I so wanted to love Las Tablas, the long-standing family owned Columbian steak house. And yet, despite some really great food, the hubby and I walked away from Las Tablas feeling an unenthusiastic meh about the whole thing.
To start, locating a drink menu proved a daunting task. The first menu was empty, the second incomplete. The third menu, unfortunately, was not the charm. While complete, the drink list offered a disappointing selection of wines. At the waiter’s suggestion (I was at a loss for what would be good), I ordered a cabernet sauvignon. The wine arrived hot. And I’m not talking room temperature or even lukewarm. I’m talking that wine tasted like it had just been pulled out of a microwave (or perhaps outdoor storage, it was 90 degrees outside). The replacement glass, only slightly less warm, confirmed my initial trepidation: the wine was mediocre at best.
Redemption came in the way of the phenomenal chimichurri, less garlicky than its Argentine counterpart. The hubby and I ate it with our chicken empanadas, slightly too fast-food-fried for my taste but with a delicious filling.
We also tried the chorizo and arepa, a dense, cheese-stuffed cornbread that is traditional Columbian fare. It’s a heavy appetizer but worth ordering to share.
The juicy, thinly sliced and tender entraña (skirt steak) was exceptional. I ordered mine with chargrilled octopus but could not, much to my dismay, get past the heads that remained attached to the bodies. I felt like each one was staring at me, accusingly, despite the fact that there were no eyes. From now on, I’m skipping the baby octopus in favor of either big tentacles or, in the case of calamari, rings. (Yes I am fully aware this makes no logical sense).
As the restaurant filled up, service nosedived. A remarkably long time passed between when we finished eating and when our waiter checked in on us. It’s nice to not be rushed, but it’s also nice to be able to request a check when you’re ready to leave. This may be a cultural thing. When I lived in South America, lingering after a meal was the norm. Further, in the waiter’s defense, he (along with the rest of the staff) was charming.
Most of the issues with Las Tablas (with the exception of the octopus – octopi? – heads, which is mine alone) are easy fixes: pay more attention to detail, such as menus and wine temperatures, and work on service. The wine list also needs some reworking. Or try BYOB the entire week, not just Mondays through Thursdays. Chicago could use some more BYOB restaurants (look at Tango Sur, which is a BYOB steak house and killing it).
Try Las Tablas at 2942 N. Lincoln Ave. and at 4920 W. Irving Park Rd.