Chef John Manion’s steakhouse, El Che Steakhouse & Bar, reopens next month, April 6. Since the last indoor dining shut down, the steakhouse has been in hibernation, but continued to operate its pandemic-built retail business, El Che Meat & Provisions, offering goods and premium beef cuts out of the Washington St. storefront.
El Che Steakhouse & Bar brings live fire cooking back to the city by rebooting its 12-foot custom-built, wood-burning hearth, of which 90% of the menu is cooked. Menu highlights begin with its Creekstone Farms USDA prime steaks, from its smallest cut to largest—the 8oz filet all the way to the 48oz Tomahawk ‘super deluxe’—an expanded seafood section including head-on shrimp, roasted oysters and lobster tail, plus more traditional Argentine dishes including Empanadas, Proveleta and Pork Milanesa. The Parrillada is a shared platter featuring a variety of traditional meats, including morcilla, chorizo, tira de asado and sweetbreads, offered on special every Tuesday for $50. Another new dish is the Spaghetti Rosso.
Another change at the steakhouse is the evolution of its wine program to 95% South American varietals. Crafted by General Manager and Beverage Director Alex Cuper, El Che will now offer its own Malbec page as well as sections for Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, with countries such as Mexico and Bolivia to come. To clear out the former European and North American bottle inventory, he is currently offering a “Spring Cleaning Wine Clearance” sale through El Che Meat & Provisions.
“The economic necessity of selling our inventory has really opened a door for us,” remarks Manion. “Not only did it help us to stay afloat, it allowed us to see our wine program in a different light entirely. We've been flirting with the idea of jumping with both feet into an exclusively South American wine list for some time and this reset presented the perfect opportunity.”
Manion’s love affair with South America runs deep. He says that this new transition to solely South American wines could not have been possible even five years ago due to market availability. He adds:
“It would be impossible for me to overstate what an exciting time this is for South American wine and spirits. We’re on the cusp of a revolution for South American wines in the United States. These amazing wines are just hitting the market and we’re excited to embrace it and educate the city about how amazing they are.”
Weekly programming includes the aforementioned $50 Parrillada Tuesdays; half-off select wine bottles on Wednesdays; and happy hour daily from 5 to 6 p.m. with discounted cocktails, wine by the glass and dishes. The sidewalk patio will also open on April 6, weather permitting. Manion’s Chef’s Counter previously offered a tasting menu experience and will continue upon reopening — however to allow for social distancing, the “Counter” experience will take place at the adjacent Hearth Table. El Che Steakhouse & Bar is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m.
El Che Meat & Provisions will continue to offer its selection of premiere retail goods for sale, available for online ordering and local pick-up. The counter-service shop located at the front of the 845 W. Washington building is the only retailer in Chicago selling the premium Creekstone Farms prime dry-aged beef and a line of knives from Town Cutlery, a high-end West Coast knife shop. Additional offerings include Smithey ironware, cocktail kits to-go, a “Mystery Malbec” box, Lucila’s Alfajores cookies, and other custom swag made by Chicago’s Stock Mfg. Co.