Okay, I think I have three places here that nobody has ever reviewed on Chowhound before, and not one of them is a taqueria or a Chinese restaurant (it would be easy to come up with those). Only the third one has even been mentioned (by RST in one of his north side inventories), but if he's been there he hasn't reviewed it. Here goes my second try for the cigar:
Click On Cafe (3656 W. Fullerton)-- I actually noticed this during my first try for a Teevium last week, but it was closed. At first glance the black exterior and iron grates over the windows made it look like your usual totally unappealing hot dog and Kronos pizza puff type place, but the name (which implied an internet cafe) and especially the fact that it has a garden next to it made it seem like there might be more there. (The name Theresa's can still be read on the sign in blacked-out paint, so I suspect this was an old Polish/German beer garden. Anyone know?)
When I went back it was open and the iron grates were pulled back, and the place was transformed. It's actually a very light and pleasant Cuban cafe, apparently redecorated by the owner (who is still working on the garden, though it's pleasant even in its slightly dilapidated state) and he did a pretty nice and classy job of it. A lunch menu sticks mostly to Cuban basics, and the steak sandwich I had was first rate and compared very well with the one I had a couple of weeks ago at Havana Express (Cafe 28's lunch sibling), although I suspect the Gonnella bread would not pass the authenticity test with some here. (Authenticity aside, it was very fresh and a major contributor to the sandwich's success.)
Talking to the owner, he told me that they're just starting to branch out to dinner but that breakfast has been very successful. He is also now offering Intelligentsia coffee, which seems a slight move toward the gentrification of the neighborhood (just beginning if you ask me). Anyway, I plan to go back for breakfast and on the whole, this looks like a place to watch, the Cafe 28 of tomorrow.
Luciano's Giuseppe's Bakery (3658 N. Pulaski)-- I first spotted this place on Pulaski after my visit to La Humita, and conjectured that (along with La Villa and Oddo's) it was part of a small Italian community in this neighborhood dating back decades. Well, when I asked the guy (Luciano? Giuseppe?) if there were many Italians around, he said no, and when I asked him how long it had been there, he said 3 years. (Maybe the Ruth's-Chris-like name indicates that he had only had it for 3 years but it had been around before, however.)
Anyway, the first time I bought a napoleon and something starting with an M (clamshell shaped, filled with cream and dotted with pistachio pieces). The plus side was that they tasted pretty good, not too Americanized and sweet. The downside was that the presentation was not as gorgeous as you expect for desserts these days, in fact they looked a little knocked around in the case, fluorescent maraschino cherries knocked askew and a slight smudge of chocolate on things that didn't have chocolate. Having just discovered Ferrara, this place didn't measure up for looks, though it tasted pretty good.
He said he's also trying to expand into deli business, so I went back for a sub the next day, enticed in part by homemade bread. Alas, I would have preferred a good hard Gonnella roll, this was homemade in a soft, ordinary-oven, not-very-Italian way, and the meats were just okay, probably not as high grade as they could be because it's just not the kind of neighborhood that would support a higher price point for subs. It was decent enough that I'd probably go there once in a while if I lived nearby, but there's not a reason to go halfway across the city and incur the fat grams when Bari exists.
Sazon Latino (3300 W. Montrose)-- Believe it or not, this was NOT the Ecuadoran restaurant previously noted by RST that I originally set out to eat at. That was Mitad del Mundo, on Irving, but when it turned out not to be open at lunch I just kept biking randomly and very soon found myself in front of another place with a red blue and yellow awning. Think about that for a second. Isn't this a great city where, when the Ecuadoran restaurant you planned to eat at isn't open, you can just keep going and find another?
Anyway, this is a very pleasant restaurant, apparently the second incarnation of a place previously called Flamingo's, with a tidy and newly furnished interior. The menu, like so many South American places, has both a S. American and a Mexican side. Since it was only in Spanish, and knowing that one Ecaudoran specialty is tripe in peanut sauce, a dish I really plan to avoid as long as possible, I stuck to the churrasco for a first visit, as well as a drink that was basically an agua fresca of naranjilla (I thought that would be orange; seemed more like lime).
The drink was really good and fresh tasting, as was the pico de gallo-like salsa on the table, which was only mildly hot and interestingly included carrot bits. The main dish was a little stranger. The steak itself was very tasty, curiously marinated in something that made it almost tandoori-pink, but located in a flavorful onion and pepper sauce. Unfortunately, it was only one small part of a plate which also included:
-usual is-it-salad-or-stuff-to-put-on-your-tortilla? pile of tomato lettuce and onion (since there were no tortillas, I guess the former)
-crinkle-cut French fries, which were resting on top of...
-two eggs over easy
Don't know how they forgot the mashed potatoes with chocolate sauce. I guess I got a decent amount of food for the not entirely cheap price of $10, but it was an startlingly random assortment when I was expecting mainly steak and, oh, a couple of plantains or something. Is that what you normally get when you order churrasco? I suspect this was one of those cases when authenticity had a good laugh at my expense. Anyway, I don't think I'd order that precise combination again, except maybe for breakfast, but the steak, the salsa and the agua fresca-like drink were all good and fresh enough that other things would be worth a try.