La Cocina Criolla is a little family-run storefront on Fullerton just west of Western. Maybe 6 booths and 4 tables, jukebox and TV with spanish soap operas on.
The specialty of the house is "lechon asado", which is a SLOW cooked porked shoulder. Comes to the table in a big portion, pulled apart like a southern pulled pork but no saucing. Sauce isn't really necessary because the meat is so succulent and juicy, but it comes with mojo de ajo on the side - this is finely minced garlic in oil. Chips and salsa also come with the meal, and the salsa has a nice fiery bite to it and also complements the pork very nicely. If you love pork you gotta check this out, it's magnificent.
Pork is accompanied by rice & peas, beans, and deep-fried yucca. The yucca is outstanding, perfectly crunchy outside and soft inside - they're shaped like tater tots and a pale white, but the flavor and texture is very similar to a good french fry. A hunk of the pork fat was also on the plate, and we requested that they bring us pork cracklings too - they deep fry the rind, like a Mexican chicharron. If your only experience with pork rinds is out of a bag you should try this, it's a revelation.
The owner was also our waitress, and it was like eating at grandma's house. Kept coming by to make sure we liked everything, and the way we cleaned off the platters was evidence enough. Then she insisted we have the homemade flan for dessert, which was also very tasty. Place wasn't very busy, but a lot of puertoriquenos were popping in and out for carry out orders.
Some great home cooking, authentic flavors, sincere service and ample portions. Three courses including soup & dessert came out to $11 per person, which seems criminally cheap. BYOB, liquor store with a good beer selection is next door.
La Cocina Criolla
2418 W. Fullerton Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647