With its ever-changing coordinates and conspicuous absence from the Beach Boys' "Kokomo," Cuba is one of the more difficult to locate of the Caribbean nations. Dig into this enigma with fork, knife, and today's Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of food and drink at Café Laguardia in Bucktown.
Founded as "Los Cubanitos" outside of Havana in 1950 by the late Roger Laguardia, the current Café Laguardia is operated by Laguardia's family, who carry on the originator's tradition with a menu of home-cooked Cuban fare, including sandwiches, soups, seafood, and dinner plates for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. For an appetizer, nibble on the beloved Cuban nachos ($7.25), green plantains covered in melted cheese, guacamole, tomatoes, onions, sour cream, and cilantro. Card-carrying members of the Rachael Ray Fan Club will wish to appease their fearless leader with the Brazilian red snapper ($18.95) with white rice and topped with shrimp and onions—the dish is a favorite of the culinary queen, who recently featured Café Laguardia on her TV show. The Taste of Cuba ($16.95) beef plate collects shredded beef, ground beef, fried pork medallions, and a slew of sides to cover the culinary crannies of Cuba's 42,803 square miles, while the paella Valencia ($38), made for two to three people to share, beat out Café Laguardia's other dishes in a cage match to become the seafood-and-meat-rich house specialty. Vegetarian dishes, such as the Cuban veggie combo ($12.95), with rice, beans, sweet plantains, cassava, and a bean-and-corn medley, and chiles rellenos ($11.95) will satisfy recovering carnivores. Cool down your face furnace with a mojito, sangria, or any of Café Laguardia's refreshing alcoholic beverages.
Café Laguardia hosts live music throughout the week, providing a high-energy and jubilant soundtrack to Cuban consumption. Find yourself welcomed into the Laguardia family immediately upon your arrival to the aesthetically eclectic restaurant. Unlike your real family members, however, the Laguardias won't embarrass you in front of strangers with stories of your "pacifier phase."
- I highly recommend the restaurant, especially the sangria, which is a hidden recipe (so the owner tells me) The food is terrific and I have to say it is both romantic but also a nice place to go on a girls night out. – pink_pretty, Citysearch
- As if the food wasn't wonderful enough, the atmosphere is great and the owner always greets you at the door. – jessiawhite, Citysearch
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."