Because I am currently staying with family in Illinois, I have to take the opportunity to check out new restaurant that recently opened up in the area. Dos Patrons is the newest culinary addition to Northwest Indiana and first welcomed the public to sit down for tapas and sangria earlier this fall. I hopped in a car with the fam and checked it out this Friday night.
Dos Patrons Tapas Bar
1103 Joliet St. Dyer, IN 46311
Tue-Th 4-12am, Fri & Sat 4-1am, Sun 2-8
Dos Patrons advertises itself as a tapas bar which, based on my experience in Spain and at other tapas restaurants, means “small plates” of Spanish inspired cuisine. However, what I found on the menu at Dos Patrons was not tapas in any sense I am familiar with. I saw offerings such as a nacho platter, rice and beans, and chips and salsa, all of which are more closely related to Mexican cuisine than Spanish. I don’t believe that simply having paella, patatas bravas, and sangria on the menu qualifies an eatery as a tapas bar. What’s more, the portions do not make sense. Small plates should be priced as such, typically around $5-$8 each so you can order several, but most of the menu options here were over $9, leading me to believe I would get a larger portion than I did. It’s hard to justify ordering an array of “tapas” when you are paying as much for each one as you would for a full meal at many other places.
If you look past the regional confusion and pricing blunders, you will actually find yourself pleasantly appreciative of the atmosphere at Dos Patrons. The dim, warmly painted interior twinkles with ambient lighting including candles on each of the dark, wooden tables. Centerpieces of flowers placed in old tequila bottles are a nice touch, and if you stretch your imagination just a bit you may think you are in an upscale restaurant somewhere in Seville. The service here far exceeded any I’ve had in Europe, though, and was prompt, friendly, and more than accommodating.
A meal for four including five “tapas” and drinks ran around $80.00 with tax
Trying to get as much of a spread as we could, we settled on a couple orders of paella, an order of patatas bravas, and an order of crab cakes. For those who don’t eat meat, there is not much of a choice, so be prepared. I chose the paella because at $10.50/plate I thought I was getting a full meal, but instead I got a little portion that was probably supposed to be just another small plate. Be warned. The menu description boasted seafood nestled on a bed of saffron rice, but I detected no hint of saffron other than a slightly yellowish color clinging to the rice. The seafood— several shrimp and two large, well-cooked scallops— helped fill me, but genuine flavor was lacking. I used all the dollops of spicy sauce around the edges of the plate (perhaps meant only for decoration) in order to add some kick to the meal. Also, I was confused by the addition of pineapple slice to my meal given that pineapples historically have not been cultivated in Spain.
The other plates met the same fate as the paella where flavor was concerned. The crabcakes tasted more like breading than crab and had huge, intrusive chunks of red peppers inside. The dollop of mildly spicy mayo on top of each crabcake did little to augment the flavor. You get three cakes on a small bed of greens, which is perfectly adequate for a small plate, but not for the price you pay here.
The patatas bravas were probably the best value of the bunch. One portion will get you a mound of potatoes smothered in gooey white cheese, drizzled with a mayo-based sauce, and mixed with several sliced jalapeno peppers. Again, jalapenos are traditionally from Mexico, not Spain, but since the dish seemed to be missing the usual cayenne pepper and paprika, they gave it the heat it needed.
One of the best parts of the meal was the generous pitcher of ruby red sangria filled with sliced apples, limes, and oranges. It was a touch too sweet for me, but I prefer to taste wine more than juice when I drink sangria. The other alcoholic options are appealing, too, with a nice selection of wines (both red and white) by the glass and a dozen different beers. Specific offerings like Dos Equis and Corona will definitely complement the menu. Dos Patrons also offers some premium margaritas including a Marijuana Margarita that particularly intrigued me because I have no idea what it could possibly have in it to warrant that name.
The Bamboo Factor
Nowhere did the menu list the origins of its ingredients, any recycling or waste policies, or commitments to sustainable practices. And as I mentioned before, vegetarian options are scant. I would encourage Dos Patrons to dedicate more effort in this area once it gets comfortable and establishes itself as a fixture in the area.
Based on the gaping hole in sustainability, the mix-up in the cuisine’s origins, and the odd pricing, I will give Dos Patrons one throwing star. The atmosphere and service are what give me hope about this place, and I would visit it again for a drink or appetizers before going out, but this new restaurant definitely has some polishing to do.