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North Side Review: Borinquen Restaurant

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Jan 18, 2007 5:30PM


Chicagoist is going to be completely honest here: Though we like to think of ourselves as food connoisseurs, there are still cuisines out there we haven't tried. And so, with the new year, we decided to tackle one of the missing ones, and we headed out for some Puerto Rican food.

Borinquen Restaurant, with three Chicago locations, is a good bet for Puerto Rican cuisine, based on other reviews we had read, but we wanted to try it for ourselves. Borinquen's tagline is "Home of the Jibarito," and so we knew a jibarito was in the works for dinner. But what else would we eat?

We decided to order a couple of appetizers, as we were starving when we arrived at the restaurant. Chicagoist attempted to order the bacalaitos, or cod fish patties ($1.25), to start. Unfortunately, our Spanish skills have been steadily declining since junior year of high school, and so we were misunderstood as ordering pastelillos, or fried meat patties ($1.25). While we were a little bummed about the misunderstanding, we decided just to go with the flow, and try the pastelillos. We weren't sure what meat it was, but it was wonderful; imagine an empenada with a perfectly fried savory crust, filled with richly flavored ground meat.

Chicagoist is a sucker for plantains, and so we also ordered the platanos maduros, or sweet plantain slices ($2.00). While it was nothing out of the ordinary, fried plantains will always be a winner in our book, and so we were perfectly content to chow down before the main course arrived.

2007_1_borin2.jpgA jibarito, for newcomers to this cuisine, is just like a sandwich, but instead of bread, the filling is placed between two large, deep fried plantains. Stop for a second and consider: a sandwich, but instead of bread, deep fried plantain. Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. And even better, you can order a jibarito in pretty much whatever flavor you like. We decided to play it safe and order the chicken breast version ($6.95), but keep in mind that pork, beef, vegetarian and fish versions are all available.

Fifteen minutes after the appetizers arrived, our main course was brought to the table. Succulent chicken, romaine lettuce, American cheese, a tomato slice and a spread of wonderfully intense garlic mayonnaise were sandwiched between the plantains. Accompanying our delectable sandwich was a seasoned rice with sausage mixed in.

The decor inside the sit-down restaurant portion of Borinquen Restaurant was casual, but nice. Deep red walls are accented with Puerto Rican flags and other artwork. The take-out half of the restaurant also includes a small store for Puerto Rican trinkets and gifts.

Borinquen Restaurant has three locations in Chicago: 1700 N. California, 773-227-6038; 3811 N. Western Ave., 773-442-8001 and 3020 N. Central Ave., 773-622-8570.