El Che Bar, the second restaurant from Chef/Owner John Manion, will begin accepting reservations through OpenTable for August 1. El Che Bar is located in the former Checker Cab building in Chicago’s West Loop at 845 W. Washington Blvd., and brings Chef John Manion’s travels and experiences throughout Argentina to the table.
The dinner menu at El Che Bar is centered around an open hearth, which serves as the focal point in the dining room where Manion hones in on serving wood-fired cuisine, Al Asador. Offering an array of grilled meat and seafood preparations, the menu focuses on locally-sourced proteins and produce, and spotlights composed vegetable entrees all cooked on the custom-built grills and chapas. A menu where every dish stems from a personal experience, highlights include Cherry Bomb Peppers with soubise, egg yolk, and lemon crumb; Gnocchi with brodo, tomato, zucchini, chimichurri, and parmesan; and a thin cut Pork Chop with plums, hot mustard, and peanut-pork rind crumble. Manion brings Pastry Chef Marianna Reynolds over from La Sirena Clandestina to run the pastry program where her desserts will also focus on utilizing elemental ingredients such as smoke and fire.
Bill Anderson leads the beverage program at El Che Bar, crafting a concise and focused cocktail menu with an emphasis on spirits of the Americas including cachaça, mescal, and pisco. Anderson embraces the hearth and incorporates the live fire cooking exercised throughout the food menu into the cocktail list, utilizing smoke, fire, and ash to showcase each ingredient in a different style. Cocktail highlights include the El Diablo with Milagro Silver, fresh lime, Crème de Cassis, ginger beer, and a sprig of alcohol-soaked rosemary which once lit, crackles omitting an enticing aroma as small laces of ash fall into the drink to lend a significant charred nuance. El Che Bar will also offer a selection of beers, one cider, and Fernet on tap.
The wine program, led by Alexis Chabert, focuses on small production wines from more family-owned properties, bringing lesser known brands into the limelight. Biodynamic and organic wines set the tone for the list, with nearly 95 percent of the entire list being green. With nods to South American wines such as Malbec and Torrontes, the list features a mix of New World varietals focusing on the Americas coupled with classic and terroir driven Old World wines.
The restaurant is located in the former Checker Cab building, which provides a hint of nostalgia to the West Loop locale. The interior wall of the restaurant showcases the original lath which adorns the main dining room. Floor to ceiling black pillars and exotic plants greet guests as they enter the restaurant radiating an inviting vibe complimented by sultry tones and subtle nods to South America. The black marble bar exudes elegance, with the dining room housing just under 100 seats and a bar with 14 seats looks onto the nearly 12 feet of flames from Manion’s custom-made grill.