By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Dec 26, 2023 at 5:01 PM

This is one of our favorite stories from 2023! Thanks for reading OnMilwaukee. 

Drive down Bluemound Road in Brookfield and you’re unlikely to spot El Gaucho Grill, which is stealthily nestled in the northeastern corner of the Brookmound Plaza at 17800 W. Bluemound Rd.  But it’s well worth the effort to seek out this hidden gem, which offers up a generous sampling of traditional dishes from Argentina and Uruguay.

Exterior of El Gaucho GrillX

Operated by Antonio Paez, his wife Arlenne Escamilla and his sister Claudia Paez, the family owned restaurant reflects the food that the Paez’s ate while growing up in Argentina and Uruguay: Argentine tortillas, empanadas and tarts, fresh salads, meaty sandwiches and – the star of the proverbial show – proper asado.

From the Rio de la Plata to Wisconsin

Paez’s mother was from Uruguay and his father from Argentina; over the years, he and his family lived in both countries, eventually settling in Uruguay, where Paez remained until 2002. When the Uruguay banking crisis caused the economy to topple, he made the decision to move to the U.S., settling with his first wife in Atlanta, Georgia. His siblings followed him. 

Paez found work as an auto mechanic and learned to speak English, thanks in part to watching American television with subtitles. Although his marriage did not survive the move, he eventually met Escamilla, whose family had come to the U.S. from Mexico. Together, they built a life together in Atlanta, moving to Wisconsin in 2011 to be closer to Escamilla’s family.

After Escamilla’s mother passed away, Paez says the couple found themselves at a crossroads. Should they move back to Atlanta or stay in Wisconsin? Paez says that, although the weather in Georgia was enticing, they ultimately chose to stay in Wisconsin.

“The people here were so nice,” he says. “They embraced us wholeheartedly and that made it very difficult to leave.”

However, there was one big thing missing in Wisconsin: Argentinian food. It was something they loved to eat, but which they had to travel to Chicago to enjoy. So, Paez decided to call his sister Claudia, who had made a career working in restaurants in Florida.

“I told her,” he says,”I want to leave a mark, to put down the flags from Argentina and Uruguay. I want to share our culture and I want people here to say – even after we’re gone – that they ate authentic Argentinian food.”

Claudia took him up on his offer and El Gaucho was born.

From provoletta to chivito

Walk into El Gaucho and you’ll find a cozy restaurant with a clean, modern feel. The walls are decorated with Argentine artifacts, colorful art and a custom mural depicting a gaucho riding a horse through a field created by Milwaukee artist Michael Cerda. In the background, a soundtrack of Latin music sets the backdrop for a meal of traditional Argentinian and Uruguayan fare.

Dining room and muralX

From the bar, you’ll find a curated selection of South American wines (all available by the glass), a selection of cerveza (beer),  as well as cocktails like mimosas; an El Gaucho spritz; and Pasubio and Coca-Cola, a highball made with Italian amaro. 

Prefer to buy drinks for the table? El Gaucho offers large format pitchers of house sangria made with red wine and fresh fruit; and clericot, a Uruguayan sangria made with white wine and fresh fruit. 

El Gaucho barX

Sangria would be perfect with appetizers like Argentine tortillas: one made with potatoes, onions and eggs and another made with eggs, spinach, onions and red bell peppers ($13.90 each). 

Argentine tortilla with spinachX

When you order this dish, impress your server by pronouncing tortilla as they do in Argentina. The double-l in the word is actually pronounced as “sh”, so the word is pronounced “tor-tee-sha”. 

There are delicious mollejas, pan-seared sweetbreads which have been seasoned and heavily seared ($11.90). The tender delicacies have a tender, almost creamy interior and a beautifully crisped edges. Be sure to squeeze the accompanying lemons over the top; the acid makes the rich dish pop.

You'll also find provoletta, a traditional Argentine dish made with provolone cheese that’s roasted in a cast iron skillet with olive oil and oregano (served with sliced French bread, $12.50).


The dish reflects the abundance of cattle (and hence meat and dairy) in the region.  To eat, simply slather the gooey cheese atop the slices of bread; it’s delicious (and oh-so-Wisconsin).

Guests can also choose from a laundry list of empanadas from Argentine beef to ham and cheese, humitas (corn pudding), spinach and cheese or Mexican inspired mushroom and cheese ($5.50 each or $60 per dozen). The empanadas are made with a thin crisp dough that’s been baked in the oven rather than fried.


