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The Chicago Traveler

Café Laguardia

by User ImageMatt B on December 19th, 2007

cafe laguardiaNormally, seeing palm trees and animal prints in any establishment will make me want turn right around and run away. However, despite its questionable d'cor, Caf' Laguardia boasts a menu that couldn't be more authentic, even if it came straight from Cuba.

Actually, the menu is Cuba-born. More than 50 years ago, the founder opened his own restaurant in Bainoa, Cuba. When he decided to move to Chicago, he brought all his recipes with him and opened a casual, family-operated eatery in what is now the Bucktown neighborhood. The atmosphere is very relaxed while the live music is always energizing. Take a seat, and before long, you'll find your worries just drifting away.

rachael ray specialWhile the food at Laguardia is full of spices, it's not picante (spicy-hot). The extensive menu highlights traditional Cuban meat and seafood dishes, including appetizers like ground beef croquettes and beef or shrimp empanadas. Servers will be happy to bring you hearty portions of the house specialty, paella Valencia, made with mild yellow rice and mounds of clams, chicken, and shrimp. Try the ground beef criollo cooked in spicy tomato sauce with raisins, onions, olives, and potatoes. Feeling adventurous? Order the squid cooked in its own ink and served with rice. Just take note: even the menu warns that it's 'an acquired taste.' Finally, you can always take the advice of Rachael Ray, who had a Brazilian red snapper filet served with rice and cachaca sauce the last time she stopped by with her Food Network crew. The fish is flown in daily, but only about 30 pounds (13.6 kg) at a time, so don't be surprised if this popular dish is no longer available in the later hours of the day.

The cabana-style bar mixes up an excellent mojito, but the caipirinha (limes, sugar, and rum) is among the best. Best of all, there are drink specials every night of the week. It's a good thing too, because even with a reservation, you may find yourself waiting a while for a table. Also, dishes are made to order, and some can take up to 45 minutes to prepare.

So come for the rum, and stay for the day!

Photo credit: Urban Echo, Cafe Laguardia

Caf' Laguardia ($$): 2111 W Armitage Ave; 773-862-5996
Mon ' Sat: 11:00 a.m. ' 11:00 p.m.
Sun: 12 noon ' 8:00 p.m.
Street parking available
Public trans: Bus # 50, 73

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POSTED IN: Restaurants

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