Perhaps more people across the country would know about the jibarito if The Bear took place at a Puerto Rican restaurant instead of an Italian beef stand. Alas, the steak sandwich that uses fried plantains instead of bread isn’t known as well outside of Chicago. But there have been recent efforts to share the unique taste in the world.
Last month, Midwest Living magazine listed the jibarito as a “trendy Chicago sandwich.” The sandwich’s origins aren’t clear. Chicago lore pegs it as a mid-’90s invention in Humboldt Park. Others argue that the sandwich, or at least a similar item, originated in Puerto Rico and the Chicago version is a twist. Regardless, Chicago’s Puerto Rican community has embraced the sandwich as its own.
Now, two local chefs — both raised in Puerto Rico — are giving their own spin on the jibarito. Alejandro Gonzalez and Enrique Ortiz are two cooks at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, the popular fried chicken spot in Avondale. They’ve been inseparable since kindergarten in San Juan and now have an opportunity to serve the food they grew up cooking.
On Monday, September 26, they’ll launch a pop-up called Monchomoncheo at Honey Butter. They’ll sling a tidy menu with special jibarito-inspired sandwiches. The HBFC Original Jibarito uses a “smashed plantain bun,” garlic honey butter, and fried chicken thighs. Mayonnaise, cabbage, and cilantro slaw top it off. A tofu option is also available. There’s also Mama’s Chiki Jibarito which uses shredded and stewed chicken thighs. The two say they brought in some plantains into the restaurant and the rest is history.
They’ll also offer Puerto Rican cheese, known as queso el país. It’s a farmer’s cheese that’s pan-fried and served with guava paste. For the pop-up, it will be breaded with panko and served with a guava-gochujang sauce.
The pop-up continues Honey Butter owners Josh Kulp and Christine Cikowski’s practice of supporting endeavors by their own workers including Becca Grothe, who earlier this year opened TriBecca’s Sandwich Shop, right down the street from Honey Butter. For now, Monchomoncheo and the jibaritos are a one-night thing, but if the response is positive, who knows? Gonzalez, who has spent a year as Honey Butter’s kitchen manager, and Ortiz, who has been working for the restaurant for six months, say their dream is to open a restaurant in the future.
The pop-up is timely. Hurricane Fiona recently touched down in Puerto Rico. Two deaths have been reported, and countless houses have been destroyed. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to World Central Kitchen’s hurricane relief efforts.
Monchomoncheo pop-up at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, 3361 N. Elston Avenue, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, September 26.
Navy Pier restaurant workers file wage theft complaint
Restaurant workers at Navy Pier employed at massive outdoor bar Offshore and Lirica, the restaurant inside Sable hotel, have filed a wage-theft complaint with the city against ownership group Maverick Hotels and Restaurants. The workers are organized by UNITE HERE Local No. 1 and will deliver copies of the complaint on Tuesday afternoon to hotel management, according to a union news release. The complaint was filed with Chicago’s Office of Labor Standards. The union filed another complaint in July with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming Maverick refused to furnish information about workers’ pay, which is usually connected with wage theft.
Carol’s Pub’s legacy of country music
Belt Magazine published a feature about the legacy of country music in the 1970s in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. One of the epicenters of that movement was Carol’s Pub, the late-night bar that recently was remodeled under the new ownership of music promoter Ed Warm. It’s quite a read about Chicago’s forgotten history.
Esmé releases season tickets
Lincoln Park fine dining restaurant Esmé began selling season ticket packages so diners can purchase three meals from November through October 2023. Packages cost $625 per person, according to a news release, and include dinner tickets, priority bookings, and a chance for a private meeting with the artist who’s inspired the meal.