Caribbean dishes with twist served up at Downers Grove restaurant

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (WLS) -- The classic dishes of Cuba and Puerto Rico come with a unique twist at Caribbean Corner in west suburban Downers Grove.

The soft, sweet fried plantains and black beans are expected, as are the ground beef-filled empanadas, in the restaurant, which sits in a quiet strip mall in the village's downtown. But look closer, and you'll spot some variations.

"Latin with a flair. My style. I don't emphasize traditional. I think some people may come looking for traditional but I always put my little twist on things," said Raquel Black, the owner.

Black grew up in the Dominican Republic and Miami, but her approach here is slightly different. Take her Cuban sandwich. The bread is a bit different, wider yet she wisely pulls out some of the soft filling. Then ham of course, but also shredded pork.

"We marinate our pork butt two to three days in our walk-in cooler, we roast it every single night for 12 hours in the oven, and I shred it by hand," she said.

And instead of yellow mustard, they use a mojo parsley sauce they make in-house.

Swiss cheese, exactly eight pickle slices, then the sandwich is topped, brushed with butter and griddled until crispy. Even their jibarito - a Puerto Rican-inspired sandwich created in Chicago - has a twist.

"We do fry them, then we smash them then we fry them again to make them hard and crispy," said Black.

In addition to the beef, they use Swiss, not American and instead of a garlicky mojo sauce, a chipotle mayo instead. Juices are fresh - especially the passionfruit and guava; speaking of which, she replicates a traditional Miami pastelito, stuffed with guava and cream cheese.

"You get the effect of the pastelitos but it's definitely something that I can actually provide here at the restaurant," she said.

So even though you may have seen Latin dishes like the Cuban sandwich or the jibarito in other restaurants around the region, don't expect to find the classics here at Caribbean Corner, they've got a little bit of a twist. And the nice thing about that little twist, is that in many cases, they're even more delicious than the original.

EXTRA COURSE: ABC7 food reporter Steve Dolinsky looked at Caribbean Corner's signature desserts -- tres leches cake.

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Extra Course: Tres leches cake at Caribbean Corner in Downers Grove.

970 Warren Ave., Downers Grove
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