For just a few bucks, you can easily transport yourself to Mexico City. But this isn't a taqueria, it's Bom Bon Cafe in West Town - Luis and Laura Perea's vision of what an urban, Mexican cafe should be. Part of that means pastries -- and a big part of it means tortas.
"The tortas, is one of the main things in Mexico City, so my wife and I, we decided to do something at the Cafe, with really fresh ingredients and with different ingredients in the sandwiches," said Luis Perea, Bom Bon Café.
They typically offer about a half dozen each day. The wonderfully crusty talera bread is homemade, and the fillings are fresh and vibrant: for the Sonora, an avocado spread forms the base, followed by lettuce, cilantro, tomato and avocado; then arrachera, or marinated steak, is sliced and added, plus smoky grilled peppers and charred onions.
An equally good, but altogether different sandwich resides in Andersonville, at the Hopleaf, which is known for its extensive Belgian beer list. Here, they've had wild success with a Montreal-style smoked meat sandwich, featuring slow-smoked brisket. Topped with some grainy mustard, it rests between sturdy loaves of either sourdough or dark rye, and comes with housemade fries and a giant, tart pickle.
For a taste of Cuba, head to the Western edge of Logan Square, where they wait, as if in some kind of a sandwich cult, for the prized Cuban, at El Cubanito, which has to be the smallest restaurant in Chicago.
"The bread, ham, cheese and roast pork. In one side the bread, a little butter. One side, a little mustard and pickles. Put it on the grill and everybody come in for the Cuban sandwich!" said Laretsa Artega, El Cubanito.
They also make a very good meatless version, with just two ingredients: Swiss cheese and guava paste. But it's the hot, pressed Cubans and chopped steak sandwiches they really wait in line for..along with a bracing Cuban coffee.
And when it comes to Italian subs, one of the best options around is Bari Foods on west Grand Avenue. From the crusty bread to the thinly-sliced prosciutto and marinated eggplant, the Hungry Hound never had a bad sandwich there.
36 S. Ashland Ave.
5148 N. Clark St.
2555 N. Pulaski Rd.
1120 W. Grand Ave.