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Santiago's Puerto Rican Restaurant - Des Plaines

Santiago's Puerto Rican Restaurant - Des Plaines
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  • Santiago's Puerto Rican Restaurant - Des Plaines

    Post #1 - March 22nd, 2016, 9:10 pm
    Post #1 - March 22nd, 2016, 9:10 pm Post #1 - March 22nd, 2016, 9:10 pm
    Last month, Santiago's opened very quietly on Oakton, just west of Manheim, in Des Plaines. Only seconds after walking through the door, I knew I had stumbled onto a gem -- first, intoxicating aromas of homestyle Latin cooking drawing you in, followed quickly by a warm, friendly greeting from a woman I believe to be the wife of the chef (and one of the owners of Santiago's).

    But my Cuban sandwich is what will ensure a return visit. Here it is:

    Image




    Now before all of you purists attack me, I've had my share of Cubans. I know this is not the textbook example of a Cuban. But man did this sandwich taste fantastic. Overfilled, perhaps. Yes, some of the pork even managed to slip out of the sandwich as I ate it. And yet the balance of flavors was terrific - some of the best tasting pork I've had in a Cuban, a good ratio of pork to ham, and enough cheese, mustard and pickles to bring it all together. It not only worked, I loved it and scarfed it down in minutes. Okay, perhaps seconds.

    Here's a look at the pork that I believe they used for the Cuban:

    Image




    I opted for the $3 side of Puerto Rican rice and peas with the Cuban. Perhaps ever so slightly dry, but nicely seasoned.

    There's a lot more I'm looking to try at Santiago's - a jibarito, tostones, and much more. A few other notes: there's seating for about 20, you order and pay at the counter, and they call you up to pick up your food. Service was friendly but a little slow, so be prepared to wait a bit. But what I tried today is going to make me run back soon.

    Here are pictures of the menu:

    Image

    Image

    Image



    Santiago's Puerto Rican Restaurant
    935 E. Oakton St.
    Des Plaines
    Phone: 224.938.9115
    Hours: 10am-8pm daily, closed Sunday (according to Yelp)
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #2 - March 23rd, 2016, 7:59 am
    Post #2 - March 23rd, 2016, 7:59 am Post #2 - March 23rd, 2016, 7:59 am
    On my shortlist!
    I'm in that area shopping at Mitsuwa frequently and i like the small homestyle places.-Richard
  • Post #3 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:17 pm
    Post #3 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:17 pm Post #3 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:17 pm
    I can't believe I got scooped on reviewing this place, but that's what I get for sitting on my hands. Oh well, moving on.

    I would agree with BR's comments about the Cubano; very nicely assembled with ample ingredients and great flavor. I was less impressed with the Puerto Rican Tamale, made with "banana masa" (I assume the counter lady meant plantain and was dumbing it down for the nice suburban Jewish boy) versus corn masa. Served wrapped in a banana leaf, it had an unpleasant gelatinous texture and seemed under stuffed.

    Slightly more successful was the Relleno de Papa. It still felt a little skimpy on the filling, but the outer shell of deep fried mashed potatoes was quite tasty. Frankly I would have been happy with just the fried potato ball, so I guess the lack of filling is a nonissue. I still need to try the Tostones and Maduros (savory and sweet plantains, respectively), and the Pastelillo has my name written all over it.

    As you can see from the menu photos, Santiago's has a whole list of sandwiches which I plan to work my way through. Also a full list of dinners that look enticing.

    If they manage to survive (this location has seen the death of multiple restaurants in recent years), Santiago's could be a strong candidate for the next round of GNRs.

    Buddy
  • Post #4 - March 23rd, 2016, 4:07 pm
    Post #4 - March 23rd, 2016, 4:07 pm Post #4 - March 23rd, 2016, 4:07 pm
    BuddyRoadhouse wrote: I was less impressed with the Puerto Rican Tamale, made with "banana masa" (I assume the counter lady meant plantain and was dumbing it down for the nice suburban Jewish boy) versus corn masa. Served wrapped in a banana leaf, it had an unpleasant gelatinous texture and seemed under stuffed.


    You've captured the essence of pasteles. They sound just right. You know you are in a city of 1M+ Mexican Americans when the PR place "translates" everything by reference to its (rough) Chicano equivalent. Pasteles are sort of like a Oaxacan or Guatemalan tamale, but with mashed plantain rather than corn (or corn/rice four) masa. I for one love the texture and taste, but I grew up with them. I'm just happy to see them on a menu outside of the Xmas holidays.

