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Cafe 28: Eclectic Latin Cuisine

By Katie Bijak | Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Address: 1800 W. Irving Park Rd
Phone: (773) 528-2883
Website: http://www.cafe28.org/

Photo of chocolate martini by Katie Bijak.

I loved it from the first bite: the bread and butter on the table.

At first taste the butter was sweet like honey, but after a second, a spicy jalapeno flavor burst through. I found the abrupt change in taste kind of exciting—like Willy Wonka’s gum that changed flavors and turned Violet violet.

Nestled by the Irving Park Brown Line stop, Cafe 28 says their goal is to provide traditional Cuban and Mexican style food with an eclectic Latin twist. That sounds very exciting; words like eclectic and twist always promise good things. Cafe 28 didn’t disappoint.

To start, my friend ordered a chocolate martini ($12.50). It was thick and creamy and far too delicious to just sip. I ordered the Horchata y Cafe ($7), made from rumchata liqueur, Kahlua, coffee and cinnamon.

Typically, I find horchata, a rice drink, to be too sweet, but this drink sounded too interesting to ignore and I’m glad I didn’t.  It was very sweet, but also very creamy and very good.

Empanadas and croquetas served with a saffron sauce and mariquitas. Photo by Katie Bijak

Between the chocolate martini and the horchata, we felt we had started with dessert and quickly tried to redeem ourselves with salad.

We ordered the salad on special: a dried fruit salad ($7.50) which included mixed greens, assorted dried fruit, little balls of goat cheese rolled in bits of sliced almonds, and a balsamic vinaigrette.

We also ordered the Taste of Cuba ($8.50): three empanadas de picadillo and three chicken and ham croquetas served with a saffron sauce and mariquitas (light, yummy plantain chips). The dough for the empanadas was very thick and the filling just slightly spicy. The croquetas were perfect.

For dinner, I ordered the Ropa Vieja ($15.50). It came with black beans, white rice, and sweet, fried plantain bites, but my favorite part was the sauce—a garlic, tomato and bell pepper sauce that was rich and delicious and flooded your mouth with each bite. I couldn’t get enough.

My friend ordered the Cuban Style Chicken ($17.50) which was a marinated chicken breast served with a roasted garlic sauce, congri (mixed black beans and white rice), and more plantain bites. She couldn’t seem to get enough of the congri (I barely got a bite), and devoured her chicken, which I didn’t taste, but I think the devouring implies good things.

Ropa Vieja with black beans, white rice, and sweet, fried plantains. Photo by Katie Bijak.

Despite having no room for dessert, I forced us to at least try the profiteroles ($8.50) which I can never pronounce, but always like to order.

They were filled with hazelnut gelato and completely doused in a Kahlua chocolate sauce (sorry, no picture). The pastries themselves were slightly frozen—because of the ice cream, I’m sure—and, as a result, were hard to eat. Nevertheless, we did our best to finish dessert and did a pretty decent job, too.

Cafe 28 has a great atmosphere: dimly lit, interesting art work, and really friendly staff. By the time we left, it was pretty empty and every one we passed wished us a good night. I had a great time and want to try their brunch next.

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  • Kim K

    I have been to Cafe 28 often over the last few years. It has been a popular spot for friend’s birthdays, anniversaries, or just Sunday Brunch. I have to say that my experience is Jekkyl and Hyde. Sometimes the service is fast and the food is great. However, often times during Sunday Brunch, the service is slow, and when the food comes out either something has been left off the plate; or it’s cold. The last three times I have been there, someone in my party has had to send something back. They need more help for Sunday Brunch. But other than that, I think it is consistent.

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