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The Chicago Traveler

International Chicago: Central and South America

by Matt B on November 3rd, 2007

Let's continue our International Tour by heading to Central and South America. A large majority of Central and South Americans live in the Logan Square neighborhood, but their influences can be found throughout the city.

Guatemala For example, Mayan Sol Latin Grill in Albany Park is a great eatery that can take you to Central America because that's where the owners are from. When co-owner Erwin Piril left Guatemala City (the capital and largest city of Guatemala) for Chicago back in 1998, he knew right away that he wanted to open a restaurant. So with his mother's recipes and her flair for cooking, he launched Mayan Sol Latin Grill. Like most Central and South American eateries, meat is the key here, and Mayan Sol boasts a specialty straight from the homeland: Guatemala sausage, made with different kinds of vegetables and meats. The favorite dish here is a platter called the parillada, which incorporates that delicious grilled sausage with steak, chicken, pork, and shrimp accompanied by potato, corn, plantains, and guacamole. Enjoy the full bar, or BYOB.

Peru We move further down south to the cuisine of a country on the west coast of South America: Peru. The place for Peruvian dining here in Chicago is simply called Taste of Peru. Potatoes originated in the area of modern-day Peru, and three thousand varieties of them can be found there. So it's no surprise that the potato plays an important part in the restaurant's menu, from the signature appetizer known as papa rellena (deep fried potato filled with seasoned beef) to one of their popular entrees, lomo saltado (saut'ed beef, tomato, onions, and fried potatoes with white rice). The extroverted and outgoing owner, Cesar Izquierdo, opened this place in Rogers Park in 1998. If you're planning a weekend visit, your meal may come accompanied with live Peruvian music.

Ecuador Our next cuisine is from a South American country just a little north of Peru: Ecuador. La Humita is in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood. The house specialty is also the restaurant's namesake, a traditional appetizer consisting of fresh corn and cheese, steamed inside a corn husk (like a tamale) and topped with salsa, red onions, chiles, and tomatoes. But La Humita offers a lot more on its menu, from steaks and lamb to pork specialties, but owner Nester Correa thinks it's his mother's secret recipes that keeps his customers coming back for more.

Colombia Las Tablas features the cuisine of another great South American destination'Colombia'and is named after the wooden planks on which the food is served. Owner Leo Suarez and his family immigrated to the U.S. 15 years ago, bringing his father's passion for cooking Colombian food with him. On weekdays, you can find an impressive lunch buffet with all of the country's specialties, and it's not uncommon to hear live music playing in the background. The decor is unique to Colombia, and every table and chair has been hand-crafted by Suarez' uncle in Bogota. Combine all of this with authentic dishes (empanadas, pollo al ajillo, and lomo de cerdo asada, to name a few), and diners get an authentic look at life in Colombia. The restaurant is a bit of a meat-lover's locale, as steaks make up the bulk of the menu. The specialty of the house is churrasco, juicy char-grilled New York strip served with plantains, fried yucca, baked potato, and chimichurri sauce. The matrimonio is also highly recommended, a delicious combination of grilled New York strip and chicken breast. The portions are hearty, and well worth the trip out west.

Mayan Sol Latin Grill ($): 3830 W Lawrence Ave; 773-539-4398
Tues ' Thurs: 9:00 a.m. ' 10:00 p.m.
Fri ' Sat: 9:00 a.m. ' 11:00 p.m.
Sun: 9:00 a.m. ' 9:00 p.m.
Street parking
Public trans: Bus # 53, 81
http://www.powerfusion.us/anunciantes2/mayansol.html (Spanish)

Taste of Peru ($): 6545 N Clark St; 773-381-4540
Sun ' Thurs: 11:30 a.m. ' 10:00 p.m.
Fri ' Sat: 11:30 a.m. ' 11:00 p.m.
Free parking lot
Public trans: Bus # 22, 155

La Humita ($): 3466 N Pulaski Rd; 773-794-9672
Tues ' Sun: 11:00 a.m. ' 10:00 p.m.
Street parking
Public trans: Bus # 53, 152

Las Tablas ($$): 4920 W Irving Park Rd; 773-202-0999
Mon ' Thurs: 11:30 a.m. ' 10:00 p.m.
Fri: 11:30 a.m. ' 11:00 p.m.
Sat: 12 noon ' 11:00 p.m.
Sun: 12 noon ' 10:00 p.m.
Free parking lot, street parking
Public trans: Bus # 54, X54, 54A, 56, 80, X80

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POSTED IN: Restaurants

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