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Cafecito in the Loop
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  • Cafecito in the Loop

    Post #1 - August 26th, 2008, 10:48 am
    Post #1 - August 26th, 2008, 10:48 am Post #1 - August 26th, 2008, 10:48 am
    Cafecito, a sandwich and coffee shop, recently opened at 26 East Congress Parkway. They offer about 15 pressed sandwiches with a Cuban bent (as in the country, not the potential owner of the Cubs), including a Cubano and Lechon. They also offer a few salads, some desserts and a few take out style side dishes. I tried the Cubano, and I'm no expert on authenticity (I've had one or two before), but I thought it was an excellent sandwich. The sides didn't have much appeal (an Alfajore cookie, however, looked good), but I'll be back to try other sandwiches. The place is a bit out of the way and I'm guessing they are going for a student crowd.

    http://www.cafecitochicago.com/


    Jonah

    Cafecito
    26 E. Congress Pkwy
    Chicago, IL
    312-922-2233
  • Post #2 - August 26th, 2008, 10:52 am
    Post #2 - August 26th, 2008, 10:52 am Post #2 - August 26th, 2008, 10:52 am
    Thanks for the tip. This sounds promising. With the departure of Bom Bon, we could use another quality sandwich operation in the loop. I'll check it out soon.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #3 - August 26th, 2008, 1:23 pm
    Post #3 - August 26th, 2008, 1:23 pm Post #3 - August 26th, 2008, 1:23 pm
    I too had a pretty good pressed-sandwich experience on a recent visit to Cafecito. Sidewise, we had some very good plantain chips (in a bag like potato chips, don't remember the brand). They also carry a good selection of sodas I'd never seen before. I think I had a Materva.
  • Post #4 - August 26th, 2008, 1:31 pm
    Post #4 - August 26th, 2008, 1:31 pm Post #4 - August 26th, 2008, 1:31 pm
    I thought the jerk chicken was excellent and the cubano was amazing. The bread is so crispy and fresh, the pork (for lechon) is roasted in house, I believe all the salads are made in house as well. The coffees are also a nice treat, all in all I thought the staff was friendly and this place is a nice change from a chain sandwich shop.
    "Why, then the world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open."
    William Shakespeare
  • Post #5 - September 9th, 2008, 7:39 am
    Post #5 - September 9th, 2008, 7:39 am Post #5 - September 9th, 2008, 7:39 am
    I've made two trips to Cafecito now, in which I've had the opportunity to try three different sandwiches: Cubano, lechon, and jerk chicken.

    Overall, I'd say this place is a nice addition to the loop lunch landscape, but certainly not a destination. The Cubano and the lechon sandwiches are good versions. The jerk sandwich had nice flavor and a balanced bite of heat. I also like the selection of side salads.

    Overall, I'll stick with my favorite, Cafe Marianao, for a real Cubano craving. But I'm pleased to have the option downtown. Thanks again for the tip.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #6 - September 9th, 2008, 11:58 am
    Post #6 - September 9th, 2008, 11:58 am Post #6 - September 9th, 2008, 11:58 am
    Just got back from a quick lunch at Cafecito. Thanks to the previous posters. For a quick lunch in the South Loop, this is one of the best options I've found.

    I had an abundance of cherry tomatoes waiting for me back at my desk, so I only tried a sandwich, the lechon. The sandwich was very good, almost great - - flavorful moist pork, crisp hot bread, sweet grilled onions, and a nice bite from the arugula. And, I waited no more than five minutes for the sandwich. Honestly, I would be pleased to get this sandwich at a nice casual restaurant. The fact that the sandwich was only $5 + tax, makes it a good option that is just a short walk from my office.

    I was surprised not to see a lunch rush, but the word clearly must not be out. Plus, the location leaves a bit to be desired - - it's on a fairly dark block near the Auditorium Theater. I don't imagine they get a lot of business from folks just walking by. At least, no compared with other surrounding streets.

    I looked at the side salads in the case, but wasn't persuaded to try any. They didn't look great. The beans/corn looked okay and I was slightly tempted by the olives (but all olives, except those sad black canned ones, tempt me). I may try a side another time, but they aren't cheap. Your $5 lunch can quickly turn into a $8 or $9 lunch if you go with a side and a drink.

