By Trent Modglin
Where it’s at: 4767 N. Lincoln Ave. in the heart of Lincoln Square. (872) 208-7441. ArtangoSteakhouse.com
The scene: Artango is built around a shared passion for quality steak, fine wine, art, Argentine tango and good company. Maria Casanova, who in 2008 opened Artango Center, a dance studio in Ravenswood, fell for one of her students, Buenos Aires-born artist Sebastian. The now-married couple’s goal with their establishment is to transport visitors back to the Golden Age of Argentina, when Buenos Aires was flourishing with restaurants, nightlife, tango clubs and stunning neo-classical and art nouveau architecture.
Artango gives off a warm, low-lit, industrial feel, which, when combined with South American jazz that was at just the right level for conversation, created a superlative ambiance. An even blend of wooden bodegas, raw materials, copper, marble, metallic adornments and a hand-painted antique tin ceiling add to the authenticity and eye-catching design.
Big windows up front are perfect for people-watching on Lincoln Avenue, and the stage and dance floor reside in the back, surrounded by tables of varying sizes. Expect an assortment of weekly live entertainment, including colorful tango performances.
When a tasting plate consisting of a tender cap of ribeye, sirloin and NY strip, gently sprinkled with homemade chimichurri or malbec sauce, arrives at the table with seasoned fried potatoes, you’ve got yourself a happy camper.
Food and drink: We started things off — which we do at any Argentinian restaurant we visit — with a trio of empanadas (beef, ham and cheese, and corn and mozzarella) that were perfectly crispy and tasty.
My wife loved the richness of the quinoa risotto, loaded with manchego cheese, wild mushrooms, vegetables and herbs. It would make for a nice dish as a stand-alone meal, or a good complement to any of the meat dishes.
For me, the entrée was an easy choice: The para compartir is a tasting plate consisting of a cap of ribeye, sirloin and NY strip. All steaks at Artango are locally raised prime or black angus and grilled gaucho-style on the restaurant’s Argentine parrilla. The para compartir was delectable, each cut of steak cooked to perfection, tender and full of flavor. Then gently sprinkled with homemade chimichurri or malbec sauce and arriving at the table with seasoned fried potatoes, and you’ve got yourself a happy camper.
Despite being stuffed beyond our comfort level, we fell victim to the waiter’s persuasiveness and ordered dessert. And were we glad we did. The pear tart with vanilla ice cream was light and flaky — a perfect combination for a sweet finish when you’ve perhaps eaten a tad too much but still aren’t entirely ready to close the menu.
The bar specializes in some creative Prohibition era-inspired cocktails, and a standout selection of wines spanning from Italy to Argentina offers some nicely affordable price points.
What else caught our attention: Our waiter was from Patagonia by way of Buenos Aires, so we had lots to discuss with him based on our honeymoon to Argentina and Chile five years ago. By the time we left, he had us sold on a second future excursion, this time to go hiking in Patagonia.
The chef’s choice fresh ceviche options (shrimp, passion fruit and aji amarillo sauce, anyone?) and the crudo (sashimi-style seasonal fish, aji mirasol citrus sauce and avocado) looked enticing if we hadn’t been so focused on the entrées. The grilled duck breast and rack of venison also made my short list of options to consider for next time.
We’ll be back because: Where do we start? The attentive staff, the tender steaks, the beautiful space, the chance to take free tango lessons from a professional and listen to the kind of live South American music (tango performances, guitarists, bands, etc.) you could get lost in for an entire evening. Yep, it’s that kind of place.