    The menu seems to be oddly devoid of mofongo.

    The grill marks, boiled ham, thick pickle chips and (apparently) Mexican bolillo or telera all make this "purist" skeptical about the sandwich. But the good reviews show how far quality lechon can go. It makes up for a lot. And you can't have a great Cuban without it, even if everything else is just so.
  • Post #5 - March 23rd, 2016, 8:37 pm
    Post #5 - March 23rd, 2016, 8:37 pm Post #5 - March 23rd, 2016, 8:37 pm
    no mofongo?

    Thanks for the heads up on this.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #6 - March 24th, 2016, 9:21 pm
    Post #6 - March 24th, 2016, 9:21 pm Post #6 - March 24th, 2016, 9:21 pm
    I made a return visit to Santiago's, and the Cuban is still the easy standout for me. I've only tried one jibarito that I loved, that being at the long gone Cafe Salamera, and that's because the steak they used was so good. At Santiago's, the steak was somewhat bland and dry. On the plus side, beautifully crisp and non-greasy plantains with a healthy kick of garlic . . . but the steak needs work. I believe they offer a different steak dish (as well as the wonderful pork) so I might push them for a different meat choice if I were to order the jibarito again.

    Image

    Image
    Jibarito




    I too tried the relleno de papa and generally liked it, though it's not in the same league as what you might find at D'Candela (in fairness, somewhat different). The potato was nicely seasoned, the exterior very lightly crisped, but I agree that there was very little in the way of beef filling.

    Image

    Image
    Relleno de papa - stuffed potato



    I didn't try anything else, but here's a little more eye candy for you:

    Image




    And a few more pictures of Santiago's interior (with some guava pastries on the counter in the first picture):

    Image

    Image

    Image
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #7 - March 26th, 2016, 1:54 pm
    Post #7 - March 26th, 2016, 1:54 pm Post #7 - March 26th, 2016, 1:54 pm
    I work pretty near here and shared this thread with a Puerto Rican coworker the day after BR's initial post. He shot over the next morning at 10:30 to get some morcilla, blood sausage. It was barely warm by the time I got a sample and, having never had it before, I didn't know what to expect.

    This was truly an excellent bite. Not the most appetizing thing to look at, it is filled with rice and I couldn't put my finger on the just-right seasoning. Best of all, it had been prepared in such a way that the casing was snappy but rich and approaching sticky in a very good way. The guy who bought it tricked another coworker into trying it and it was declared great but he was squicked out by the ~bloooood~.

    Coworker said they'd only opened in February but added they were taking large phone orders the whole time he was there, early in their day. I haven't made it over there yet and am really looking forward to a Cuban and half pound of morcilla.
  • Post #8 - March 29th, 2016, 8:32 pm
    Post #8 - March 29th, 2016, 8:32 pm Post #8 - March 29th, 2016, 8:32 pm
    Round two at Santiago's tonight made me love the place even more. I've decided to work my way through the Sandwiches and Appetizers before moving on to the dinner options. Based on BR's comments about the Jibarito, I hesitated before ordering, but in my heart of hearts, knew I had to try one for myself.

    My experience was 180 degrees opposite from BR's. Not just good, but one of the best examples I've ever had. As BR mentions, the Plantains were crisp and not too greasy, and the Garlic had a strong yet mellow presence. The biggest difference was in the Steak. Mine was neither dry nor bland. In fact the whole sandwich was quite succulent with well balanced flavors. It even held together nicely without the benefit of toothpicks. I've had Jibaritos at both the original and Western Avenue locations of Borinquen, as well as 90 Miles and other sources. Santiago's is by far the best one I've had up till now.

    I also picked two winners from the Appetizer menu. The Maduros (Sweet Plantains) had wonderful flavor; sweet but not cloying. Lots of nice charred caramelized bits provided excellent texture and gave the tasty nuggets a very appetizing appearance.

    The other hit was the Pastalillo (Meat Pie). When I unwrapped this little gem at home, I thought, "Dang, I shoulda asked for some salsa to go with this." As it turned out, none was necessary. Even with a significant ridge of dough ringing the outer edge, this pie was moist, well filled, and screaming with deep umami goodness. Salsa woulda just messed it up.

