This smallish restaurant offers a comfortable atmosphere and meals too big for a mere plate, instead using wooden cutting boards to serve its mammoth slabs of chicken, pork and catfish, among others. For side items, (which, given the portions, are utterly superfluous) you'll typically find some combination of potatoes, cassava, fried plantains and rice and beans. El Llano also rotates a different soup onto the menu daily. The prices are moderate, with most entrees checking in at under $15. It is a great place for Chicagoans to try blood sausage, a South American treat that tastes unlike anything else on the planet; and at $2.50, the menu's highlight is a bargain.
Smiling servers and sinister plastic skeletons share the space at El Llano, and the mix is a successful one. A bright, happy mood pipes in from the audio speakers playing Colombian ballads. Colombian maps dot the walls, in case you happen to forget the nationality of the food you're enjoying during the meal. The indoor roofing makes you feel as though you are sitting on a patio in a quiet cafe in Cartagena, though a glance outside at the horizontal snowfall quickly reminds you that you are nowhere near the equator.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Patrick Corcoran