John Manion Just Opened a New South American Restaurant in Chicago

John Manion’s El Che has consistently been called one of the best steakhouses in Chicago. Now the chef is expanding his footprint in the Windy City.

Brasero, opening Tuesday, explores the flavors of South America through a Midwestern lens, drawing on Manion’s experiences growing up in Brazil and beginning his career in Chicago. Most of the meats are wood-fired or charcoal-grilled, there are several versions of a Caipirinha, and the wine list spotlights 100 South American bottles under $100.

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Prawns from Brasero

“Brasero is a full circle moment for me,” Manion said in a statement. “I started thinking about the neighborhood, where I lived for about 25 years. Thinking of the beginning of my career on Division Street, working at Mas. I look back to that era and the neighborhood speaks to me. Brasero is not just another culinary venture, it’s a tribute to the flavors and experiences that shaped me into the chef I am today.”

Small plates focus mainly on vegetables and seafood, like black-eyed pea fritters with halloumi criolla, fermented garlic aioli, and hot sauce, or green curry garlic prawns with toasted coconut and pickled fresno. If you want something slightly heartier, pork ribs come with both hot sauce and guava BBQ sauce, or there’s Brazilian fried quail with yuca and chili cactus oil.

Just like at El Che, though, the meats and mains are the stars of the show. For the grilled young chicken, the birds are brined and marinated, then slow-roasted over charcoal before being finished on the grill with fermented garlic sauce, chili oil, and a special “chicken salt” that includes herbs and dehydrated chicken skin. Pescatarians will appreciate the grilled half lobster or the whole grilled red snapper, while carnivores will delight in Manion’s center-cut ribeye or Wagyu picanha. And if you’re really looking to be impressed, Brasero’s take on the Brazilian national dish feijoada is a smoked and braised giant beef shank served with a sort of black-bean risotto, fermented collard green kimchi, and orange mostarda.

Chicken from Brasero

As mentioned, the wine list is working to spotlight South and Central American producers, while the cocktails draw from the same well of inspiration. Many of the signature drinks have a fruity bent, like the Tall Drink of Water (Singani 63, tamarind liqueur, pepita orgeat, lemon, pineapple, maca root juice, and mint). Or if a creamy drink is more your vibe, Brasero offers the Leite de Onco, or Panther’s Milk (Germana Caetano’s Cachaça, crème de cacao, fermented banana, lemon, black sea salt, and coconut flakes).

It’s a more compact and curated menu than what you’ll find at Manion’s other restaurant, but it still packs the same flavorful and omnivorous punch.

Click here to see all the images of Brasero.

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