vinaigrette.
When my entree was set before me, I couldn’t help but observe how brown and one dimension the plate was. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the large portion of fish prepared with restraint and a dash of lemon, absent of a heavy sauce or pools of butter. It was served with roasted potatoes and an overcooked yellow squash/zucchini medley on the side, which is how Southerners seem to like them. On the other hand my husband’s pasta was plum full of seafood and had a muted spicy kick. After one good dash of salt, I kept sticking my fork in his bowl in return for my vegetables.
We had pleasant, if not slightly drawn out service, because there seemed to be only two people working the dining room besides the cooks. This might have been amended since we dined there, but they need a standing sign near the door instructing people to seat themselves. We observed many parties come in with confused faces. It’s a very small detail but one that could be of great help.
For generous portions and fresh seafood, the prices are fair. If you’re curious to try it for yourself, consider buying a certificate from Restaurant.com because our meal of one appetizer and two entrees was still over $40 after saving $25. I’d like to return for the avocado salsa, pasta or fried green tomatoes and crab meat sauce. And unbeknownst to us, apparently it is a BYOW establishment that other tables were happily taking part of.
Due to the simplicity, you might have the same thought as I did, that I could have made this at home. However, when you don’t feel like cooking, search out Eslava’s bright sign for a solid seafood meal.
2481 Lakeland Drive
Jackson, MS 39216