we are gaucho

Our Paintings

El Gaucho • AQUA by El Gaucho • The INN at El Gaucho

The history behind our paintings

After Paul Mackay opened El Gaucho Seattle in 1996, he made a conscious decision to adorn the empty restaurant walls with commissioned art. The paintings would serve multiple purposes: to tell the story behind the people, or “players” in El Gaucho’s history (both guests and staff alike); to use for advertising and marketing; and to give a local artist business and recognition.

Paul chose Nina Mikhailenko, a Russian born and educated artist, now local, whose paintings are full of energy, color, and motion. His first impression of her work was not stirring, until he saw one piece of five waiters outside of a New Orleans Restaurant. It struck a chord, and he commissioned his first painting “Elegance.” Since then Paul and Nina have worked together to add more than 20 paintings to the El Gaucho collection.

El Gaucho Pampas Painting

El Gaucho Seattle Wine Cellar

details & history

The Gaucho culture has been celebrated by poets and immortalized on canvases by many great painters. Gauchos would gather together and cook meat over an open flame. This was also a spirited time of singing, dancing, and sharing stories.

This mural was a combination of old Marlboro ads and National Geographic pictures, plus characters in El Gaucho’s history. Measuring 7’ x 18’, it is four panels and painted specifically for the Wine Cellar, a suggestion from the staff. Many personnel are included in the painting, including Philip Christofides (El Gaucho architect), Howard Lieberman (business advisor to the Mackays), Michael DonRicco (cigar captain), Jon Sheard, Paul Mackay, and others.

  • El Gaucho Elegance Painting

    El Gaucho Seattle entry

    details & history

    The first painting commissioned by owner Paul Mackay, captures real El Gaucho employees doing what they do best – providing elegant, old-school, tableside service, and helping guests create a night to remember. Five individuals monumental in El Gaucho’s history are featured alongside Paul Mackay. 

    Karl Reimann, affectionately called “Papa,” was El Gaucho’s maître de. He was the only staff member allowed to wear red and many considered Karl the host of Seattle. George Thomson waited tables with Paul at the original Gaucho. Jon Sheard was a Seattle icon in the restaurant industry. He worked with and for Paul many many years. Al Black, bartender at the original El Gaucho, was called “Reverend Mr. Black.” He would pontificate to his guests or just simply ignore them. His cold dry wit was engaging and people were honored if he roasted them. Paul recalls, “He was the epitome of a great bartender.” 

  • El Gaucho Anniversary Painting

    El Gaucho Seattle front desk

    details & history

    Described as a “knock out,” Paul claims this painting as his favorite. It captures the complete essence of El Gaucho: personalized, elegant, old-school, tableside service. This is the hallmark of El Gaucho’s legacy. The painting was intended for women to picture themselves as a princess and the center of attention while dining at El Gaucho, perfectly enveloped by the setting. The men are all historical El Gaucho characters: Paul Mackay, Dave Williams, Karl Reimann, Jon Sheard, and Michael Kaminski.

  • El Gaucho Eva and Boys Painting

    Eva and Boys
    El Gaucho Tacoma Havana Room

    details & history

    A swanky depiction of a typical evening in the cigar room. The men include Santos, a cigar captain at El Gaucho Tacoma, and frequent El Gaucho diners and cigar box holders. The woman, Eva, was an Argentine tango dancer, and friend of the artist. “I liked the idea of a woman in it surrounded by men,” Paul exclaims, a similar feel to the “Anniversary” image.
  • El Gaucho Portland Painting

    El Gaucho Portland’s Main Dining Room

    details & history

    Paul commissioned this painting when El Gaucho Portland opened, in March 2000. It was a signature way to thank the investors. The restaurant opened in less than three months and could not have happened without their support. Flamenco guitarists Masud Tahmassbi and Mario Diez, regular characters who play nightly at El Gaucho Portland, flank the guests (most are investors in El Gaucho Portland).

