Step into this breakfast and lunch spot in the heart of Puerto Rican Humboldt Park
and you'll immediately feel like you've wandered into a family restaurant in some seaside Caribbean village. Pastel paintings of cream-colored houses and a serene stretch of la playa adorn the walls. A Puerto Rican flag hanging in the back of the restaurant and island music crooning from the speakers guarantee that you're in for a dose of Latino hospitality.
Famous patrons will attest that the food is fabuloso: When former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ate the pastelon (a Puerto Rican lasagna featuring sweet plantains), he sent an employee back for more later that day. Blagojevich isn't the only political patron frequenting this neighborhood staple; a governor of Puerto Rico and various state senators and congressmen have all enjoyed the affordable, homemade eats. Breakfast fare ranges from $3.50-$6.50, and lunch option run from $3-$9.
If you show up in the morning, splurge a bit (only $6.50) and order the breakfast special. The desayuno Jibaro (meaning a country breakfast) starts with a cup of scrumptious avena de coco (coconut oatmeal) and ends with the tortilla boricua (a Puerto Rican omelet with sweet plantains, tomatoes, green peppers, cheese and sausage), a secret family recipe that's unknown even in Puerto Rico. Or come on Sunday and enjoy the all-you-can-eat, BYOB breakfast buffet for only $12; brush up on your Caribbean Spanish with the friendly locals between helpings.
Average cost: <$10