    I'll definitely be back before too long. The only problem I'll face is how not to get the lechon again. The lechon was good enough that it'll be tough to convince me to try something else.
  • Post #7 - September 9th, 2008, 12:17 pm
    Post #7 - September 9th, 2008, 12:17 pm Post #7 - September 9th, 2008, 12:17 pm
    REB wrote:I was surprised not to see a lunch rush, but the word clearly must not be out. Plus, the location leaves a bit to be desired - - it's on a fairly dark block near the Auditorium Theater. I don't imagine they get a lot of business from folks just walking by. At least, no compared with other surrounding streets.


    From the feel of the place, I get the impression that they're going for the Columbia/DePaul/RobertMorris/Roosevelt U. crowd.
  • Post #8 - October 3rd, 2008, 12:48 pm
    Post #8 - October 3rd, 2008, 12:48 pm Post #8 - October 3rd, 2008, 12:48 pm
    The Cuban was selected as Chicago's best by Time Out Chicago. I don't have any opinion on this, but I do like the place and hope this will give it a bit of a boost given it's somewhat obscure location.

    Jonah
  • Post #9 - October 3rd, 2008, 2:23 pm
    Post #9 - October 3rd, 2008, 2:23 pm Post #9 - October 3rd, 2008, 2:23 pm
    Jonah wrote:The Cuban was selected as Chicago's best by Time Out Chicago. I don't have any opinion on this, but I do like the place and hope this will give it a bit of a boost given it's somewhat obscure location.


    I actually had their cubano for lunch today and I have to say that it was even better than the last time I had it (although maybe a bit smaller).
  • Post #10 - October 3rd, 2008, 2:59 pm
    Post #10 - October 3rd, 2008, 2:59 pm Post #10 - October 3rd, 2008, 2:59 pm
    Finally! A respectable place to have decent inexpensive meal in the South Loop.

    The construction of Cafecito's Cubano is, as far as I know, unrivaled anywhere around town. Perfectly pressed bread with the ideal proportions of ham, pork, and cheese; a factor which is often overlooked but makes or breaks this type of sandwich.
    Unlike most other places, their cheese was fully melted because they took the appropriate time to do it correctly. A sensational sandwich.

    We also tried the steak chimichurri and the "Jerk" sandwich (from what I remember was diced chicken breast with a habenero mayo, tomato, and lettuce), both very good but a half-notch below the Cubano.

    The Lechon (pork, mojo dressing, and arugula) at the next table looked delicious. A mandatory purchase the next time in.


    The place was so good we went back the next morning to check out their egg sandwich. Let's just say I'll be grabbing breakfast here from now on at least once a week.

    Also, their quality coffee is fresh tasting and is some of the cheapest around.

    This place ranks up there as one of the great cheap-eats anywhere near the Loop.
  • Post #11 - October 4th, 2008, 3:29 pm
    Post #11 - October 4th, 2008, 3:29 pm Post #11 - October 4th, 2008, 3:29 pm
    PIGMON wrote:Finally! A respectable place to have decent inexpensive meal in the South Loop.


    I heartily agree. I stopped in for lunch at Cafecito today (before reading PIGMON's post) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I would rate their cubano a notch below my favorites in town (e.g., La Unica), but very serviceable. What holds it back, in my view, is that the roast pork isn't especially flavorful and it is sliced very thin so doesn't provide much in the way of texture either. But I agree the cheese was done just right, and I liked the mustard too. The flavors were in perfect balance. All in all, very good. And the coffee was great; just the right amount of sugar, strong with no bitterness. The ambiance is much nicer than I had expected, including a couch, comfy lounge chairs, and regular cafe-style tables and chairs. A really relaxing and pleasant environment. The owner, a Columbia College grad, made the rounds throughout the dining room and seemed to take a real interest in his customers. He also mentioned that they would be introducing some entree-style daily specials, such as rope vieja, and would start delivery service in the near future. In sum, I wouldn't call this destination dining, but it is a terrific addition to the neighborhood. I expect to be back soon and often.
  • Post #12 - October 30th, 2008, 5:53 pm
    Post #12 - October 30th, 2008, 5:53 pm Post #12 - October 30th, 2008, 5:53 pm
    eatchicago wrote:I actually had their cubano for lunch today and I have to say that it was even better than the last time I had it (although maybe a bit smaller).

