/ The Seattle Traveler
Seattle — By Mary Jo Manzanares on June 29, 2010 at 9:18 am
Filed under: Belltown, restaurant, restaurant reviews, steakhouse, top-feature

Restaurant Review: El Gaucho in Seattle’s Belltown

When it comes to a great steak, my favorite Seattle steakhouse is El Gaucho.  The restaurant dates back to the 1970’s when it was THE place to go, and after a brief hiatus from the steakhouse scene has risen again to even greater prominence, first with its Belltown location, and now in Tacoma and Bellevue as well.  With quality food and attentive,yet not hovering or obsequious service, it’s easy to see how El Gaucho has earned its reputation.

place setting While all of the El Gaucho locations offer the same menu and similar ambiance, my favorite is the retro glamour-chic decor of the Belltown location.

It’s almost like stepping back to the 50’s era of dinner clubs, dancing, and big bands.  It’s dark and sexy, with a piano playing quietly in the corner, but somehow manages to be just as perfect for a business dinner as it is for a romantic occasion.  With white linen and tuxedo clad servers, it might be easy to think that the place was stuffy – but it’s not.  On a typical night diners can range from a group of business people, an office party, a family birthday party, friends’ night out, an anniversary celebration, or a celebrity who is in town.

The menu is carnivore heaven!  Although primarily steak and chops, there are a few decent seafood options, but honestly – go here for the steaks.

Here are a few of my menu recommendations, based on multiple visits:

  • Appetizers:  Honestly, I usually skip this course (saving room for dessert, I tell myself), but dining companions have raved about the crab cakes ($17) and the oysters (varying prices).  The seafood tower ($95) is an impressive display of goodness.
  • Soup & Salad:  I’m partial to the Gaucho Salad ($9), a tasty mix of greens and shrimp, tossed with Roquefort dressing.  They also have an excellent Caesar Salad ($12, requires a minimum of two orders), prepared tableside.  The creamy clam chowder ($8) is just okay, but I’d pass on the French onion soup ($8).
  • Entrees:  Did I mention that you should order the steak?  The flaming swords make for a wonderful presentation, brochette of tenderloin ($36) and shish kabob of lamb ($29), and it’s unusual to spend an evening at the restaurant without seeing heads turning as they are delivered to a table.  El Gaucho also offers a few steak options that are served for two and carved tableside, Chateaubriand ($125), Chateau of sirloin ($75), and a couple of combination options that include steak and seafood.  My personal favorite is the petite filet mignon ($45, the larger size is $54), and you can jazz it up a bit with a peppercorn sauce ($5), Roquefort sauce ($5), or maybe add a lobster ($45) or some sea diver scallops ($18).  All of these make excellent additions to your steak, and there are several other options on the menu.  I haven’t tried any of the seafood options, although I hear they’re good, because, hey, I come for the steak.
  • Sides:  The steaks are served ala carte, so you’ll want to order a couple of sides “for the table.”  They’re plenty big enough to share, providing variety to suit most palates.  I’d recommend the southwest scalloped potatoes ($7), creamy and cheesy with a bit of a kick, and the roasted sweet corn with chipotle honey butter ($11), so fresh and tasty you’d swear they walked out to pick it right before serving it to you.  The Gaucho mac and Coastal cheddar cheese is also quite excellent, although I think a bit too filling as a side.  Instead, place an order to go and take it home for a delicious lunch the next day.
  • Dessert:  The chocolate bourbon cake, with caramel sauce and candied pecans ($8) is quite nice, and is the classic burnt creme ($6).  But in my book, the Bananas Foster ($10/person with a 2-person minimum) is the very BEST.  Sweet and creamy, hot from the flame yet chilled by the ice cream, and with a bit of tang from the alcohol, it’s a rich gooey mess of goodness –and I love it.  Cherries Jubilee is also prepared tableside ($9/person with a 2-person minimum).
  • Wine:  An extensive list of wine, including a captain’s list of exclusive options.  Don’t let the wine list scare you off, though.  Ask the sommelier to help you find a good moderately priced wine – there are some good things to choose from.

El Gaucho is known for it’s great service, and attention to details.  Some of the servers have been there for years, and regular diners ask for them by name.  If you go often enough, you’ll find that they remember yours as well, so don’t be surprised if they stop by your table and warmly thank you for your return visit.

Location:  2505 First Avenue, corner of First & Vine in Belltown (map).  Additional locations at 2119 Pacific Avenue in Tacoma (map) and 450 108th Avenue East, City Center Plaza in Bellevue (map).  If you’re headed south on I-5, you can also find an El Gaucho at 319 SW Broadway in Portland, Oregon (map).

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday, 5 pm –11 pm; Friday & Saturday until 1 am.  The Pampas Room is available for private dining and special events daily.

Reservations:  Available online, and strongly recommended.  I have managed to snag a last minute reservation on occasion, so don’t give up without trying, but if it’s a holiday or special occasion make a reservation so you won’t be shut out.

Happy Hour:  All bar menu food is half priced, Tuesday – Friday, 5-7 pm, Sunday & Monday, 5 pm to close.  Holidays excluded.

Parking:  Valet parking available for additional charge.  Street parking in neighborhood, along with a few pay lots.

Photo credit: SXC

Related places:
  1. A
    El Gaucho
    2505 1st Avenue, Seattle, WA
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    El Gaucho Tacoma
    2119 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402,
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    El Gaucho Bellevue
    450 108th Avenue Northeast, Bellevue, WA
    View Details and Book
  4. D
    El Gaucho
    319 SW Broadway, Portland, OR, United States, 97205
    View Details and Book
Tags: Belltown, restaurant, restaurant reviews, steakhouse, top-feature

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