Havana serves up Cuban-American cuisine and fresh mojitos in a setting replete with all the charm of an Old World bistro. The menu combines the distinctly Cuban with pan-Latin flavors for a taste exploration that uproots taste-buds and sends them careening on a pinball-style joy ride. Start off with a pitcher of the house mojito, swirled with fresh mint, lime, and sugar in Bacardi Limon rum ($31, or $8 for a glass), and a couple orders of citrusy, seafood-infused ceviche ($9.95). Save room, though, because entrees such as the apricot-chipotle pork chops, marinated with apricot chipotle sauce and served with jalapeno hash browns and steamed broccoli ($18.95), demand serious abdominal real estate. The vegetarian chiles en nogada fools meat-thirsty mandibles with the toothsome texture of two poblano peppers stuffed with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and cheese ($14.95). With a couple more mojitos, caipirinhas, and margaritas, plus an order of Cuban coconut-rum flan ($4.95), gracious guests will be primed for a twilight Clark Street trot on a chestnut mare.
A U.S. extension of its original form as a neighborhood eatery in Bainoa, Cuba, in the 1950s, Café Laguardia—featured on the Food Network’s Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels and in the Chicago Sun-Times—is still known for its authentic Cuban cuisine. The menu is populated with vegetarian and meat-filled tastes, with many manifestations packed with succulent pork or shredded beef and flanked by mounds of moist rice. Hands-on eaters can grab onto a Cuban sandwich, which the Sun-Times calls "about as authentic as you will get this side of Tampa."
Laguardia's Cuban Bistro features warm hospitality and a bright, funky interior paired with a menu of savory flavor combinations. Fine-tune your hand-mouth coordination with the bistro's wildly popular Cuban sandwich, a concoction of seasoned pork and ham pressed with swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles ($5); or sharpen your spoon skills with a bowl of havana black-bean soup topped with cheese, onions, and sour cream ($4). The house specialty is the braised caribbean ox tail, which is marinated for three days in a succulent red wine and tomato sauce before being simmered with vegetables and served with rice and black beans ($10.25). Bring your own bottle of wine and take it to the quaint patio area during warmer months, or seek shelter inside during Chicago's werewolf-ridden six months of night.