    As I mentioned in my first post, this storefront has seen the death of multiple restaurants in the last few years. So I was pleased to see a steady stream of customers as I waited for my carry-out order. I'm telling you, if these people can manage to get a following and stay in business, a year from now we'll be hanging a GNR certificate on their wall.

    Buddy
  • Post #9 - March 29th, 2016, 10:14 pm
    Post #9 - March 29th, 2016, 10:14 pm Post #9 - March 29th, 2016, 10:14 pm
    Glad to hear your experience was much better than mine with the jibarito. I'm sure I'll give it another chance, but then again . . . that Cuban! :D
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #10 - March 30th, 2016, 5:22 am
    Post #10 - March 30th, 2016, 5:22 am Post #10 - March 30th, 2016, 5:22 am
    BTW, I asked about the absent mofongo and whether it might make an appearance anytime soon. They say the reason they don't make it is because it is too time consuming. However, they've got a sheet of paper sitting next to the cash register and every time someone asks about mofongo, they make a hash mark. If they get enough inquiries, they say they'll try to include it on the menu.

    So get in there and ask, dang it!

    Buddy
  • Post #11 - March 30th, 2016, 2:36 pm
    Post #11 - March 30th, 2016, 2:36 pm Post #11 - March 30th, 2016, 2:36 pm
    BuddyRoadhouse wrote:BTW, I asked about the absent mofongo and whether it might make an appearance anytime soon. They say the reason they don't make it is because it is too time consuming. However, they've got a sheet of paper sitting next to the cash register and every time someone asks about mofongo, they make a hash mark. If they get enough inquiries, they say they'll try to include it on the menu.

    So get in there and ask, dang it!
    going for dinner tomorrow night with Mrs Willie, will make sure to ask for mofongo.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #12 - March 31st, 2016, 9:01 pm
    Post #12 - March 31st, 2016, 9:01 pm Post #12 - March 31st, 2016, 9:01 pm
    Tried a number of items from Santiago's.

    Cuban
    Steak sandwich
    Chicken stew (Pollo Guisado) w/rice & pigeon peas

    Cuban was good, certainly one of the better in Chicago, bread is thick IMO plus I was just in Tampa and it is tough to compete with the Cuban sandwiches there.

    Steak was ok, wasn't dry but wasn't moist, not a lot of flavor. I think we'll try the jibarito sandwich next time.

    Pollo Guisado & rice/peas were terrific.

    Place was pretty well packed this evening at 6:15, there was only one 2 person table off in the corner.

    Due to how good the entree was, we'll be back in short order to try other dishes.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #13 - April 5th, 2016, 8:42 pm
    Post #13 - April 5th, 2016, 8:42 pm Post #13 - April 5th, 2016, 8:42 pm
    Another visit to Santiago's delivered two more winners and two "pretty goods". The first winner came in the form of the Puerco Sandwich. This was a kind of hybrid featuring a generous portion of very moist and juicy pulled pork. It was served on the same bread as the Cubano and dressed similarly to the Jibarito (lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo). I took the order to go, so when I got home, the juices had pretty well permeated the bread. Still the whole thing held together nicely, and only required a couple of napkins.

    The other winner was the Bread Pudding. This dense, moist, richly flavored wedge of sweetness was punctuated by the occasional golden raisin. It was more successful than the Flan, which wasn't bad, it just didn't have the same magic as most of the other items I've had so far.

    The other "pretty good" was the Tostones. Frankly, I've never had a Tostone that lived up to its promise. I mean, it's described as a mashed, flash fried plantain sprinkled with garlic and salt. In my head I imagine the finished plantain being moist and slightly sweet, counterpointing the salty garlic flavor. What I usually get is something dry, slightly crispy, a decent hit of garlic, but not much else. I think my ideal Tosotone would be closer to the Maduros (the sweet plantains), only slightly less sweet, and not quite as moist. This item probably doesn't exist except in my imagination.

    At any rate, if you're someone who loves Tostones for what they are, you'll probably love the version served at Santiago's.

    Next up are the Alcapurrias (a banana dumpling, similar to the Pasteles--Puerto Rican Tamales--only deep fried instead of steamed), and the Jamon y Queso and Chuleta (Pork Chop) sandwiches. After that, we move on to the entrees.

    BTW, for all you guys who are looking for "authentic", Santiago's has weekend specials that include Chuchifrito con Arroz Blanco (Pig Ears with White Rice) and Bacalao Guisado (Cod Fish Stew).

