Taste of Cuba brings home cooking to Lincolnwood

August 11, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"It's as if you're in your grandma's kitchen eating. It's a little bit of both new Cuban and old school Cuban, so we try to fuse both of them together," said co-owner Jamie Alvarez.

The Cubano sandwich is a good example of that. Yes, there's the usual mustard, pickles and roasted pork, but the ham and cheese are a little different.

"We do a different turn on the sandwich, so we use hickory smoked ham which most restaurants don't use. We use a Wisconsin American cheese because I think it melts better," she said.

For the classic ropa vieja, which translates to "old clothes" - a result of slow-braised beef that is shredded into submission - the flank steak simmers with a sofrito of onions and peppers, plus oregano, olives and garlic.

"We use a special house seasoning blend that gives it a really nice kick to the dish. We're also using bay leaves, pepper, cumin," said Alvarez.

The ropa is served with sweet, fried plantains and congri - a black bean and rice combo. Alvarez says garlic is used throughout the menu, especially in the lechon asado, which features roasted pork seasoned with adobo, plus sides of black beans and rice.

"In a typical adobo seasoning it's garlic pepper, garlic powder, you have onion powder, salt, pepper, oregano, that's pretty much typical adobo seasoning," she said.

And it wouldn't be a Cuban cafe without coffee. The bracing intensity is a point of pride for Cuban restaurant owners.

"Coffee's very, very important. We actually import our coffee and we have a lot of customers that love our coffee, it's a little bit thicker, it's a lot stronger than typical American coffee, you know it kind of wakes you up, so it's definitely good," said Alvarez.

Up until recently most of the Cuban food was located in the city, but Taste of Cuba is proving that you can be successful in the suburbs, in fact, they're currently looking at another location somewhere in the 'burbs.

Be sure to also try one of their desserts, featuring guava and cheese or a cool, creamy, tropical shake.

Taste of Cuba
3918 W. Touhy Ave., Lincolnwood

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