Sometimes the best food comes to you when you least expect it.
This was true of my experience at Tango Sur in Lakeview. I knew the Yelp reviews were glowing, but I wasn’t convinced before I went there. I was worried that, as a traditional Argentinian steakhouse, Tango Sur would drop the ball with any dish that wasn’t filet mignon or a lamb plate. Luckily this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The outside of the building is very unassuming. After a few summer walks to the Dairy Queen next door I’ve often seen throngs of people waiting outside for a table, bottles of expensive wine in hand (it’s BYOB). The restaurant itself has two very intimate, small rooms, seating only about 50 people at a time, so you can almost always expect a wait. (Luckily I asked and found out that they have a “waiting room” in the winter for people to pass the time — I couldn’t imagine people in parkas waiting outside for the food in mid-January, no matter HOW good it is).
The second thing I noticed about Tango Sur is the lighting. It is pitch black inside. Not dim, black. The only light comes from long-stemmed white candles in the middle of each table. It’s incredibly romantic and quite the fire hazard, a charming combination to say the least.
I went with my family and, at the suggestion of the host, we arrived at 5:30 just before the crowds started making their way over for dinner. We were seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant, lively Argentinian music filling the room at just the right volume: loud enough that if someone began to dance it wouldn’t have been out of place, but soft enough that we could still have a conversation.
Our waiter was a sweetheart — he couldn’t have been more than 20 years old and knew the menu backwards and forwards. He immediately offered us an ice bucket for the bottle of Pinot Grigio that we brought, a thoughtful gesture.
As we browsed the menu and sipped our wine, we picked an easy appetizer that we knew would satisfy the table: Pravaleta.
We’ve talked about this before but it’s worth another mention: you can’t go wrong with a plate of cheese. The best part, in my opinion, was the roasted red pepper, which I made sure to get a little of with every bite.
My dad also ordered a ham and cheese empanada, which they get from Mercado Meat Mart, the small, authentic Latin American grocery store next door.
Not being a huge empanada person, I passed on trying this, but my dad certainly liked it. Plus everything is better when it comes in mini-size.
Our entrees were the real stars of the show. First, both my dad and brother got “El Filet”, range-grown fillet mignon, cooked on the grill then topped with a red onion wine sauce.
Now, I don’t eat red meat, so I don’t know a good steak from a bad one, but the guys were raving about their dishes. The portions were HUGE (they got two pieces of meat and ended up taking one home — talk about bang for your buck) and they said the meat was delicious and tender. So it was a win for them!
My mom ended up ordering the shrimp appetizer as her entree, which she wasn’t over the moon about but still enjoyed. I didn’t snap a photo because I was too busy drooling over my dish, which was a) made for an NBA player to consume and b) was so insanely delicious that I’m salivating just writing about it: Suprema a la Napolitana.
YOU GUYS. It was mind-blowing. Breathtaking. One of those foods you want to stop eating because you know physically your stomach can’t expand any more but your tongue keeps saying more! more! moreeeee! Needless to say, I ended up taking over half home, as my body was already succumbing to the plate of cheese that I ate just minutes before. But it. was. incredible.
We ended the meal a whole 10 pounds heavier and so satisfied, with absolutely no complaints whatsoever. Sure, it took awhile for our food to come out, but you have to wait for greatness, am I right? Plus, we had two bottles of wine and plenty of great conversation to fill those minutes. My mom, being a mom, told the waiter that it was our birthday, so they even came out with two plates of flan for my brother and me. It was so unexpected and unnecessary, but such a wonderful touch at the end. Not to mention that the flan was served with a homemade caramel sauce on the side that I would sacrifice my firstborn child to taste again.
All that being said, we had two bottles of wine, an appetizer, four entrees (including two orders of filet mignon) and dessert for under $120. In Chicago. It felt like we were stealing as we walked out.
All I can say is THANK GOD Tango Sur is a five minute walk from my apartment. Now to make friends who will willingly fork over good money to eat Argentinan food instead of get $5 slices of pizza…#roughlife
- Have you ever tried Argentinian food?
- Do you have friends who are open to trying new types of food with you?