Be sure to order an assortment of dipping sauces. Offerings include criolla (similar to salsa); roasted pepper aioli; creamy cilantro lime dressing; or fresh chimichurri ($1.25 each).

Casual fare includes a cadre of sandwiches, from the milanesa a la napolitan, which reflects the influence of the Italians who flocked to Argentina during the post-war period. It features thinly sliced, breaded fried chicken or beef, sliced ham, melted mozzarella cheese and sliced tomatoes ($24.90). 

Order a side of El Gaucho's house-cut, double fried papas a la provenzal, French fries seasoned with chimichurri ($7.95).  They're crispy on the exterior, fluffy within and delicious with the addition of lemon and herbs.


There’s also choripan, a classic Argentine street food featuring Argentine sausage in sandwich form topped with tomatoes, lettuce and mayo ($11.95); and chivito al plato, a traditional Uruguayan dish featuring tender beef churrasco topped with bacon, fried egg, melted mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, onions and lettuce alongside olives, sliced red bell pepper and ham ($23.90).

The dish is also available in sandwich form as Chivito Canadiense, an option so popular it’s often referred to as Uruguay's unofficial national dish. It’s also a sandwich Anthony Bourdain venerated as the “best sandwich I’ve tasted in my life”. Just sayin’.


And then there’s the asado, flame grilled meats which have become a trademark of both Argentinian and Uruguayan culture. For Paez, asado conjures memories of his family gathering at his grandparents’ house on Sundays. 

“My grandmother would prepare asado or she would make homemade ravioli,” he says, “And we all looked forward to gathering together for a meal.

El Gaucho’s asado is cooked using a high tech infrared grill. But it is otherwise prepared using the simplest of techniques and seasonings, allowing the flavor of the meat itself to shine. 

You can choose a single platter of tira de asado (bone-in shortrib); bife de chorizo (tenderloin); entradna (skirt steak); vacio (flank steak); or ribeye steak. Each are served with mixed salad and a choice of one side: mashed potatoes, Argentine potato salad, fries or sauteed vegetables ($29-$31).

Parillada asadoX

However, if it’s your first visit, I’d highly recommend the parillada asado, a mix of grilled meats which offers an outstanding introduction to the protagonists needed for a proper asado. Named for the large iron grills (parrillas) used in Uruguay, the parrillada asado platter features tira de asado  (shortribs), pollo (chicken), chorizo (sausage), morcilla (blood sausage) and grilled peppers and onions. (I enjoyed delicious mollejas in place of the chicken; they’re not on the asado menu; but it pays to ask!). Parillada asado is available in two serving sizes. A platter for one is $39 (pictured); a platter for two is $59.

Something sweet

Much like asado, it wouldn't be right if El Gaucho didn't feature dulce de leche, the delicate sweet “milk caramel” that’s ubiquitous in both Argentina and Uruguay. Fortunately, you can order it in spades: drizzled over creamy traditional flan, spread on panqueques (Argentine crepes) with seasonal fruit or spread between melt-in-your-mouth Argentinian cookies in the form of alfajores. 

But don’t miss the opportunity to sample the lovely chaja cake, which layers dulce de leche between layers of sponge cake, peaches, meringue cookies and sweet whipped cream ($10).

Chaja cakeX

It’s light and delicately sweet  – aptly named for the chaja (chauna torquata), a bird which appears to be very large and heavy due to thick layers of feathers, but which is really very soft and light.

Home away from home

Paez says that the first month or so for El Gaucho was abysmally slow. Few people knew about the restaurant and he thought he might have made a mistake. But slowly but surely business picked up.

Just six months after opening, the family-owned restaurant is now seeing a consistent stream of customers – including weekly regulars – who come to enjoy the flavors of South America right here in Wisconsin.

“In all the years I lived here, I didn’t meet one person from Argentina or Uruguay,” says Paez.”But when we opened the restaurant, so many people came out to try it. We’ve met so many Argentinians who are excited to eat food that reminds them of home.”

Paez says that he’ll always treasure his interaction with one particular guest who approached him after enjoying her meal and offered up the highest of compliments.

“She took my hand,” he says, “And she told me: ‘For a moment while I was eating, when I closed my eyes, I wasn’t in Wisconsin. I was in Buenos Aires.’”

That’s the experience, Paez says, that he wants for everyone.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.