A great off-the-beaten-path place to meet friends, impress a date or wow your out-of-town guests, Cafe 28 nails the atmosphere of a hip downtown cafe and brings it to the chill-out oasis of North Center.
Low lighting plays off exposed brick and plenty of windows in the gallery-like space. Dark wood tables, chairs and banquettes urge you to get cozy, and a charming walled back patio is a treat on summer days. The place is generally packed for dinner, especially on weekends, so plan to sip on a frosty mojito or margarita as you scope the crowd by the bar.
Once you're seated, indulge in flavor-packed starters like coconut shrimp or baked goat cheese. The menu includes tastes from Mexico, Cuba and "Estilo Nuevo" fusion, with something for everyone (including vegetarians). More refined dishes include tidy almond-crusted halibut or honey-jalapeno pork chops, while classic favorites span tender ropa vieja (shredded beef), to comal (think fajitas with a slightly sweeter sauce) to sandwiches like the mojo-oozing Cuban steak version. And if you come for Sunday brunch, make sure there's at least one order of the delirium-inducing stuffed French toast (packed with cream cheese, brown sugar and bananas) on your table. Ample-sized entrees are wallet-friendly at $13-$20. Lunch choices run $6-$13. Carryout is available.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Julia Steinberger