  • El Gaucho Cigar Room Painting

    Cigar Room
    El Gaucho Seattle Bolas Room

    details & history

    The masculine allure of Seattle El Gaucho’s cigar room is depicted here. Featured characters include “the regulars”: Frank Isernio, founder of Isernio’s sausage, Cigar Manager/Captain Michael Don Ricco, and Joe Toro, (now retired) a Longshoreman who “ran the docks.” Michael Don Ricco was named “Mr. Hospitality.” Everyone enjoyed his genuine care and attention to detail.
  • El Gaucho The Bar Painting

    The Bar
    El Gaucho Seattle Bar

    details & history

    A nightly scenario typical of any evening at El Gaucho presents known patrons and staff: Paul Mackay, Gary Gayton a well-known Seattle attorney who you’d find nightly at the bar, Detlef Schrempf (El Gaucho investor), Norm (opening bartender), Joe (bartender), Charles Ainsley (friend and investor), the artist Nina herself, who is talking to renowned Seattle architect Fred Bassetti, and Hal Lee, a friend of Paul’s.

  • El Gaucho Jazz Painting

    El Gaucho Bellevue’s Bar

    details & history

    The Billy Wallace Quartet opened with the Pampas Room and played every Friday and Saturday night. Billy played piano and sang, while Floyd Standifer accompanied on trumpet, sax, and also sang. Bob Mathews is on bass. The drummer, Net, was a friend of Billy’s from Denver. They were top-notch jazz musicians who had played internationally for years, but were tired of traveling and happy to call El Gaucho’s Pampas home.
  • El Gaucho Chefs Painting

    El Gaucho Seattle Grill Room

    details & history

    This painting illustrates the nightly hustle and bustle of the open El Gaucho kitchen line, featuring an open charcoal grill. Executive Chef Ken Sharp smiles on while another chef platters a perfectly-prepared and cooked-to-order steak. Exposed in the background, a Sous Chef whips up an El Gaucho side.

  • El Gaucho Lady Singer Painting

    Lady Singer
    El Gaucho Seattle’s Pampas

    details & history

    BB White graced the Pampas room stage for five years with the Billy Wallace Quartet. Patrons could hardly wait to hear her serenade them with, “Peel Me a Grape.” When El Gaucho owner Paul Mackay discovered her, he thought she’d surely become famous. Tragically, she lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 48.
  • El Gaucho John Sheard Painting

    Jon Sheard
    El Gaucho Bellevue Bar

    details & history

    Paul wanted to capture Jon Sheard’s old school and unique personality. Jon was truly one of the finest dressers Paul can remember. “He was dapper and always had a walking stick.” Jon and Paul worked at four restaurants together throughout the years: 13 Coins, the original Gaucho, Maribeau, and again when Paul reopened El Gaucho. 

  • Welcome to the Waterfront Painting

    Welcome to the Waterfront
    AQUA by El Gaucho’s Main Dining Room

    details & history

    This watercolor was commissioned when Paul opened the Waterfront restaurant in 2000. Eventually the Waterfront was rebranded as AQUA by El Gaucho in 2011. The gentleman, Jude, was a very popular bartender in Seattle. Paul loved his smile so much that he asked to capture it in the painting.

  • El Gaucho Bob and Gail Painting

    Bob and Gail
    El Gaucho Seattle Bar

    details & history

    Bob Long was a busser at the original El Gaucho. A loyal member of the El Gaucho family, he was hired as a wine captain when Paul reopened El Gaucho. In this painting he is preparing our famous tableside Bananas Foster for Paul’s wife, Gail.
  • El Gaucho Dizzy Gillespie Painting

    Dizzy Gillespie
    El Gaucho Seattle Hallway

    details & history

    John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and occasional singer. He was, arguably, one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time. This painting was rendered from a photo that Nina had of him.

  • El Gaucho Sherwood Painting

    El Gaucho Portland Bar

    details & history

    Sherwood Dudley was El Gaucho Portland’s Maître D’. He was a local celebrity and named the “honorary mayor of Portland.” He and Paul Mackay worked together at 13 Coins in the ‘70s. Here he’s shown making our legendary tableside Bananas Foster.
  • El Gaucho Tango Painting

    El Gaucho Seattle Women’s Bathroom

    details & history

    Nina requested to try a new medium, and this pastel features two prominent El Gaucho employees, Jenny Potter, a server for years at El Gaucho Seattle, and Nic Kassis, who served as General Manager.

