Hello to all of my fellow gourmands and gastronomes out there! Welcome to another article of Mastication Monologues. Today I am going to be reviewing a little place in Chicago that is considered to have the best Cuban food in the entire city. I’m talking about 90 Miles Cafe at 2540 W. Armitage. There is another location located at 3101 North Clybourn Avenue, but I don’t know if it’s any different from the one I went to on Armitage. Anyway, I was surprised that we even had Cuban restaurants in Chicago given that our Mexican population is much larger than any other Hispanic group, and obviously we’re a lot farther away from Cuba than Florida. Last time I checked, we weren’t Miami with classic 1920’s art deco hotels, white sand beaches, and a more recent scourge of the sports world *CoMiamiHeatLebronJamesugh*. Even though my expectations were not that high coming into this establishment, I was pleasantly surprised.
First, the outside was brightly colored and even had the signature buoy one could find in Key West that proclaims its status as the southernmost point in the contiguous United States on the roof. I loved this decoration since it brought me back to when I actually went to Key West and got my picture taken with said tourist site. Once inside, it was a very cramped area near the entrance, but when you move towards the larger dining area, it is actually quite cozy. It’s also byob, so we ended up bringing Casillero del Diablo which was a Cabernet Sauvignon and had hints of black cherries which elegantly complimented my meal: puerco rostizado.
When it came out, I was very excited because it definitely looked like something that you’d get in an abuelita’s kitchen in Havana. It wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but I started with the roasted pork that apparently was infused with guayaba and mixed with pan-fried onions (yum!). I’m as crazy for pan-fried onions as Tony Montana was in Scarface for da money, da power, and da women. The pork itself was flavorful, tender, and had a slight sweet aftertaste which surprised me because I thought that the onions would overpower the guayaba. Moving on from the main part of the entrée, I then attacked the rice and black beans like Castro’s forces against Bautista’s armies. The rice was an average white long grain rice, but the beans were submerged in a black, pork based broth. I wasn’t a huge fan of them being served like this, but they still were quite flavorful. Anyway, I poured them into the rice, and it made for an interesting little goulash of sorts that I mixed with the pork on occasion. The last item on my plate I saved till the end of the meal because I had never tried them before: fried plantains or more commonly known as maduros (lit. “matures” or “ripes”). I don’t know why I had never tried them before, but I was so glad that I did at 90 Miles Cafe because they were excellent. The breading was even and slightly sweet and buttery which went along with the firm and ever so creamy texture of the plantains.
So if you’re looking for an authentic slice of the forbidden island of Cuba, end your culinary embargo and head on over to 90 Miles Cafe in Chicago.
“The only things that the United States has given to the world are skyscrapers, jazz, and cocktails. That is all. And in Cuba, in our America, they make much better cocktails.”
Federico Garcia Lorca