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Sainted Sope + Borinquen/Cafe Central

G Wiv | Jun 4, 200309:22 AM

Moved by The Mayor of Chicago Chowhound, Vital Information's, description of the Sainted Sope Santana of Milwaukee Avenue I went in search of culinary glory, but no soape [sic] radio. (line from really old joke about two guys flying over the countryside in a bathtub) The lack of the Sainted Sope Santana may have been due to the fact it was Thursday, that it was chilly or a combination of the two, irrespective of the circumstances the Sope Saint was nowhere to be found.

I almost defaulted to Cafe Marianao, never a bad choice, but remembering Mike G's Cafe Central post, and not having been for quite a while, mofongo and a cup of soup seemed a winning lunch. Cafe Central was unchanged, still pleasingly sparse, with counter seating, booths lining the side wall and a few tables in a back area, and smelled good when I walked in the door. One thing that has seemed to change is that the waitresses, at the least the two who I spoke to, spoke English as well as any native Chicagoan. {insert joke here}

I started with an alcapurria (plantain fritter stuffed with ground beef), which had been fried and held in a steam table setup. The flavors were quite good, but the texture was poor due to it's being held. My cup of beef soup fared quite a bit better, bite sized pieces of beef, cubes of potato and carrot with a noodle or two for good measure.

I also ordered a mofongo, a ball of pure mashed fried plantain goodness, studded with bits of fried pork skin and loaded with garlic. The recommended method is to break off small pieces with your spoon and add them to soup, but I like mofongo straight up with a dash of hot sauce as well.

Even though I was sated, mofongo is filling and they also serve a bread basket, I remembered my two-fer comment to Mike G in reference to Cafe Central and La Cocina Criolla, not wanting to eat anymore, but still in Chowhound mode, I decided to check out the what seemed to be a new outpost of Borinquen, home of the jibarito, on Central Ave.

Borinquen 2 is located in what appears to have been a Taco Bell (Who else misses that little dog?) and has an attached parking lot, very convenient on busy Central Ave. Inside they kept the decor, plastic swivel chairs attached to the tables, serpentine bank like type railing for the order queue, and a total lack of decor, but with jibaritos this good, who needs decor.

When I stepped up to the order window the first change from the California Ave location was evident, the order person, a pretty teenage girl politely asked, in English, if she could take my order. After she took my order and I paid, on Central you pay in the same spot as you order, she asked my name and said they would call me when it was ready. She also asked if I would like a take-out menu, which I did.

Though my jibarito was ready in short-order, I had time to watch the efficient cooks in action, speedy, efficient and sanitary, pumping out great looking chicken, pork, rice and peas and a multitude of Puerto Rican standards. I also asked a couple of questions about the delicious looking items on a heated carousel tray in view of the waiting area, and the counter girl, who did not know the answer, brought one of the cooks out from the back to answer my questions. This was done with a 'we're glad you're here attitude.'

As much as I love the original Borinquen, and have never had a problem navigating the order at one spot, pay at another, pick up at still another, no common language experience, Borinquen 2 beats the original hands down for ease of use for the non Spanish speaking, not overly familiar with Puerto Rican food customer. As far as the jibarito, I took it home, sliced off a quarter for Chow Science purposes only and found it to be quite as delicious as the jibarito found at the original on California Ave. The rest of the sandwich did not go to waste, I my wife and I had it for dinner with our veggie salads that evening.


Cafe Central
1437 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL. 60622

Cafeteria Marianao
2246 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647

Borinquen Restaurant
1720 N. California Ave
Chicago, IL

Borinquen 2
3020 N Central
Chicago, IL 60634

La Cocina Criolla
2418 W. Fullerton Ave.
Chicago, IL

Jibarito from Borinquen 2


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