  • El Gaucho Piano Player Painting

    Piano Player
    El Gaucho Seattle piano

    details & history

    Live music is integral to El Gaucho’s swanky and ritualistic ambiance. This particular painting illustrates Daniel Davison, the very first musician hired by owner Paul Mackay in 1996. Daniel was also the third employee, coming on board right after Paul himself and Chef Ken Sharp. Daniel commissioned this painting himself, which prominently hangs behind him and the same piano he plays depicted here.
  • El Gaucho Bull Fighter Painting

    Bull Fighter
    El Gaucho Tacoma’s Northwest Room

    details & history

    Capturing the essence of the Gaucho, this painting was commissioned to fill a large space in a private dining room at El Gaucho Tacoma. It measures 8’ x 8’. Nic Kassis, who at that time was the General Manager at El Gaucho Seattle, was used as the matador.

  • El Gaucho Baked Alaska Painting

    Baked Alaska
    AQUA by El Gaucho main dining room

    details & history

    Featuring Chris Sparkman, AQUA’s General Manager for many years, and founder of Sparkman wines. Chris approached Paul one day while he was enjoying his daily cigar at El Gaucho Seattle with Karl Reimann. Paul was so impressed with Chris’ experience and background he offered him a job on the spot. The only problem was, Chris lived in Washington, DC at the time. It took a year, but eventually Chris moved to Seattle, starting as captain at El Gaucho Seattle, then transferring to The Waterfront (now AQUA by El Gaucho), eventually being promoted to General Manager.
  • El Gaucho Coffee Diablo Painting

    Coffee Diablo
    El Gaucho Tacoma

    details & history

    Jon Sheard is here making Coffee Diablo, offered on the El Gaucho menu for years, and sometimes still by special request. Using cloves, orange rind and lemon, Paul learned to make it at Maribeau, then mastered it at the original El Gaucho. Inspired by a scene in “The Rains of Ranchipur” movie, Michael Rennie makes his wife, played by Lana Turner, her favorite beverage – a coffee diablo – on the train in India.

  • El Gaucho Victor Rosellini Painting

    Victor Rosellini
    Seattle’s Host – El Gaucho Seattle’s 410 Room

    details & history

    Paul was thrilled to capture one of his respected restaurant and business mentors, Victor Rosellini in this painting which adorns the 410 private dining room at El Gaucho Seattle. Victor owned and operated Rosellini’s 410 for nearly 40 years beginning in 1956. Rosellini was famous for collecting gorgeous sterling silver restaurant pieces, and Paul purchased much of his collection, which was so large, El Gaucho is still enjoying some of those pieces today. Silver was a timeless addition meant to make the customer feel extra special.

Nina Mikhailenko’s Paintings for Sale

Russian-born painter Nina Mikhailenko grew up among the intelligentsia and cultural elite of St. Petersburg, where she studied piano, ballet and fine art. She graduated from the renowned Mukhina Art Institute and came to the United States in 1974. A member of Oil Painters of America, she also works in watercolors, pastels, charcoal and ink, often on location. As a plein-air artist, she has traveled the world to capture the atmosphere of her subjects, and in turn her award-winning paintings have been shown all over the United States and Europe. Nina masters great quantities of energy, creating art that is densely composed, painstakingly wrought, bold and detailed.

These paintings for sale are on display at El Gaucho Bellevue.

Visit Nina’s website: artistnina.com

  • El Gaucho Wine & Cigars Painting

    Gaucho Wine & Cigars

    20″ x 24″ | $2500

  • El Gaucho Lobster Painting

    Still Life with Lobster

    24″ x 20″ | $2500

  • El Gaucho Making a Turn Painting

    Making a Turn

    20″ x 24″ | $2500

  • El Gaucho Detlef Schrempf Painting

    Detlef Schrempf

    20″ x 24″ | $2500

  • El Gaucho The Met Painting

    The Met

    24″ x 30″ | $3200

  • <El Gaucho Port 1977 Painting

    Port 1977

    24″ x 34″ (pastel) | $2000

  • El Gaucho Flamenco Trio Painting

    Flamenco Trio

    24″ x 14 3/8″ | $800

  • El Gaucho Joe shaking Martini Painting

    Joe shaking Martini

    24″ x 20″ | $2500

  • El Gaucho Lobster &amp; Dutch Goblet Painting

    Still Life with
    Lobster & Dutch Goblet

    16″ x 20″ | $2000

  • El Gaucho Dizzy Gillespie Painting

    Dizzy Gillespie

    24″ x 20″ (pastel) | $1200

  • El Gaucho Tequila Painting


    24″ x 20″ | $2500

  • El Gaucho Cigar &amp; Cognac Painting

    Still Life with
    Cigar & Cognac

    20″ x 24″ | $2500