A couple weeks ago was our 6th wedding anniversary, so with my parents watching the kids, my wife and I made our way into the city for dinner and drinks.
Now obviously I am terrible at choosing new restaurants, so I leave that up to my wife. I mean, if it were up to me, we would have just gone to Portillo’s for our anniversary dinner. But thankfully, she always has an ear to the ground when it comes to newer restaurants that she wants to try, which is why we ended up at El Che Bar in the West Loop.
Now, when I heard we were going to El Che Bar… actually, let me rephrase that, when I got the Open Table notification that a reservation was made on my account for El Che Bar, I thought it was a Mexican restaurant. That presumption was solely based on the name of the restaurant, and clearly not putting two and two together that it was named for Che Guevara, the Argentinian revolutionary. I didn’t go to the website, I didn’t look at reviews, I didn’t even ask my wife… I had no idea, but it’s definitely not a Mexican restaurant.
Instead of tacos, which I was expecting, the menu is Argentinian, which is not tacos. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed, but it wasn’t going to stop us from checking it out.
El Che Bar Restaurant
We got to the restaurant around 6:30pm I believe, on a Saturday, and it was fairly busy. There were only a few open tables, one of which was our reservation, and then a couple other 2 tops scattered throughout the space. The restaurant itself as a nice atmosphere to it with a long bar set sort of in the middle of the side wall, with high tops in front of it and dining tables to the side. The dining area isn’t huge, so I would definitely suggest reservations if you plan on eating here.
The only slight downside I saw to the space was the proximity of the tables to each other, especially the 2 tops that were along the wall. At times I felt like I was eavesdropping on the tables next to us because it was hard not to hear what they were saying. I think it would have been a little better if they had removed 1 of the tables from that row, and spaced out the remaining ones a bit more. It would made it felt less like we were sitting on top of the people next to us.
Other than that though, the space itself is very nice.
As I mentioned above, El Che Bar is an Argentinian inspired menu which meant that there were quite a few meat choices to choose from, but a handful of smaller dishes as well.
I recommend sharing whatever you order as there are a lot of things on the menu worth trying, and it can get a bit pricey if you order entrees for yourself. The 8 oz. filet is $50… which is more than a lot of the nicer steak restaurants in Chicago. Needless to say, we did not get the filet, but we did get one of the meat options which I’ll get to in a second.
Empanadas and Japanese Sweet Potatoes
I’m jumping around a bit here, as we did not order/eat these items together, but I wanted to group things, and talk about them, in a way that made sense.
The first thing we ordered was the ham and cheese empanadas (pictured above). Fucking delicious.
Again, this restaurant is a little on the expensive side, so don’t freak out when you’re charged $4 per empanada. Although, now that I think about it, Savory Crust empanadas are even more expensive than that, but they are slightly bigger so I guess it’s reasonable. The empanadas at El Che Bar aren’t small by any means, but they weren’t huge… however, they are packed full of flavor.
We opted for the ham and cheese empanadas mainly because braised kale gruyere does not sound appetizing at all, but if that’s your thing, by all means give it a try. I did try things on this night that I normally wouldn’t have, but that kale and gruyere was not going to be one of them.
The empanadas were amazing. These things were stuffed full of big chunks of ham and loads of cheese. I honestly don’t even know what kind of cheese it was, but it was good. They were topped with a drizzle of some sort of horseradish sauce, which threw me off a bit. As soon as I tried it, not knowing what it was, I was immediately taken back to when I used to eat frozen fish sticks with tartar sauce growing up. I had no clue, up until this point, that tartar sauce is made with horseradish… it kind of blew my mind… mainly because I always thought I didn’t like horseradish, but it turns out it’s not that bad… especially on frozen fish sticks or empanadas.
The Japanese sweet potatoes also weren’t really what I was expecting. I think the name threw me off a bit because I was expecting sweet potatoes, not normal potatoes with sweetness drizzled on top. And again, it wasn’t bad, just not what I was expecting. The Japanese sweet potatoes consisted of potatoes with vinegar caramel and green chimichurri. I stayed away from the chimichurri, although I did try it, but the vinegar caramel over the potatoes was pretty good. It’s not something I’d eat on a regular basis, but it was a solid choice to order.
Grilled Short Rib & 8 oz. Flat Iron Steak
Now on to the meats!
We’ve become big fans of short ribs ever since our friends have started making bulgogi short ribs at barbecues, but these short ribs weren’t quite like those.
I would say that I was a little disappointed in the short ribs, but I’m not really sure why. It could be because I have such high expectations for short ribs these days, but these seemed overly chewy and hard to get off the bone. They did have pretty good flavor overall, and are reasonably priced compared to the other meat options on the menu, but we were both just a bit underwhelmed by them.
It’s still a good dish to share if you want to try them, but I would also recommend ordering another meat dish and not making the short ribs your main entree.
With that being said, we also ordered the 8 oz. Flat Iron steak, mainly because we wanted to try one of the steak options, but we didn’t want to spend $50 to $100 on one… The Flat Iron steak came in at $28, which seemed about right for this cut of steak.
And maybe that $50 filet is absolutely incredible, but we weren’t about to find out.
The flat iron steak was actually better than I was expecting based on the other options on the menu. It was flavorful and not chewy like the short ribs. It came topped with a salsa criolla, which my wife loved… but I avoided because there were tomatoes.
Overall though, I would say, between the short rib and the flat iron steak, it was a perfect amount of meat for us to share. Combined with the empanadas, the Japanese sweet potatoes, and the garlic frites, it was a perfect amount of food, at a fairly reasonable price.
The only complaints I have about the restaurant are the close seating, which I mentioned above, and the fact that they did not have Tito’s Vodka… I figured Tito’s had gotten big enough where everywhere stocked it, but apparently not El Che Bar. Which is fine, I had to go with Grey Goose, which is far inferior in my eyes, but when you’re mixing it with soda water, it all just takes like water anyways.
So if you’re looking for a solid Argentinian inspired restaurant, that blows Tango Sur out of the water (don’t even get me started on that place), I would say give El Che Bar a shot. Definitely share your food, and definitely get the ham and cheese empanadas. Also, if you go there and you do order the $50 filet, let me know in the comments how it is… I can’t believe it’s worth $50, but I’m still curious.