Gaucho is the opposite of a Portland restaurant. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Seattle-founded high-end steakhouse offers unabashed opulence in a low-lit room, with beautifully marbled 18-ounce cuts of bone-in New York ($74), and a trademark Caesar salad ($14) tossed with considerable pomp beside tables dressed in cloth and candle.
The waitstaff is outfitted in black-tie formalwear and impeccably trained to the point of a slight punctiliousness until you've been in a few times. By that point, they know your name and perhaps the college your kid goes to—it's a good one, they'll assure you.
Wine pairings are offered with soft-spoken alacrity, to the presumed expert ear of the diner. The clubby regulars may mourn the absence of their favorite server on a given night, and sides are honed to take on the familiar rather than experiment in flavor: sweet corn, creamy mashed potatoes, asparagus basted in beurre blanc.
Dining is a ceremony here, attended like a church that fills you happily full of booze. You can still show up at happy hour till 6 pm, and pull in ridiculously tender steak medallions ($18), halibut fish and chips ($12) that are lighter and fluffier than any other I've had in town, or a $14 classic burger coated in aged cheddar that you'll tell your kids about but never buy for them. Because frankly, the babysitter is cheaper.
Pro tip: Don't neglect the fresh menu. El Gaucho is more surf 'n' turf than mere steakery, and without advertising the fact, it's one of the city's most accomplished fish houses.
GO: 319 SW Broadway, 227-8794, elgaucho.com. 4:30-11 pm Monday-Thursday, 4:30-midnight Friday-Saturday, 4:30-10 pm Sunday. $$$$.