    Michael,

    I'm happy to see you upgraded your opinion of Cafecito's cubano as I really enjoyed the one I had for lunch today. Crisp light bread, moist pork, balanced pickle distribution, a terrific Cuban sandwich.

    Cafecito Cubano

    Image

    We also split a steak Chimichurri, good quantity of griddled beef, bright flavored chimichurri, I would definitely order it again.

    Steak Chimichurri (top), Cubano (bottom)

    Image

    To round out our slightly too large lunch, the two of us also split a Choripan. I liked the Spanish chorizo, in particular the smoky paprika punch and caramelized onions, my dining companion thought the chorizo a bit on the dry side.

    Choripan

    Image

    I had a few minutes before lunch so I stopped at the South Loop Sam's just to poke around. I was fairly impressed with the well managed cheese selection, thought the cured meat well thought out, but a small selection, and bought a bit of pungent creamy and delicious Munster Gerome and La Quercia lardo to sample at Cafecito.

    Image

    Here Hammond talks about being well sated by .25c worth of lardo from Marion Street Cheese Market. I was slightly curious when I first read that, but found .52c of razor thin sliced lardo, with it's almost delicate salty sweet pork fat flavor, the perfect amount for two.

    Image

    I quite liked Cafecito, looking forward to going back, but see future visits stymied by lack of available parking. We got lucky today with a meter on Wabash.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #13 - October 31st, 2008, 8:50 am
    Post #13 - October 31st, 2008, 8:50 am Post #13 - October 31st, 2008, 8:50 am
    Hi, Gary. Glad you like Cafecito. It's quickly become one of my favorite work lunch spots. And despite the positive press, it seems to still be off the radar of the office workers.

    Let me know next time you're considering a Cafecito lunch. I'd be happy to meet you for a bite.

    Ronna
  • Post #14 - October 31st, 2008, 11:13 am
    Post #14 - October 31st, 2008, 11:13 am Post #14 - October 31st, 2008, 11:13 am
    Location, location, location. Far from the best Cubano I've ever had, but a respectable version at a reasonable price in a very welcoming atmosphere. It may not be a destination, but considering its immediate surrounding competition--KFC, Dunkin, Subway, and other cost-cutting chains appealing to the student demographic in the immediate vicinity--look for it beneath the arcades betweeen State and Wabash if you're in the area and in need of a bite for lunch or even in the early evening.
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #15 - November 3rd, 2008, 9:10 pm
    Post #15 - November 3rd, 2008, 9:10 pm Post #15 - November 3rd, 2008, 9:10 pm
    *This* place, I have only warm wonderful thoughts about, since I am busy in that part of the loop often, and want a *quick* bite. I just want to pimp their sides and salads right now. Serious, homemade alads, beans and eggplant and even tuna salad. The prices on the containers are really good---like 2.50 for a small and 3.50 for a medium that appears to me to be an entree-sized portion. 8oz, maybe? I had a medium tuna and mixed it with a small bean salad, and had 3 servings. When was the last time you bought anything in the Loop for $6-7 and got 3 meals out of it?
  • Post #16 - December 30th, 2008, 5:34 pm
    Post #16 - December 30th, 2008, 5:34 pm Post #16 - December 30th, 2008, 5:34 pm
    Jesteinf was kind enough to join me for lunch at Cafecito today. After a slightly dry lechon on my last visit, I'm happy to report that I had no such problems today.

    They are now serving soup, too. I enjoyed a bowl of the cuban black bean soup - - chewy beans, nice spice. I made the mistake of adding just a bit too much El Yucateco green. The soup was plenty spicy on its own. Jesteinf had the tomato soup, which he seemed to enjoy.

    I tried the steak chimichurri sandwich for the first time today. Really great. The steak was pretty good - - but the chimichurri made the sandwich. Jesteinf seemed quite happy with his cubano.

    As a holiday treat, we lingered over hot drinks. I had a double cafecito, with tasty strong coffee and just the right amount of sugar. Jesteinf enjoyed his Spanish hot chocolate (which is what I really wanted, but felt I needed the caffeine to make it through a quiet workday).

    I continue to be amazed by how reasonably-priced the sandwiches are at Cafecito. It's definitely one of the better lunch deals in the South Loop.

