Restaurant Review: Haab

July 2, 2012 5:52 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
"Haab" serves up an excellent, strange Snail Quesadilla. (Photo: Creative Commons)

I used to live in East Williamsburg, on the Maujer Avenue strip, just around the corner from so many wonderful restaurants. Admittedly, when I'm as broke as I was then, I develop a loyalty to places in a hurry. It allowed me to save money by taking less risks once I found a groove I could count on (everything above a B+ gets a re-order). I relied on Don Pancho for all my Mexican food, but I don't say that with any weight to my heart at all. Don Pancho is a good Mexican joint. In fact, we just gave their Magic Burrito, a steak-filled number loaded with green sauce, one of the top burrito honors for New York City.

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I steered clear of relative newcomer Haab, with its clean storefront and colorful lettering, because it seemed to pander to the gentrifying denominator of East Williamsburg to which most of us belong and all of us are equally ashamed to do so-- meaning, admittedly, that I was judging a book by its cover, and that I was guilty of not going to a place because it "seems to be inauthentic." But a quick, easy visit to Haab sweeps away any misgivings you could have about the place judging by the look of it.

If you're actually deeply worried about authenticity, look no further than their Snail Quesadilla for proof that you should, in fact, be okay with eating here. It comes filled with good, crumbled cotija cheese and chipotle mayo. Even seasoned escargot eaters will be surprised at how the texture of snail, at once strange and deeply comforting, brings something playful to the typically oozy bite of quesadilla.

I had an al pastor burrito afterwards. The size was quite large, but the flavor not terribly remarkable. If you like your burritos with a lot of beans, this is the place to go. The pork was also quite plentiful, in retrospect, but on the blander side-- offering little more than a challenging texture against the softness of the beans. Additionally, I wish it had more pineapple. I counted three small pieces in the entire burrito.

Where this place truly wins is the fresh green salad that everything comes with, which is better than it needs to be. Additionally, all orders are served table side with hot sauce that increases in intensity. Our favorites were the very mild and the very hot. One of them, the salsa de arbol, misses the mark entirely.

All in all, Haab is yummy, and doesn't do any real damage to your wallet. We wished our server had pointed our attention to the wall of specials behind him, as I would have killed for some of their scallop ceviche if I wasn't already so darn full. If, like me, you're always on the hunt for good Mexican, this place is worth the stop.

Grade: B+


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