    Buddy
  • Post #14 - April 6th, 2016, 3:33 pm
    Post #14 - April 6th, 2016, 3:33 pm Post #14 - April 6th, 2016, 3:33 pm
    BuddyRoadhouse wrote:BTW, I asked about the absent mofongo and whether it might make an appearance anytime soon. They say the reason they don't make it is because it is too time consuming. However, they've got a sheet of paper sitting next to the cash register and every time someone asks about mofongo, they make a hash mark. If they get enough inquiries, they say they'll try to include it on the menu.

    So get in there and ask, dang it!

    Buddy


    Maybe they could just do it on Fridays and Saturdays, like many Mexican restaurants do with Menudo.
  • Post #15 - April 20th, 2016, 8:10 am
    Post #15 - April 20th, 2016, 8:10 am Post #15 - April 20th, 2016, 8:10 am
    BuddyRoadhouse wrote:The other winner was the Bread Pudding. This dense, moist, richly flavored wedge of sweetness was punctuated by the occasional golden raisin.

    I liked the bread pudding a lot too. It's not your ordinary bread pudding -- you may not even recognize any bread (I didn't). And it's very dense. But it's delicious. From what I've seen on the internet though, I would guess the dense bread pudding is typical of Puerto Rican bread pudding.

    As for the jibarito, it was the same thin, bland steak on my second try . . . I won't give it a third try. The Cuban on the other hand was just as excellent as the first time I tried it.
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #16 - April 23rd, 2016, 7:14 am
    Post #16 - April 23rd, 2016, 7:14 am Post #16 - April 23rd, 2016, 7:14 am
    Had some business in the area yesterday that concluded quickly, so at 10:30 I arrived at Santiago's.
    Pollo Guisado not ready so got three Cubanos to go for the family for dinner to try.
    Spent about 15 minutes taking to the wife of the chef who runs the front. Very hospitable!
    I plan on a weekend dinner for the Cuchifrito and Bacalao Guisado with the wife.
    My son who used to do his laundry next to a place in Miami that sold Cubanos sandwich's , pronounced it a good sandwich.
    As with previous Cuban or Puerto Rican food I have had, there is very subtle spicing and no heat.-Richard
  • Post #17 - April 25th, 2016, 5:07 pm
    Post #17 - April 25th, 2016, 5:07 pm Post #17 - April 25th, 2016, 5:07 pm
    I wanted to thank you guys for this website and wonderful place to read up on the best food in the Chicago area.Because of LTH I discovered Santiago's.I've been there twice and wanted to say that the lunch rush was going strong last week when I visited at about 1:45pm. So be forewarned that a 12:30 meet up might pose a longer than anticipated wait time.The food is worth it.But for those who are coming over on their lunch hour might have to change their orders to take out.Word of mouth is traveling fast about this place and there is limited seating. Or you could phone your orders in.Thanks again for such a dedicated site to all things food. :D
  • Post #18 - July 5th, 2016, 10:05 am
    Post #18 - July 5th, 2016, 10:05 am Post #18 - July 5th, 2016, 10:05 am
    By a weird (unplanned) set of circumstances, my wife and I were in the Des Plaines area last week around dinner time. My original plan was to go to Boston Seafood Market. My wife chimed in to remind me about a Puerto Rican joint I told her about recently. Good call.

    We shared an order of maduros as an appetizer. We also shared chicken and pork dinners. We both left with happy and full stomachs that clearly offset the crappy pre-holiday traffic that I suffered through earlier.
    "At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom." George Carlin
  • Post #19 - August 2nd, 2016, 9:26 am
    Post #19 - August 2nd, 2016, 9:26 am Post #19 - August 2nd, 2016, 9:26 am
    happy happy joy joy, they are now serving mofongo and oh is it delicious, lots of garlic/plantain flavor. I had mine last night with shredded lechon.

