Chicago has a range of tapas restaurants that includes Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’s Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, to New York newcomer Boqueria, to Andersonville upstart Little Madrid Cafe. Apologies to Rich Melman, but none have a personality as large as José Andrés backing them. Announced in November 2019. Jaleo finally swings its doors open to the general public today in River North, part of a larger expansion into Chicago for Andrés, a Nobel Prize-nominated chef born in Spain with restaurants in Washington, D.C.; New York; and Las Vegas.
Jaleo was Andrés’s first restaurant, opening in 1984 in D.C. The Chicago location has a few tweaks. First, there’s a basement speakeasy-style bar, called Pigtail, that should open later this year. Management hasn’t provide many details on the project other than Andrés will make a visit when the tavern is ready. There’s also a few unique dishes like paella presented table side and another rice dish (Arroz rabo de toro).
Jaleo’s signature dishes include endives with goat cheese, oranges, almonds, and roasted-garlic dressing; Basque-style cheesecake with payoyo (a type of Spanish goat cheese). There’s also tons of pork from cured selection to the special black-footed pig imported from Spain. The menu touts this as a “secret butcher’s cut.”
There’s also a tapas bar that reflects a casual atmosphere. As Chicagoans return downtown to work, Jaleo wants to attract a happy hour crowd where colleagues sip on sherries and Spanish-style gin & tonics with infused gins.
Andrés continues his humanitarian efforts to battle the pandemic, which isn’t over. He was recently in India helping that country’s citizens. Still, Jaleo’s arrival is a bright moment for Chicago’s restaurant scene, and another in a series of openings for Andrés in the city.
Jaleo, 500 N. Clark Street, open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday an Saturday.