In the mood for a hearty helping of ropa vieja? Or maybe the minty kick of a well-mixed mojito? Cuban cuisine may not be as ubiquitous in Chicago as it is in New York or Miami, but there are still plenty of places worth visiting — from cozy cafes to more formal dining options. Check out one of these 10 oustanding spots for a taste of island fare. Listed west to east.Read More
Where to Eat Cuban Food in Chicago
Find delectable ropa vieja and much more
El Rinconcito Cubano
NOTE: El Rinconcito Cubano closed in October 2017.
Sometimes diners just want ambience and artful plating. Sometimes diners just want to get good and full on the cheap. Enter El Rinconcito, a BYOB joint whose meaty mains come with heaping servings of rice and beans, as well as a hunk of crusty bread. The bistec cazuela is melt-in-your-mouth tender and pairs well with lagers and ales.
90 Miles Cuban Cafe
This Logan Square stalwart has plentiful patio seating and a BYOB policy. Plus, Guy Fieri gushed about its fall-off-the-bone fricase de pollo and salty-sweet maduros on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The ropa vieja is just as good at the restaurant’s Clybourn and suburban Lincolnwood locations too.
Paladar Restaurant and Rum Bar
Craving authentic Cuban cuisine? Then check out Paladar. Owner Jose Gonzalez offers dishes inspired by old family recipes, like his mother’s ham and cheese croquetas. The restaurant also earns high marks for its extensive rum selection and cocktail list. Customers won’t regret ordering the coconut mojito.
Siboney Cuban Cuisine
Another West Side favorite, Siboney stays afloat in a sea of mid-priced restaurants with live music and an extensive menu broken down by protein type. There are plenty of options for vegetarians too, including the Plato Siboney, a platter of crispy plantains stuffed with soy “beef” as hearty and flavorful as the real thing.
This cozy, BYOB cafe checks a lot of boxes. Appealing ambiance? Check. Filling, affordable dishes? Check. Outdoor seating available during the summer months? Check. Plus, its churrasco cubano — a slow-marinated skirt steak served alongside a slightly acidic Yuca con Mojo and a lightly-dressed salad — is delicious enough to break any embargo.
Habana Libre Restaurant
Though it shares its name with a popular Cuban cocktail, Habana Libre is actually BYOB. Their pan lechón, served alongside rice, beans and sweet plantains, is an aromatic triumph of slow-roasted pork and onions. Though the website claims it won a Michelin star in 2012. That’s not the case, as past stories show. But the food and atmosphere still make it a worthy place.
This family-owned deli is adored nearly as much for its friendly owners as its inventive menu, which includes multi-ethnic mashups like a ropa vieja burrito and a Cuban PB&J — a sandwich slathered with homemade guava jelly, peanut butter, and a sprinkling of sweet plantain chips. Nini’s isn’t the most authentic establishment on this list, but it’s among the most innovative.
Cohiba Cuban Cuisine
Arguably Lakeview’s best Cuban restaurant, Cohiba serves hearty, Havanese comfort food – like camaron salteado, shrimp sauteed with bell peppers and onions in a rich garlic sauce. And mains come with a choice of rice and beans or congris, along with house-made chips. The restaurant is BYOB, but servers can bring mixers to your table, and on Wednesdays their piña coladas cost only $6.
It can be hard to find fast, fresh lunch places in The Loop. Fortunately, Cafecito slings hot coffee and cubanos — which come griddled in a fragrant mojo of sour oranges and garlic — to hungry lunch crowds with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. Satellite locations have sprung up in the South Loop and Gold Coast, too.
The aptly-named Havana channels the bygone splendor of Cuba’s iconic capital city with dark wood, leather, and potted palms aplenty. Its prices are lower than those of most comparable River North restaurants, too. Consider stopping by on a Friday, when pitchers of mojitos cost $20.
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