George Escovar has been in the restaurant business for 15 years and knows an opportunity when he sees one.
After spending the past five years working for a restaurant in North Carolina, Escovar recently returned to his longtime home of Hyattsville to open his own establishment.
“I like the area. I’ve been living here for 20 years,” said Escovar, who is originally from El Salvador. “I believe this place is coming up because we have a lot of development in the area. And we’re going to see if we can grow more and bring these people in.”
Escovar opened Pike El Chalateco at 5310 Baltimore Ave. in early February, replacing a Bolivian restaurant. It specializes in Central American cuisine, including dishes from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, among others. He chose the location for its spot on busy Route 1.
“We started at kind of a bad time but it looks like things are going to pick up,” Escovar said. “I expect in about six months we’re going to have a lot more people coming to the restaurant.”
He plans to replace the temporary menu with a fuller menu over the course of the next few months and is working on the restaurant’s breakfast offerings. The Salvadorian breakfast is popular, Escovar said, but he wants to expand the breakfast menu to include other Central American morning fare.
Escovar faces competition from other local restaurants but he is confident that Pike El Chalateco will hold its own.
“There’s not many Spanish restaurants in this area,” Ecsovar said. “People have different choices, but I don’t think that hurts us. It can help you because people like to try different stuff.”
Things were a bit rocky at the start because the restaurant’s previous owners wanted a stake in Escovar’s eatery. Talks in December led to an agreement where Escovar and his brother took a 50 percent stake in the new restaurant and the former owners took the other 50 percent, which helped reduce start-up costs.
The liquor license from the previous establishment transferred over because he did not change the name of the restaurant. The license will be renewed in May.
Escovar said his favorite part of his job is interacting with people from different backgrounds every day.
“You get to know a lot of people. You learn about cultures also, and different countries and states.”