Most of the attention, at least culinary speaking, when it comes to Puerto Rican food in Chicago, is centered along Division Street, between Western and Kedzie. Travel a few blocks south of the main drag to get a taste of Diana's, where the food is literally cooked by a mom-and-pop and the flavors are reminiscent of San Juan.
Like a lot of bodegas, Diana's has that corner store appeal, from its perch on a quiet corner in Humboldt Park. There are some groceries up front, as you walk in, but head to the back, where the kitchen has slowly grown over the years, now cranking out homemade Puerto Rican food daily. Let other joints brag on their jibaritos.. here, it's all about the tripleta.
"It's a big deal in Puerto Rico. Like I said, I don't know how many places around are making it but it's actually been a big hit for us ever since we started making it," said Ricky Rivera, who's family owns Diana's.
This mammoth sandwich resembles its Cuban cousin, thanks to mustard, ham and pickles, but Rivera also adds steak and roasted pork, then grilling the sandwich in a hot press, just like a Cuban. More substantial meals include pollo guisado, a stewed chicken plate with a choice of either white rice and pinto beans, or the more classic arroz con gandules, or yellow rice with pigeon peas.
It may be summertime, but in the Puerto Rican kitchen, there's always room for a hot and hearty mondongo.
"There's people that can't live without it. It's mainly tripe, pig feet, you got potatoes, green bananas, and a few other different roots," Rivera said.
Probably good for a hangover too. Morcilla is always on-hand, the inky black blood sausage is jammed with pork and pionono is a pleasant surprise: think sweet, overripe plantains wrapped around ground beef and American cheese.
On Saturday, the People's Parade steps off from Division and Western at 2p.m.
"I think they should come before the parade. If they're thinking about coming to the park, then they should maybe stop in here first and then head out that way," he said.
Diana's Food & Restaurant
1000 N. Francisco Ave.