Steak Escape has made its way to Pakistan all the way from Columbus, Ohio. Situated on main Badar commercial in Karachi's Defence Housing Authority (DHA), the outlet is hard to miss with its distinctive logo and the striking black and yellow lighting. It’s the first outlet of many more (within Karachi and outside) of an international chain brought to the metropolis via the Lalani brothers of Lalani Group.
|Steak Escape's distinctive logo. - Photo courtesy: Steak Escape Facebook page|
Formulated as a premium fast food outlet, the speciality of this franchise is not steaks as everyone in town is assuming, but sandwiches and burgers — or in their terms ‘cheese steaks’ and ‘steak burgers’.
The sandwiches on offer are variations of the popular ‘Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich’ with a classic version of mayo, onions, tomatoes and American cheese titled the ‘Grand Escape’; other variations like 'Blazing Jalapeno', 'Southwest Chipotle' and 'Boom Boom' amp up the spice level hoping to satisfy the desi taste buds.
|Cheese Steaks. - Photo courtesy: Steak Escape Facebook page|
The outlet's launch, arranged by the Hive Clan Marketing Agency and Raspberry Events, started off around 7:30pm with the invitees ranging from celebs, food bloggers, Twitterati to foodies invited from popular food fora giving everyone the chance to enjoy this new restaurant.
The décor was done up in the signature yellow and black theme, with loads of balloons decorating every part of the outlet. The upstairs was where all the action was taking place, not just with the red carpet and photography, but also with the sounds and movement of their open style industrial kitchen.
|Their open style industrial kitchen is their unique selling point. - Photo courtesy: Steak Escape Facebook page|
Dominating almost one-third of the upstairs area, the kitchen is the most important part of the Steak Escape experience — it’s an open kitchen so you can see all the action taking place, from the grilling, to the slicing, to the making of the steaks and burgers itself. Another unique selling point (USP) for this open kitchen is that it lets the diner design his own meal — choose the bread you want, add your preferred meat, only the veggies you can bear to eat, and then finish it with the spicy sauce of your choice.
The downstairs area is much more spacious, having space for around 60 people. It’s done up in shades of yellow and black again, with brick walls, adding a cosy warm element. There’s also a play area for the children so families can enjoy their meal in peace.
|Play area. - Photo by author|
Predictably so, the service was impeccable on the restaurant's first day with about two minutes being taken to place the order, and about five to 10 for the order to be delivered. The order needs to be placed upstairs on one end of the kitchen where the cashier would first take the order and give a token to be placed on your table so that the waiters could bring the food there.
There was a limited menu on offer for the launch — only the cheese steaks and the steak burgers along with fries and drinks. I had ordered the 'Southwest Chipotle' cheese steak in chicken and while the bread was fresh, the meat filling wasn’t distributed properly; as a result, there was just too much sauce and chicken on one end which kept falling out. That could be regarded as a first day glitch.
What was impressive to note was that the owner was very hands-on and kept asking diners for their feedback — in fact, with the diners being avid foodies, there was quite a lot of discussion going on!
|Southwest Chipotle Chicken cheese steak. - Photo by author|
Samplers of chicken tenders were also given to the diners — the two flavours I tried were 'Habanero Tenders' and 'Lemon Pepper'. Just like its Scoville scale rating of a 100,000 – 350,000, the Habanero is only for the real spice eaters — it numbs the palette at first bite, but there’s a citrus tang to it which makes you want to eat more.
|Habanero Tenders. - Photo by author|
The 'Lemon Pepper' on the other hand was nice and crispy but had just a little too much lemon for my taste — a little adjustment could make it a crowd favourite.
The pricing is on the slight premium side for a fast food outlet — burgers and cheese steaks range from Rs400 to Rs450 — add Rs160 and you can get it with fries and drinks (unlimited refills). There are salads, wings, an array of fries and chicken tenders also on offer along with kids' meals.
|Unlimited refills can be enjoyed by customers at Steak Escape. - Photo courtesy: Steak Escape Facebook page|
Steak Escape is aimed at the premium fast food market, focusing on both families as well as youngsters their burgers are conceptually similar to what other outlets are offering albeit with different sauces based on spice levels. Their point of uniqueness can be their ingredients (prime hand-sliced sirloin), 'Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches', and their make-your-own-meal offers.
What remains to be seen is how they use these to differentiate themselves from the other established and better known competitors.
Kiran Afzal is a researcher by profession, who enjoys food blogging and reading on the side.