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I have always known Chicago had it’s own style of pizza.  Of course I finally experienced my first Chicago-Style hot dog.  But I had no idea there was a special Puerto Rican sandwich with a Windy City origin.  Well, thanks to my resolution lists, I googled “made in Chicago” to come up with ideas, and it led me to Borniquen restaurant: Home of the Jibarito (pronounced hee-ba-ree-toh).

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The Jibarito was created by Juan Figueroa in 1996 at his restaurant in Humboldt Park.  The sandwich begins with two flattened and fried plantains,  topped with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and garlic mayonnaise.  It sounded like a delectable combination to me, so we hopped in the car and were off to taste for ourselves.

At first glance, the space is a bit rough around the edges, but exudes that “don’t worry if you might suspect a health code violation, our food is authentic and good” vibe.

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We chose to sit in the back, and placed an order for two Steak Jibaritos (the original meat of choice back in 1996) along with an apple and banana dumpling.  The dumplings were nothing like what I expected (not that I truly knew what to anticipate) very dense fried bread with a small amount of savory filling that tasted neither of apple or banana.  It was rather curious.

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The Jibarito came out, still glistening with oil from the griddle, topped with flecks of roasted garlic, and emanating aromas of grilled steak.  I was excited.

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Now this is where Jürgen and I differ: He wasn’t impressed, while I enjoyed mine, which is an anomaly because we usually see eye to eye when it comes to dishes. He felt the meat lacked seasoning, he wasn’t a fan of the choice to use American cheese, and thought the only real flavor you got was garlic.  Now, I am not an american cheese fan, and while I would agree that I didn’t take a bite and think “oh my, what an impressive array of flavors and textures”, I still approved of the sandwich overall.  I liked the crunch you got from the fried plantains, the meat was tender and juicy, and I am a fool for garlic mayonnaise.  Would I make a special trip just to get a Jibarito? No, I don’t think so. But if I had friends in town who wanted to try a dish which was unique to Chicago, I would offer Borniquen up as an option.

Full of fried things and garlic, we ventured just a few minutes away to Logan Hardware which doubles as an old school record store and arcade museum in one. To be fair, neither records, records stores, or arcade games can claim Chicago as their birthplace.  But I think you would be hard pressed to find a spot where you can play a variety of vintage arcade games, for free, all under one roof.

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Me? I prefer pinball when I am at an arcade.  It must be something about the tactile nature of the game: The pulling of handles, the pressing of buttons, the orchestra of sounds which flow forth from the bright flashing lights.  I spent most of my time pretending to be a pinball wizard…which in reality I am not. This should come as no surprise to anyone.

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I did try my hand at Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Frogger…and was terrible at all of them.  Jürgen however was quite good, and he made that frog dodge logs, alligators, fish and semi-trucks with the best of them.  He also made quite a good showing in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game…a true boy of the nineties.

Since our visit, I have been brainstorming up ways to make a Jibarito at home with a little bit of a twist.  It’s gonna happen, and when it does I will write about it.

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