Tango Sur (Restaurant, BYOB, Lakeview)
Location: 3763 N. Southport Avenue, Lakeview
Cuisine: Argentine; Steak
A little-known UPchicago tidbit is that the site was actually born in a small apartment in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Myself and Tessa spent several months living in the South American city, and if you pay enough attention, you’ll see that UPchicago’s roots show through every once in a while. We’re fanatics for anything Argentine, including the country’s oh-so-fabulous cuisine. So, when we decided to check out Tango Sur to celebrate a birthday the other night, we had high expectations to say the least.
Tango Sur is a BYOB Argentine restaurant located in Lakeview just a few blocks northwest of Wrigley Field. Though the spot serves up all kinds of Argentine fare, it’s really meant to be a steakhouse. The decor is simple, because at this place it’s all about the food. Exposed brick and candles on the table create a nice, intimate atmosphere. There are also black and white photos of Eva Peron lining several of the walls — so very Argentine of them. The outdoor patio is lovely when the weather is nice, but sitting inside is equally as atmospheric, so don’t be bummed when it’s too chilly to enjoy the al fresco space.
To get started we ordered six empanadas (meat or cheese-filled breaded pastries). We also felt compelled to order a provoleta, one of our favorite appetizers from our days in Buenos Aires. The dish is a grilled piece of cheese — usually provolone or goat cheese — served on its own. An Argentine version of the Greek dish saganaki, if you will. Tango Sur’s version was good, but nowhere near as good as what you’ll get in Argentina. Beggers can’t be choosers, though, and we cleaned the plate.
Meat eaters will delight in the selection of steaks, which is plentiful. Both Argentine-style and domestic-style cuts are available. I’d recommend the Lomo Relleno, the simple Lomo, or the Churrasco, though I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of the steaks here. One thing to note: in Argentina, the steaks are never ever marinated in anything when they’re cooked. They are sprinkled with salt and served as-is… the meat is just that good. With our American tendency to over-sauce everything, it’s rare to find a steak that isn’t seasoned at all. This is somewhat true at Tango Sur, too. Although my steak was delicious, it wasn’t on par with what I ate in Argentina. Would I really expect it to be, though? Probably not. It was, however, delicious and likely the closest you can get to real Argentine tastes in Chicago.
Most of the steaks and pastas on the menu come with small starter salads, which are nothing fancy but a nice addition. Ask your server whether your steak comes with a potato or not — if not, they do have other sides to choose from. All of the steaks are very large portions, so come hungry and expect to take leftovers with you. Some of them (the Lomo and El Filet) actually come with two filets, which is perfect for splitting. There is a split charge of $5, but when the steaks run about $23 each, the $5 isn’t bad.
Finally, try to save room for dessert if you can. The waitstaff brought us a lovely flan to share (on the house!) with a birthday candle in it. A great way to end the meal. Be sure to bring along a nice Malbec or Torrontes (the white wine of Argentina) to complement your meal. There’s no corkage fee, so don’t be shy.
I haven’t mentioned service up to this point because, let’s be real, we were more focused on the food and the company than anything else. But it is important to note that the service was impeccable and the staff was accommodating and friendly. In fact, after our meal (and a few bottles of vino) we brushed up on our Tango dancing skills with one of the Argentine staff members! Do I have anything negative to say about the place? Nope. Only that it made me want to go back to Argentina pronto!