Hours: Lunch, dinner: seven days
West Town Cuban spot with what may be the best ropa vieja in Chicago.
Frying is fundamental to Cuban cuisine, and at Habana Libre you'll find fibrous yuca slightly browned, chicken flash-fried to crispiness, smoky croquettes bronzed, and empanadas light as tempura. Our coctel de camarones was a mound of just-cut tomato and onion popping with perky shrimps. In ropa vieja—the best weve had in Chicago—chunks of sweet pepper infused thick, beefy threads with flavor, the slight sweetness balancing the big meaty taste. Lechon, suckling pig, was so fresh and moist we were glad to revisit it in our Cuban sandwich, where it nestled between sliced cheese and ham with pickles, pressed a la plancha, i.e., flattened on the griddle. Juicy oxtails doused with criollo sauce paired well with classic moros y cristianos, black beans and rice. Pineapple sorbet, served in a baby pineapple half, was the cutest dessert ever.
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