Cafeteria y Restaurante de Pancho
Lacking the contemporary look of other Latin restaurants, Logan Square's Cafeteria y Restaurante De Pancho fuses Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine properly in a humble climate, with delicious food as its main focus.
In-and-out customers plant themselves at the counter in the front room, eating both Cuban and Puerto Rican tamales; it's almost too tough to choose a favorite. Those who've grown up eating sphere-shaped alcapurrias puzzle over the hotdog-shaped ones they find here. Luckily, a wall of Cubs memorabilia diverts their attention. Pancho (the restaurant's owner) appears in almost every photo, with almost every player, dating back to the Sammy Sosa/Mark Grace era.
Families and groups of friends prefer a little elbow room and migrate away from this area and into the restaurant. Sky blue and baby pink walls, salsa music and tropical plants potted at each corner give the room that Old San Juan feel. Ceiling fans with ruby bulbs match tablecloths and curtains partially clothing windows with a view of the police station across the street. Guests represent the changing face of the area, but there's also a reminder of a time when Logan Square served as a focal point for Chicago's Puerto Rican community.
Puerto Ricans with a taste for something out of the ordinary enjoy a selection of Cuban sandwiches ($3.75 average). An entree I found superb was the ropa vieja: shredded beef, yellow rice and habichuelas, $9.75. Those unaware of Puerto Rican food's African influence can bite into a chunk of history when sampling the mofongo con chuletas fritas: mashed plantains with fried pork chops, $9.25. After their meals, many hit the bar area, where beers start out at $3.75.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez