The secret is out on Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, the little lunch-and-dinner joint at Penn Avenue and 16th Street in the Strip District.
Gaucho isn’t just Pittsburgh’s hottest lunch spot and one of Pittsburgh’s finest destinations for Argentinian-style and wood-fired meats, it’s one of the best-reviewed restaurants in the country. Yelp’s 2015 list of the top 100 places to eat in the U.S., released last Friday, ranked Gaucho Parrilla Argentina at No. 7. It was the only restaurant in the eastern United States to crack the top 10.
“It was crazy, man—pure shock. Friends started texting and posting things to Facebook—I was just baffled,” says co-owner and executive chef Anthony Falcon.
The ranking confirms what Pittsburghers have known since the place opened in 2013—that Falcon and his crew are churning out some of the best lunches in the country and doing it with style. From meat-forward entrees and sandwiches to salads with corn, avocado and roasted peppers and mushrooms, everything that emerges from Gaucho’s small, open kitchen is loaded with flavor and prepared with personality.
“We just try to be ourselves,” Falcon says. “Our crew is really great at accommodating people. We always have fun and bring the crowd into what we’re doing.”
Eat/Drink heartily recommends the rosemary-braised beef, served with caramelized onions and horseradish sauce on a baguette, but you certainly can’t miss here with chicken, chorizo or pork tenderloin. Regardless of what you order, make sure to save room for a side of grilled corn on the cob—“the audio to go with the video,” as one cook describes it.
The storefront has seating for about six people, and the adjacent patio can accommodate another 20 or so, weather permitting. A busy day at Gaucho means maximum capacity throughout with an estimated 300 meals cranked out, says Falcon. But the restaurant doesn’t have any fancy point-of-sale system tracking itemized sales statistics—just an old-fashioned register and locked-in crew.
“I buy 250 sandwich loaves every day and often times we’ll run out of bread,” he says. “We’re really in tune with things as food is moving out the door.”
While Falcon says he’s never sought fame, he points to Gaucho’s position on the Yelp list as being indicative of something bigger for the Pittsburgh food scene.
“It definitely speaks to Pittsburgh and the growth that Pittsburgh is going through,” he says. “We definitely benefit from having the Strip as a hub where a lot of out-of-towners come through. Not just from the region, but all over the world.”