South American meats cook over scorching flames in West Loop

Sunday, October 16, 2016
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Hungry Hound: El Che Bar

CHICAGO (WLS) -- South American chefs love to cook meat over live fire, but few restaurants have the capability to cook just about everything over flames.

El Che Bar, a new restaurant in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood committed to live fire cooking, is literally the hottest new kitchen in town.

Like a glowing red beacon, the open kitchen is the center of everything at El Che Bar. There are both flames and heat, which turn out absolutely delicious South American-influenced dishes.

"The food is 100 percent influenced by eating in and around Buenos Aires as it evolved," said Chef/Owner John Manion.

Manion and his crew constantly burn wood to make charcoals that cook a majority of the menu. Oysters are dabbed with corn miso butter then placed into the fire; brown butter breadcrumbs and garlic-lime aioli complete them. Pork chops are sliced thin, placed directly over the coals.

"I love a thin pork chop, I like that snap and sizzle of the fat. They seem to have fallen out of fashion but to me, there's something about my childhood with thin pork chops," he said.

They're served with Coleman's hot mustard, some compressed plums, crunchy peanuts and fresh herbs. A trio of quail is skewered, grilled and brushed with barbecue sauce; the juicy birds are simply plated with late-season peaches.

A 24-ounce boneless ribeye, meanwhile, needs little assistance. Blasted by incendiary heat, it rests-gets a brush or two of bone marrow butter-then it's sliced, doused in some beef jus, and served with a standard chimichurri sauce as well as a spicier one.

"The steak is grass fed, grain-finished ribeye. Very simple over the grill, by the flames," said Manion.

Not only does about 90 percent of the menu come off the live fire, but even some of the ingredients they're using in the cocktails are coming from the fire, which is great, considering cooler weather is right around the corner.

In this week's "extra course," Steve's web-only video, he talks with the restaurant's pastry chef, who shows him two of her favorite desserts.

Extra Course: Pastries at El Che Bar

El Che Bar

845 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago