And yet another contender enters the fight for the title of "Oldest Authentic Puerto Rican Restaurant in Humboldt Park." Opened in 1958, Latin American Restaurant and Lounge certainly has the age to back the claim from current owner Jaime Cruz. Whether or not the restaurant wins the title, it certainly has sustained long enough to make it a neighborhood staple.
Family is a key component of the restaurant. Cruz inherited the restaurant from his uncle, who founded the restaurant in hopes of bringing family-sized, home-style Puerto Rican recipes from his kitchen to the neighborhood table. The atmosphere caters to families with children for dinner time and then casually transcends into a sports bar by late evening.
As far as Latin American cuisine, you're looking at a predominantly Puerto Rican menu — mostly in Spanish — with a few Mexican and American dinner items scattered among the entrees. Vegetarian options are essentially non-existent, which is bad news for the herbivores. Likewise, if you're counting points for Weight Watchers, you might as well break your fast, assuming that everything you are ordering is fried.
For the rest of you oil loving meat eaters, if you're totally clueless when it comes to Puerto Rican fare, it's best to start with the steak jibarito (plantain sandwich) with rice for $6.25, or the chuletas kan pan (roast pork) paired with a side of plantain chips or mashed plantains for $9.95. Desserts are only $2, so you won't break the bank by tacking on flan or tembleque (Puerto Rican coconut pudding).
Cruz says to expect programs like Monday night football specials and Friday night karaoke, where families are welcome to ditch the babysitter and bring the kiddies. Then again, family restaurants aren't for everyone, which is why the restaurant also offers the convenience of delivery.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Carly Fisher