La Cocina Criolla | Logan Square | Latin American | Restaurant

La Cocina Criolla

Hours: Lunch, Dinner: seven days

Price: $$

Authentic Puerto Rican and Mexican buffet.

Restaurant Details

More than once a friend and I unwittingly lingered well past closing time in the dark, cozy front booth of this Caribbean and Puerto Rican place, talking over bowls of sweet, eggy flan and bottles of Negro Modelo from the liquor store next door. The owner and her family sat talking and laughing at the next table each time, never shooing us out. Meals start with free bowls of thick, tomato-y noodle soup, and the pace is slow and friendly. My companion's dish was often a simple, well-cooked skirt steak; mine was the complicated cabrito en fricasse, a bony, tangy dish of soft baby goat in a white wine stew studded with big pieces of green olive, onion, and raisins. It's great mixed over arroz con gandules, mild yellow rice with pigeon peas. Like many Caribbean dishes, carne guisada, a beef stew, is based on a sofrito: sauteed peppers, garlic, and onion. Appetizers are heavy on the starch and light on meat; mofongos, big balls of fried mashed green plaintain around a pocket of oily garlic and pork, need the garlicky dipping sauce they come with. Steaming, spicy empanadas, rellenos de papa--crisp potato-and-meat pastries--and tostones, thick, salty disks of fried plantain, are also meant to be dipped. I've never tried the jibarito--it's supposed to rival the one at Borinquen, the beef-and-plantain sandwich's supposed inventor--but I hear it's good enough to merit a return visit.

Tasneem Paghdiwala

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Price: $$

Payment Type: American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

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