photo: courtesy of Clifton Henri
Drink of the week: The Killer Mojito at Cafe Bolero, 2252 N. Western Ave.
The damage: $15.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? With the way I've been gravitating toward Caribbean restaurants the past couple months, you'd think they were putting out Bat Signals for the sun-deprived. Time and time again, when asked to pick a place to dine, I land on an island-inspired eatery. And let me tell you this: There's no cure for the pre-spring blues like a bite of plantain followed by a tropical concoction sucked through a straw.
Logan Square's Cafe Bolero was the obvious choice when my pals and I needed to build up our strength for a night of throwing strikes (or, in my case, gutter balls) at Fireside Bowl just a few blocks away.
How it went down: Though some diners might find the moniker "Killer Mojito" intimidating, it was the drink's price that put the fear in me. Fifteen bucks for a mojito? Did the bartender grow the mint in a hydroponic garden? Was the lime flown in from the Keys that very morning? Our waitress shared with us the real justification for the price tag: the whopping four shots of Bacardi per glass. Sold. We ordered one for the table to share, along with a pitcher of sangria, convinced that the quality of our bowling scores hinged on the amount of booze we could consume before frame one.
Other than the extra shots of rum, the Killer Mojito is fairly straightforward: crushed lime, fresh mint, lots of ice and a liquid base that's the "secret" ingredient—likely a sugar water of some sort. Truth be told, the light-green libation served in a tulip glass tasted like most mojitos, only less minty. The sprig-to-rum ratio, which appeared to be a low one-to-four, resulted in just a hint of earthy mint flavor. The drink had a nice level of sweetness to it and a refreshing, effervescent finish, but I'd rather put my $15 toward a second pitcher of perfectly fruity sangria next time.
Would I want to become a regular? Bolero's food menu lists a handful of fried, Cuban-style tapas, but the ropa vieja, served with those sweet, soft plantains with a lightly charred edge, sounded too tempting to ignore. A pile of tender, fall-apart beef came doused a tangy tomato sauce with a side of saucy black beans and fluffy rice. I picked at my friend's stuffed yucca and shrimp-and-scallop ceviche, happy to have gone the full-entree route. The decor, with brick walls, framed posters of Havana and ceiling fans with palm-like arms stretched out, matched the tropical fare. And by the time we emptied our pitcher, we all felt warm enough to brave the walk to Fireside, where our seasonal affective disorder-induced blahs were quickly replaced by feelings of inadequacy brought upon by our dismal bowling.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.