So when my son who lives in northern California comes home for a visit, what is the number one thing he wants to do? Eat. And he knows good food when he smells it. "Mmmmmm," he says sniffing the air while walking up Penn Avenue in the Strip District toward 16th Street. "This is going to be really good."
Anybody in the know knows what's at the corner of Penn and 16th Street. And, if they also know anything at all, they know to arrive early at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, Pittsburgh's Argentinian Wood Fired Grill. Why? It's that good and at 5:30 pm on a Tuesday, the line is already forming.
"Where is he," I ask anxiously about my husband, who's expected to meet my son and his girlfriend on a recent afternoon. So I text: "What's your ETA?" Then, a return text from said late husband: "Waiting at train station. No buses should have walked." My reply: "We r in line. It's getting crowded."
Yes, the Gaucho Line. No, not a cowboy dance routine it may sound like. More of a sidewalk shuffle as scores of people will soon be lining up on the sidewalk semi-patiently waiting for room to open up inside the restaurant so that they can drool while perusing the amazing chalkboard menu board as they wait in line some more for their turn to order. Yeah, it's that good.
On this day, it's relatively early though and we're inside the restaurant already. "You can go in front of us," I say to a family of five who arrives. "We're waiting for someone else."
The late (as in delayed, not dead) husband arrives and I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that it won't be too much longer before it's our turn to belly up to the ordering bar.
My son and his girl are slightly overwhelmed by the menu. "Ooooh, paella!" my boy exclaims. And, no kidding, he really did exclaim. "Oh and empanadas, too!" We peruse the chalk board menu some more and some more and some more, and finally it's our turn to order at the restaurant that's been named by Yelp among the top 10 places to eat in the United States. Did I say it was good?
We order up two Bife de Gaucho (rib eyes), one Arrechera (flank) and Cerdo (port tenderloin, caramelized onion and spicy mustard), along with some Gaucho Papas (seasoned roasted potatoes), Humita (corn pudding with onions and fresh herbs), Vegetales (grilled vegetables) and an Albondiga (a giant Argentinian meatball thingie that would give Grandma DeeDee's meatball recipe a run for her money.)
We'll never eat all of this food, I remember thinking.
Now, we're waiting at the table for our order to be prepared as the restaurant slowly fills up. Then, it arrives. Food glorious Gaucho food. Now, I want to do a dance. We four dive in. We're passing the corn pudding around, and tasting the tasty potatoes. "Oh, you gotta try the meatball," says everyone. "Oh my, that is good," everyone agrees.
"I give this a 10 out of 10," says my food-loving son. "Seriously. This is that good."
"Are these dipping sauces for sale?" he wants to know. "I know. I want to drink them," I respond.
Everything is so good, in fact, that we need only one little bitty container to take home leftovers that will make for a meager lunch, but is too fine of food to waste. We walk out of the restaurant, past the growing half-block-long line of people in the Gaucho Line doing the Gaucho Shuffle. We beat the rush, I congratulate ourselves. And enjoyed every tasty Gaucho Parilla Argentina morsel along the way. Dinner out with family should always be this good.