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The Chicago Traveler

"Top Chef: Chicago" Goes to Puerto Rico

by Matt B on June 10th, 2008

This season of the Bravo Network's Top Chef was filmed here in Chicago, exposing competing chefs from all over the country to all the culinary treats the Windy City has to offer.

The competition is almost over, down to the final four contestants. In the first part of the finale, the four chefs actually left Chicago to visit the beautiful country commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

If you want to enjoy the flavors and culture of La Isla del Encanto ('the Island of Enchantment') but can't make the 2,000-mile (3300-km) trip, visit Humboldt Park on the northwest side of Chicago. This neighborhood, where I grew up, has had a significant Puerto Rican population since then 1950s. This is quite an accomplishment for any area in the Windy City because Chicago's neighborhoods and populations are constantly changing due to gentrification, urban redevelopment, and the steady shuffle of people moving in and out.

chicago humboldt parkIn 1995, Division Street was christened by city officials and community leaders as Paseo Boricua ('Boricua Avenue'). Two giant metal Puerto Rican flags were installed, each 59 feet tall and crossing over the busy street: one at Western Avenue and the other at California Avenue. Between these flags, a culture center has been established, and several local Latino politicians relocated their offices here. Visitors will often hear Latin music in the streets, see elaborate murals, and smell the spices of ethnic foods in the air. To check out the restaurants and businesses in this colorful area, see my blog posts tagged with 'Humboldt Park'.

Photo credit: (c/o Flickr) Vanessa Roanhorse

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