El Gaucho Portland Celebrates 20 Years in the Heart of Downtown Portland

When El Gaucho opened in the historic Benson Hotel on March 17, 2000, the Pearl District was just beginning to take shape, Rasheed Wallace and Scottie Pippen led the Trail Blazers, and no one had ever heard of avocado toast. Throughout the last 20 years, the El Gaucho Portland team has been honored to be part of celebrating thousands of birthdays, anniversaries, business and sports deals and special life moments, large and small.  Several employees also celebrate 20 years with the company, including legends like executive chef Steve Cain and bar manager, Mark Joseph. The team has planned a month-long celebration and looks forward to building for the future when El Gaucho Vancouver opens in late 2020.

“There has always been something special about our Portland location. From the beginning, it felt like a legendary place,” said Chad Mackay, CEO, Fire & Vine Hospitality. “We are blessed with unbelievable guests, an incredible team and the memories of celebrations that have become part of Portland’s history. We are excited about our future here, and in our new Vancouver location.”

“El Gaucho is the first place my wife and I think about going for an evening out. The food Chef Cain and team prepares rivals the best steakhouses in the country, and the staff treats us like we are part of their family,” said Eric Mueller, Revelers Club Gridiron member and cigar box holder.

History: Serendipity and maybe some St. Patrick’s Day Irish luck

El Gaucho founder Paul Mackay says that opening El Gaucho Portland in 2000 was almost a happy accident.  At the time, he was working to open AQUA by El Gaucho on Seattle’s Pier 70 but the project suddenly faced a two-month delay.  Mackay had been interested in expanding to Portland but had not found the right spot.  The former Trader Vic’s space in the Benson Hotel become available and Mackay said, “It was a good looking joint” and the intimate nature of the space reminded him of the original Seattle El Gaucho (1953-1985.)  He rounded up investors, signed the lease on December 31st, 1999, quickly began renovations and opened in record time on March 17, 2000.  Mackay, chef/partner Ken Sharp and two other El Gaucho veterans rented a two-bedroom apartment down the street and took turns working around the clock to ensure that the new Portland location provided the same service and experience as its namesake in Seattle. They hired bartender, Mark Joseph and prep cooks Emilio Garcia and “Balan” Ezequiel Puc Balan who remain part of the team and share in celebrating 20 years. Since day one, Musicians Mariano De Orbegoso and Masud Tahmassbi have been filling the room with their beautiful sounds as part of El Gaucho Portland’s live flamenco guitar, preformed nightly.

Throwback menu, celebratory wines, cigars and cocktails

Throughout the month of March, El Gaucho Portland will feature original menu items, special wines and cigars and Mark Joseph’s favorite cocktails from the last 20 years.

Original menu items: These were some of the favorite dishes from the opening menu

  • Ostrich fan filet
  • Veal Marsala
  • Oysters Rockefeller
  • Tableside flaming lamb shish kabob
  • 20th Birthday cake: Dark chocolate gateau with tableside Cherries Jubilee sauce

Wine and Cigar specials

  • 20th anniversary private label sparkling wine from Oregon’s Lundeen Wines
  • Special pricing on 2000 vintage bottles of wine
  • Perdomo 20th anniversary cigars for retail sale and to enjoy in the cigar lounge.

Cocktails: Bar Manager, Mark Joseph, is known for his inventive cocktails and for the clever names and stories he creates for each.  We will feature 10 classics, plus one to keep the Trader Vic’s ghost happy.

Peach Diddy: Sometimes we create a cocktail for an event that is so yummy it becomes a staple. This Diddy is a perfect example. Cîroc Peach Vodka is featured with a dash of Frangelico, fresh orange, white peach puree and a dash of nutmeg, shaken and served up with a cinnamon and powdered sugar rim. This is a cocktail we just can’t quit.

The Experience: Experience the Full Gaucho Treatment from expertly fluffed potatoes to Mariano and Toshi filling the room with love. This cocktail features Herradura Añejo, Imbue sweet vermouth, a splash of Fee Brothers Aztec chocolate bitters, chilled and served up with an orange peel. Fantastic steaks, delicious cocktails and amazing live music- it’s what we do and we love doing it. Kick back and enjoy The Experience.

Hardy Cocktail: Let’s celebrate the friends we’ve lost. Sherwood, Howard and Lou- to name just a few. This cocktail was developed by our old friend, Tom Hardy, renowned artist and notorious Maker’s Mark drinker.  Tom created the “Gaucho” sculpture in our lounge as well as the roses above the fireplace in the Benson Hotel next door. Tom also created this combination of Maker’s Mark, fresh orange, a dash of orange bitters and a splash of Grand Marnier, served over ice.  We have a rich history of amazing characters who have left their mark on these four walls as well as on our hearts.

Beso Del Diablo: This spicy classic stands the test of time. El Jimador blanco, fresh grapefruit, a splash of pineapple juice and Ryan’s updated version of Matthew’s habanero “juice” is shaken and served up with a sugared rim. An angel may be sitting across from you or it may be the devil’s kiss, either way you can’t lose. Go for it!

Live Wire: PGE says “don’t touch” El Gaucho says “touch it with your tongue and drink it”! Enjoy this combination of Hangar One mandarin blossom, fresh grapefruit and a splash of Campari, shaken and served up with a powdered sugar rim. This is a Live Wire you’ll want to touch again and again.

Spider-Man: People come and go and some good people have left their stamp.  Like this original classic featuring Rose City vanilla vodka, a splash of Midori, fresh lemon and a touch of cranberry juice, shaken and served up with a powdered sugar rim. Let’s give credit to all the fine humans who have made EGP special

French Taco Cart: It’s not often a server chooses to leave El Gaucho, even more rare is that the server is your brother and moves to France. This combo of Sauza Hornitos, fresh lime, equal splashes of St. Germain and Parfait Amour is shaken and served tall. This cocktail is as fearless as leaving a great gig and following your dreams.

Ruby: You know her, you love her. A top ten list of El Gaucho classics wouldn’t be complete without our most popular cocktail. Some of you have followed her journey for the last 20 years. She’s an optimistic combination of citrus vodka, capable fresh lemon and confident Chambord, shaken with determination and served steadily with a powdered sugar rim, we’re proud of our girl!

1939: An Oregon Ducks squad, coached by Howard Dobson, beat Ohio State 46 to 33 to win the very first NCAA Division I Championship. Also known as “Typhoon”, this cocktail features Trail Distilling’s, Trillium gin, fresh lemon, a dash of lemon bitters, torn mint and a splash of green Chartreuse, shaken and served up.


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