Anyone who goes out to eat on a regular basis knows that the bar tab can often rival the cost of the food itself, effectively doubling your expense. Fortunately, Chicago has a good number of dining options that allow you to bring your own beverage. Here's three of the best on the Latino food scene.
Named after the distance between Key West and Havana, this casual and lively spot serves everything from the classic Cubano pressed sandwich (ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, mustard, pickle and garlicky mojo sauce) to full dinners. Try the Puerco Rostizado, a house specialty that is slow roasted overnight with malta, prunes, guava, ham and bacon, then served with rice, beans and maduros (fried sweet plantains). Bring a bottle of rum and they'll sell you a pitcher of their mojito mix to put it in, but wine and beer goes great with Cuban food as well. The front patio is the place to be in warm weather, but they also have a spacious enclosed back patio that's open year-round.
Top Chef contestant (and veteran of Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill & Topolobampo) Chuy Valencia opened this intimate and colorful Mexican small plates spot in 2009. Now guided by Executive Chef Natalie Oswald, they continue their championing of fresh, sustainable farm-to-table ingredients creatively interpreted with Latin flavors. In keeping with the fresh seasonal approach, the menu changes regularly, but it's easy to make a varied and very tasty meal by ordering a few items to share. Bring your tequila, they'll sell you the house-made limade to put it in. There's also a delicious sangria mix for your wine, and soft drink choices include imported Mexican Coca Cola. Chilam Balam is cash only.
Love thick, juicy, tender steak, but tired of the ‘same old, same old'? Tango Sur is your place. This romantic Argentine spot gets theirs from El Mercado next door, which they own (and which also sells imported South American packaged goods). Various cuts of beef are expertly prepared, but for something truly special, get the mixed grill parrillada for its combo of grilled short ribs, flap meat, sausage, sweetbreads and blood sausage. Appetizers are tasty as well. Try the empanadas, or for something lighter, the prosciutto with melon. Argentina is a wine producing country, so be sure to stop somewhere first for a bottle or two of the country's signature (yet reasonably priced) Malbec variety to go with your meal.
By Don Macica / Arte y Vida Chicago
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