    Sadly Santiago's doesn't serve any seafood.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #20 - August 4th, 2016, 9:14 am
    Post #20 - August 4th, 2016, 9:14 am Post #20 - August 4th, 2016, 9:14 am
    A couple comments about the drinks here, don't see anything posted in comments:
    -They have a long list of special flavored waters and juices they make on-site. On our visit they offered free samples and they were all excellent.
    -The very nice owner said they have no plans for getting a liquor license, so for now and forever the place is BYOB.
  • Post #21 - August 25th, 2016, 10:02 pm
    Post #21 - August 25th, 2016, 10:02 pm Post #21 - August 25th, 2016, 10:02 pm
    It needs to be noted that this place closes at 8 p.m. They seem to keep the inventory pretty tight--I arrived just after 7 tonight and they were out of pasteles and bacalaitos.
    I thought the Cuban was good; the only thing keeping it from the top tier was that the pork was on the dry side. Perhaps this was an end-of-service-day phenomenon.
    I was impressed that everything was perfectly cooked. We also had relleno de papa and tostones. The agua fresca with what the owner described as "tropical fruits" was less impressive; it seemed to have been made with syrup.
    The low prices make this place a good value. Next time I will go earlier in the day.
  • Post #22 - August 31st, 2016, 11:05 am
    Post #22 - August 31st, 2016, 11:05 am Post #22 - August 31st, 2016, 11:05 am
    data point: verified that Santiago's is NOT a BYOB even if they are not serving.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #23 - July 26th, 2017, 9:02 am
    Post #23 - July 26th, 2017, 9:02 am Post #23 - July 26th, 2017, 9:02 am
    went with 12 others for a family style meal at Santiago's last night. They were very accommodating, for instance making individual smaller tapas portions of mofongo w/lechon and made smaller empanada size of their Pastilelos.

    Our group dined on:
    Relleno de papa - stuffed mashed potato
    Pastilelos - stuffed meat pie
    Morcilla - blood sausage
    Mofongo w/lechon - mashed plantains w/roast pork
    Jibarito - plantain steak sandwich
    Cuban Sandwich
    Pollo Guisado - stewed Chicken
    Rice n beans
    Pasteles - Puerto Rican tamale
    Bread pudding

    I found the bread pudding dense but everything else was really enjoyable to simply delectable.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #24 - June 30th, 2018, 7:44 pm
    Post #24 - June 30th, 2018, 7:44 pm Post #24 - June 30th, 2018, 7:44 pm
    Sad to report that Santiago's has closed as confirmed by my drive by this afternoon.

    The spot is now occupied by Jibarito Time "Chicago Style Plantain Sandwiches"
    "At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom." George Carlin
  • Post #25 - June 30th, 2018, 10:39 pm
    Post #25 - June 30th, 2018, 10:39 pm Post #25 - June 30th, 2018, 10:39 pm
    Dave148 wrote:Sad to report that Santiago's has closed as confirmed by my drive by this afternoon.

    The spot is now occupied by Jibarito Time "Chicago Style Plantain Sandwiches"


    I think "Jibarito Time" is from the original owners of "Santiago's" as this was probably a remodeling/re-purpose of there restaurant. If you look at the yelp reviews some mention this fact as well..
    https://www.yelp.com/biz/jibarito-time- ... =date_desc

    Jibarito Time Chicago
    https://jibaritotime.com/
  • Post #26 - July 1st, 2018, 1:15 am
    Post #26 - July 1st, 2018, 1:15 am Post #26 - July 1st, 2018, 1:15 am
    The above is correct. I stopped in after the remodeling and spoke with a family member. She said they made the change with future franchising/expansion in mind. Frankly, I find the new appearance to be generic and sterile. The rustic warmth that characterized Santiago's is gone, replaced with a preponderance of green paint, modernist fixtures, and neon.

    That said, the food appears to be the same, although they've abbreviated parts of the menu, specifically the appetizers, and expanded the selection of jibaritos. We haven't been in to actually eat a meal since the reopening, so can't comment on that. I hope to get there soon to make sure the quality of the food hasn't changed. One positive note, their excellent Mofongo remains as a regular menu item.

    Buddy
  • Post #27 - July 3rd, 2018, 12:02 pm
    Post #27 - July 3rd, 2018, 12:02 pm Post #27 - July 3rd, 2018, 12:02 pm
    BuddyRoadhouse wrote:One positive note, their excellent Mofongo remains as a regular menu item.
    I really enjoy their mofongo ! After trying a Cuban sandwich at the new concept, the bread wasn't pressed/crisp, I missed that texture aspect for sure, I think I'll go back to their mofongo.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #28 - July 3rd, 2018, 4:12 pm
    Post #28 - July 3rd, 2018, 4:12 pm Post #28 - July 3rd, 2018, 4:12 pm
    Might be worth having a moderator renaming this thread....
    "At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom." George Carlin

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