Latin American food is a diverse and challenging cuisine to understand. Most think of meat from Argentina, but what about ceviche from Peru? There is also Colombian steak or seafood from Cuba and Costa Rica. In addition to great food, well prepared cocktails complete a traditional Latino meal followed by hours of dancing. Here are some choices to cover all your Latin American needs. – Jeff Rapp
Ay Ay Picante Peruvian Seafood & Steak
4569 N Elston
Chicago, IL 60630
Ay Ay Picante is the Chicago destination for Peruvian food. They claim to have the largest selection of Peruvian dishes in the Midwest. The cuisine is balanced with great vegetarian, fish and meat dishes. Don’t forget to try the national specialty, ceviche, and it is BYOB.
1800 W Irving Park Rd
Chicago, IL 60613
Established in 1995, Café 28 has a loyal following looking for traditional Cuban served with a Latin twist. Three dishes to try include honey jalapeno pork chops, almond crusted halibut and ropa vieja. They are open for dinner and brunch on the weekends.
702 W Fulton St.
Chicago, IL 60661
Carnivale is the most well known Latin American restaurant in the city and one of the best all-around dining experiences. The space and atmosphere is always vibrant, featuring “Latino flavors with the spice of life.” Their skirt steak is one of the best dishes in town.
3423 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
Coobah is the Southport corridor destination for a young and lively exotic meal. The cuisine theme is Latino fusion, accompanied by a delicious martini list. They also serve brunch and offer patio seating during the summer months.
Folklore Argentine Grill
2100 W Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622
Folklore is the latest creative from the family that brought Chicago Tango Sur (see below). Wicker Park now has their own Argentine Grill serving large portions of Latin flavored meat, and highly regarded empanadas. The striking and dimly lit décor make this a romantic destination.
Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant
1865 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
With over 600 reviews on yelp.com and a four-star rating, Irazu has captivated diners looking for authentic Costa Rican cuisine. Irazu is multi-dimensional serving breakfast through dinner, as well as a catering operation. A must-try is the casado, and finish any meal with an oatmeal shake.
Las Tablas Colombian Steak House
2942 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
Las Tablas is another great steak house with a Colombian twist. Choose your own wine (BYOB) to accompany the large portions of skirt steak and empanadas.
Nacional 27325 W Hubbard St. Chicago, IL 60654 (312) 664-2727 www.n27chicago.com
When you are looking for a dining experience that turns into a nightclub, head to Nacional 27. In addition to great food, enjoy cocktails from award winning mixologist Adam Seger. Stick around after dinner for the hottest salsa dancing in town.
351 W Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60654
Rumba offers everything Latino in one spot, but specializes in entertainment. The food is Latin fusion from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Columbia, etc. in an exquisite setting. Thursday through Saturday evenings feature live music and dancing.
3763 N Southport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60613
Tango Sur set the bar for BYOB Latin Steakhouses in Chicago. Rated as Chicago’s 15th best restaurant on Urbanspoon, don’t be surprised at the crowds or the wait for a table. The value is great for large meat portions, especially for crowd favorites El filet and Bife Vesuvio.
Jeff Rapp is a Chicago native currently living in the Lakeview neighborhood. When he is not eating and writing, Jeff enjoys skiing, mountain climbing and running. Follow Jeff on Twitter and you can find his blog at jjrappeats.blogspot.com.