Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pittsburgh, PA Edition: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina

GauchoOne of the most popular restaurants in Pittsburgh is Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, a counter-service busy lunch place that draws patrons from all walks of life.

GauchoThe line to get inside was nearly out of the door, but we were fortunate to sneak in at the tail end to stand inside. The owner (or manager? Someone in charge) was quite strict about not having people stand past a certain area and would routinely tell people they have to stand outside until the line dies down.

GauchoInside, it was very warm and apparently the kitchen was put on hold for a solid 15 or 20 minutes due to a large order. So, we were crammed in this very warm space, shoulder to shoulder, without the line even moving for quite some time. They did start passing out waters, but we weren't part of the first 15 or so in line to receive the drinks.

GauchoFinally, the line started moving. And, we inched closer and closer to the counter. I wasn't starving, but I definitely wanted to try something. I noticed they had daily empanada specials. On this particular day, they had "Beefy," with carmelized onions, red pepper and egg, "Veggie," with potato, pepper, onion and tomato, and "Chicky," with corn and caramelized onions.

GauchoThe woman behind the counter was quite pleasant and thoroughly explained the ordering process before I requested one of each of the empanadas. I paid, got my drink, and that owner/manager directed us to a place to sit. It was less than a minute before a server yelled me name out and delivered my warm empanadas.

GauchoI went up to the station to refill my glass and get one each of the sauces: chimichurri, ajo, pimenton and ceboula before diving in. I think, overall, all the empanadas are fine. They're kind of doughy, and, I admit, I don't know what an empanada SHOULD taste like ... but if it's like this, they're not my favorite. I think the texture is fine, but a bit more bite could really hold up and contrast with a mushy interior.

GauchoThe beef was my most favorite, with a good bit of spices to enhance the flavor. The veggie was a bit flat for me, but the chicken was decent. Everything was made better by the ajo sauce, which had delicious notes of garlic. I really wanted to be blown away by these. I wanted my first real taste of empanadas to be life-changing. I can't say that these were.

GauchoI did, however, have a pretty good final bite in these Argentine cookies. This coffee and coconut cookie was light and crumbly but rich. Quite a nice finish to my snack, and I think if the rest of the menu was more reminiscent of this cookie rather than empanadas, I can see why there's a line out the door.

GauchoGrade: B 
Gaucho Parrilla Argentina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato