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Restaurants & Bars 5

Language is unwillin', but good grillin' at El Llano

Mike G | Apr 16, 200310:46 PM

I know the Columbian steakhouse El Llano is a Vital Info fave, but for some reason despite living semi-close by I had not been to their new location since they moved across and up Lincoln to just south of Irving Park. (Just south of the bad tapas place, and across from the bank which was Molotov Cocktailed when it was a Serbian social club. Not since ex-cop William Drury was gunned down in his Cadillac two days before the Kefauver Crime Commission came to town has Roscoe Village/St. Ben's seen such excitement.)

I was a fool to wait, everything about the place screams "find." The inside is almost Hollywood perfect, Gaucho-meets-Old West-meets-immigrant tourist trap (and I mean that in a good way), the chimichurri is brightly flavorful slathered onto whatever there is to slather it onto it, the wooden plank on which your steak, yucca, plantain and so on are served gives eating here a nice Flintstonian touch, and the cheap steak is everything a cheap steak should be, which is, charred and salty and meaty, I particularly like meat in my meat. I have but one complaint. Imagine you went into a French bistro, and had the following conversation:

YOU: I'll have the coq au vin.

WAITER: The... huh?

YOU: Coke oh van.

WAITER: Sorry... don't really speak French...

YOU: Coo kho vehn. Coal coal bin. Cuckoo Ben-- oh look, here. Coq au vin.

WAITER: Ah! I see.

And ten minutes later he brings you the boeuf bourguignon.

I ordered the New York strip. It's number two on the menu. "New York strip" meant nothing to her, so I pointed to number two. And ten minutes later I got the ribeye steak and chicken combo.

Mind you, it wasn't bad. The ribeye wasn't a New York strip, but it was pretty good and the chicken was really good. But I just don't understand how something can be number two on the menu, one of the words is steak as in the phrase Colombian Steak House which is painted on the FRONT of the place, yes it's a foreign language to her but it's probably one of the two or three most ordered items in the restaurant for crying out loud, and I'm met with a stare of comprehension such as if I had asked for the Pork Neck Larb or ordered in Cockney rhyming slang or Klingon.

But, this certain randomness in the ordering process aside... El Llano is well worth a visit.

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