Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas! Having a roast pig for Christmas Eve/Christmas – lechón – is a major tradition in Puerto Rico and Cuba, and it is one of our favorites. Consequently there are many songs that extoll the virtues of the humble pig. In honor of the lechón-filled holiday, here’s one of our favorite Christmas lechón songs: “La Fiesta de Pilito” by Puerto Rico’s stalwart musical group. El Gran Combo.
Here are the most important lyrics:
A comer pasteles y a comer lechón Arroz con guandules y a beber ron Que venga morcilla, venga de todo
To eat tamales and eat roast pork
Rice with pigeon peas and drink rum
Let blood sausage arrive, let everything arrive
We hope you are having a delicious holiday – maybe with some lechón!
There is nothing we like more than a lechon (roast pork) sandwich on crusty bread, so it goes without saying that we will drop everything to try a new Cuban restaurant in the area. When we learned that Taste of Cuba (3918 W. Touhy Ave, Lincolnwood, IL) was open near our hood we knew we had to try it. We also brought along three Cuban food newbies to convert.
Taste of Cuba is located in a small strip mall off Touhy, but the inside is bright and colorful. We were greeted right away by the affable host, who was happy to hear that we had been sampling the other Cuban places in the area. The menu had all of the Cuban classics you would expect, including Ropa vieja ($13.95), Bistec Encebollado ($12.95) and lechon ($12.95) which come with a side and maduros (fried sweet plantains) or tostones. We all ordered sandwiches – a mix of lechon and Cubanos as well a side of maduros. The chef also brought out a free side of yuca fries for us all, with garlicly house mojo sauce, which turned out to be everyone’s favorite side of the da. I also ordered a cortadito ($2.50), which came in a cute little Cuban flag cup, and was very tasty.
We got our sandwiches and maduros in short order, and they were generously-sized and made fresh to order. This was definitely some of our favorite lechon in the city – it was tender, flavorful, and the portions were generous. This was some seriously good food, and all of our Cuban foodie newbies were completely sold on this new-to-them cuisine. We topped everything off with a banana milkshake which came in a mason jar and a with a palm tree swizzle stick (nice touch!). We were definitely impressed with everything we had, and Taste of Cuba Cafe place is as good if not better than Cuban joints in the city proper. It is also BYOB! Coincidentally, Taste of Cuba will be opening a branch in the city soon – we can’t wait to try it.
If there’s one thing you know about M it is that he loves pig: bacon, pork, lechon. You name it, he loves it. We especially love whole roast pig prepared Caribbean style, or as lechon. We have been on the hunt for our favorite lechon in the city for the past year or so, and we have come up with some pretty great options, though the hunt continues. We were going to an event at the excellent SRBCC, and we wanted someplace quick and casual to eat, and came upon Señor Pan. When we learned they had lechon we were sold.
Señor Pan is located in a strip mall in the West side, in the Hermosa neighborhood. There is not much to see on the outside, but the inside is much nicer than you would think! It is decorated like a Cuban house, with an indoor trellis and murals. It was impeccably clean and super lively -filled with families, couples and groups of friends. There was also a full bar, but most people seemed to be enjoying the food. The menu is fairly large, with a selection of sandwiches and platters, including the popular Cubano and Medianoche sandwiches. For entrees there were a variety of steaks, chicken, and even salmon and some veggie entrees.
We of course went with the lechon. L got a regular lechon sandwich (only $4.95) and M got the lechon platter with black beans and platanos maduros (grilled sweet plantains) for $9.95. However, the star of the show was definitely the lechon – it was juicy, well-seasoned and tender and perfectly complemented by the caramelized onions. The sandwich size was also excellent for the price – we couldn’t believe we got so much food for so little (and the Cuban bread was darn tasty, too). M ordered a banana batido/milkshake ($3.50); other varieties included mamey, mango and strawberry. L also got a traditional Cuban cortadito to finish the meal ($1.50) – a small cup of strong, sweetened espresso. The cortadito was excellent – no bitterness at all!
There was also a small selection of Cuban coffee and snacks to take home with you. It also bears noting that Señor Pan has a mascot, who is too funny not to include in this post. Señor Pan was definitely a great, and surprisingly-atmospheric, place for a bite. Go for the lechon and stay for the coffee.
Our trip to Miami was a distant memory so we were jonseing for some of the tropical atmosphere. 90 Miles Cuban Cafe (2540 W Armitage Ave) is summer in Miami personified. If you go there on a nice day you absolutely have to eat outside. Of course, it only makes sense that I get around to this post just after our last pleasant day of weather has slipped away. No matter, there is ample seating inside as well. You can spot 90 Miles from afar due to the huge replica of the red, yellow and black southernmost point buoy in Key West – marking 90 miles to Cuba – get it?
The menu is Cuban – read: meat heavy – but there are options for fish dishes and even some vegetarian selections. For those going for a lighter feel, you can also get fruit batidos (smoothies), though we always opt for the Cuban coffee drinks. But who are we kidding – we came here for the meat! The sandwiches at 90 Miles are pretty big and you get them with Cuban-style shoestring fries. The Cubano and Medianoche, two Cuban classics are top sellers ($11 each). Both consist of ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles & mustard, however the Cubano is on French bread and the Medianoche is on a sweeter challah-like bread. They seem appealing, but I always go with the citrus-marinated lechon con pan roasted pork sandwich with a side of sweet plantains ($11). M got the Roast Pork Puerco Rostizado, ($16) pork infused with guava, pan fried with grilled onions, with black beans and fried plantains on the side (15.95). We have also had Ropa Vieja (a beef stew) which was extremely tender and tasty ($16).
Everything was delicious, and the lechon, especially so. We love nothing more than Cuban-style lechon, and 90 Miles always delivers. For dessert were were brought straight back to Calle Ocho’s Versailles Bakery with guava pastries and flans. However there are some new touches you may not see in Cuba – the Snickers Empanada – which is exactly what you would expect. We really enjoyed our trip to 90 Miles Cafe – it felt like a little slice of Miami. Logically, you know you are just on a patio in Chicago with some string-up lights, but it really makes all the difference in the world. Even if its a little chilly, there are space heaters….
Welcome to Eating the World! We’re two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.To contact us for partnerships or just to say hi, email us at eating the world (at) gmail.com
Eating The World · We're two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.