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One Great Sandwich: Borinquen's Jibarito

By Justin Sondak in Food on Dec 19, 2007 5:00PM

2007_12_jibarito.jpgThe jibarito is a cross-cultural gem with a very American story. It was invented in Chicago (circa 1993) at Humboldt Park’s Borinquen Restaurant, a tricked-out plantain sandwich inspired by Puerto Rican culture and named after its peasant class, then embraced across strata at local Cuban, Mexican, and South American joints.

We’re hardly the first to praise the luscious mix of thinly sliced and spiced steak, stringy onions with a touch of lettuce, tomato and condiments on a bed of sliced plantain softened just enough that each bite is one step closer to heaven … or a heart attack. Diner beware: one online recipe lists the dish at over 42 grams of fat (with a full day’s allotment of saturated fat). The chef’s secret, apparently, is to twice fry the plantain, then fry everything else in butter and oil.

Ham, chicken, and veggie versions are widely available, but we prefer going whole hog … uh, cow. The version served at Habana Libre is almost as good as Borinquen's. Cafe Laguardia’s version is respectable.

The original Borinquen Restaurant is located at 1720 N. California Ave. and is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. until midnight Friday and Saturday. Varieties of our favorite sandwich range from $4.95-6.95 (vegetarian – meat lovers, each one comes with rice). Additional branches located at 3811 N. Western Ave. and 3020 N. Central Ave.

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