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Celebrating El Gaucho's 25-Year Dining Legacy

June 13, 2022 - by Sandy Vo

Celebrating El Gaucho's 25-Year Dining Legacy

Door from the original El Gaucho

It was 1953 when the original El Gaucho opened in Seattle. Many believed it was the epitome of fine dining in the area, including Paul Mackay, one of the many managers who worked there. When it closed in 1986, Mr. Mackay went on to run other prominent restaurants, including Elliot’s, Metropolitan Grill, Yarrow Bay Grill and even opened his own restaurant, Flying Fish.

While Mr. Mackay continued working, the idea of resurrecting El Gaucho's legendary tableside service was more of a dream than a reality – or so he thought. When he learned that the former Sailor’s Union of the Pacific building at First and Wall was available, he jumped at the historic opportunity. The new space sparked the vision of tableside flambé, authentic relationships, and a packed main room which pushed Mr. Mackay's dream into existence. In 1996, El Gaucho was born again.

The legacy of El Gaucho’s legendary service is the perfect blend of impeccable food, strong community connections, and dedicated staff. 25 years later, the beloved classic steakhouse is still dishing out unparalleled dining experiences, starting with the greeting at the front door to the mesmerizing fire-dancing desserts. Cooper Mills, president of Fire & Vine Hospitality, said after being in business for this long, they’re most proud of their commitment to guests.

“I think the reason why El Gaucho is still relevant after 25 years is that we’re not just a restaurant, we’re really about experiential dining,” Mills said. “We revel and celebrate lives by bringing guests multisensory experiences that provide unforgettable moments for everyone.”

El Gaucho's dining presentation

Now owned under Fire & Vine Hospitality, El Gaucho has expanded to five locations across the Pacific Northwest, including one in Downtown Bellevue after strong demands from the Eastside. After a rocky first year of opening in 2008 during an economic turndown, Mills said soon after, El Gaucho Bellevue became a prime spot for birthdays, anniversaries, business meetings, and other celebrations – an experience they’re proud to be part of.

“Every El Gaucho location is unique to the community it serves,” Mills said. “For example, El Gaucho Bellevue has a great vegetarian menu because there was a big call for it. Listening intently to guests and doing our best to execute their requests is part of Fire & Vine Hospitality’s core values.”

Besides their renowned hospitality, another core company value is their strong connection with the community they reside in. Last year when in-person events were limited, Fire & Vine Hospitality donated auction items and other in-kind donations to Mary’s Place and Jubilee Reach for their virtual galas. They also announced a $70,000 donation for scholarships to Washington State University with a focus on BIPOC and underrepresented students.

"Our team is proud that we’re able to continue that tradition despite a challenging year,” said Chad Mackay, CEO of Fire & Vine Hospitality. “Our involvement and contribution to Mary’s Place, Jubilee Reach, and others allows us to build deep connections in our communities.” 

El Gaucho's charity work

As Mills reflected on the 25 years since El Gaucho’s revival, he mentioned that one of his favorite moments was witnessing the steakhouse’s positive influence on people’s lives. In total, El Gaucho has proudly donated $3.5 million to local organizations since 1996.

“Our mission has always been to be a part of the community we’re in because without them, we’re just four walls and some furniture," Mills said. “Looking forward, we want to continue giving back and building a vibrant restaurant scene where people can talk business deals, celebrate life and eat a great meal.”

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.


El Gaucho Bellevue
450 108th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004

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