Whenever you're talking jibaritos in Chicago, you've got to talk plantains. And at Jibaritos on Harlem - a sister restaurant to Jibaritos y Mas on Fullerton - they know this starchy fruit.
A look at a few of the fried items available in the front counter display case at Jibaritos on Harlem
"You know lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, mayo. But instead of having the bread, you use the fresh plantain," said Jesus Arrieta, owner of Jibaritos on Harlem. "You fry it, you smash it, you fry it again, and then you have the crispy tostones."
The double-frying and smashing turn the banana-shaped plantain into a flattened paddle, a perfect vehicle for housing any number of toppings. The classic would be a shmear of mayo, some crunchy lettuce and maybe a slice or two of American cheese. Then it's up to you: a shrimp salad maybe? Perhaps some shredded pork? Thinly-pounded steak is probably the most popular. Once the sandwich is topped, it gets a light brush of garlicky oil.
"Little garlic on the top and you're good to go," he said.
Sides are either white rice or arroz con gandules - that's rice with pigeon peas. There's also a hearty bean soup. Arrieta says there are Puerto Rican communities all over the U.S., but Chicago is the only place you'll find a jibarito.
"It's like you know we have Chicago style hot dogs, this is a Chicago-style sandwich for everyone," said Arrieta.
There are at least 10 different ways you can have your jibarito - including vegetarian - but I'm gonna go a little bit more traditional today, steak...eh, I'll go with pork actually.
Jibaritos on Harlem
3317 N. Harlem Ave.