    And, thanks to Jesteinf for the good company and for giving me an excuse to walk more than three blocks for lunch. On these colder days, it's been tough to motivate, even when good food awaits.
  • Post #17 - December 30th, 2008, 6:26 pm
    Post #17 - December 30th, 2008, 6:26 pm Post #17 - December 30th, 2008, 6:26 pm
    I would definitely echo REB's comments. I really enjoyed my lunch at Cafecito today. If it were closer to my office it would definitely be in my regular lunch rotation.

    I had the creamy tomato basil soup which I did enjoy. The Cubano sandwich was excellent, although I'm certainly no expert. I also had an iced tea which, I believe, was freshly brewed. Total cost for the soup, sandwich and drink (with tax) was $9.75, which I was happy to pay given the quality of everything.

    Oh, and dessert...My Spanish hot chocolate threatened to put me into diabetic shock right on the spot. But it was still damn tasty.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #18 - July 4th, 2009, 3:22 pm
    Post #18 - July 4th, 2009, 3:22 pm Post #18 - July 4th, 2009, 3:22 pm
    They may not have the top cubano around (altho it's certainy competitive), but the choripan (Argentinian chorizo w/ chimichurri) was the best sandwich I've had in Chicago since my last pot-roast at the Depot. Simply bursting w/ flavor. That plus the fact that they now offer batidos (sort of a cross between a milkshake and a tropical-fruit-smoothie) makes Cafecito one of the best options for low-priced hefty lunches or light dinners in the Loop. Check out their black bean soup, too, when you get a chance.
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #19 - July 19th, 2009, 1:55 pm
    Post #19 - July 19th, 2009, 1:55 pm Post #19 - July 19th, 2009, 1:55 pm
    I tried two sandwiches that I think are relatively new to the menu, both of which are worth a trip to Cafecito:

    Ropa Vieja: The owner said he cooks the meat for 4 hours, and adds some black beans and sweet plantains to the sandwich. This was one of the better sandwiches I've had quite a while.

    Provoletta: Grilled provolone, some peppers, and huge amount of chimichurra sauce. The provolone is grilled separately, which gives it more flavor than if it was just melted in the sandwhich, but the chimichurra sauce makes just about anything taste good.

    We came in near closing time so it was empty, but a fellow I assume is the owner was very gracious in giving us detailed descriptions of how he makes the sandwiches.

    Jonah
  • Post #20 - July 19th, 2009, 8:06 pm
    Post #20 - July 19th, 2009, 8:06 pm Post #20 - July 19th, 2009, 8:06 pm
    I love that ropa vieja sandwich although I find it really difficult to maintain much dignity while eating it in public, I have never been good at maintaining the structural integrity of a messy sandwich
  • Post #21 - July 19th, 2009, 8:17 pm
    Post #21 - July 19th, 2009, 8:17 pm Post #21 - July 19th, 2009, 8:17 pm
    jbw wrote:...but the choripan (Argentinian chorizo w/ chimichurri) was the best sandwich I've had in Chicago since my last pot-roast at the Depot. ...


    Choripan...I'd somehow forgotten them completely! I'll never forget my somewhat over-excited younger cousin saying to me "Quiero presentar a choripán" at a cookout in BA - translated something like "I want to introduce you to the choripan," as though it were an honored guest (I remember adults giggling a bit, partly in understanding.)

    Mmmmm.
  • Post #22 - December 29th, 2009, 3:15 pm
    Post #22 - December 29th, 2009, 3:15 pm Post #22 - December 29th, 2009, 3:15 pm
    Had a great lunch with the newly formed Loop Lunch Club.

    Grabbed some Pics.
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #23 - April 6th, 2010, 1:23 pm
    Post #23 - April 6th, 2010, 1:23 pm Post #23 - April 6th, 2010, 1:23 pm
    The Cafecito menu has definitely evolved a bit since last I've been. Last year I was residing in the UCC dorm on State while studying at DePaul so Cafecito was a great find. My friend and I used to go almost every other Sunday for breakfast/brunch and it was always a good, quiet ambiance. Music choice and decor complement each other, in my opinion, very well.

    My go-to choice is the Palomilla. The steak is always cooked tender and is pretty abundant. I also feel there's a good balance between the protein and the fixings, which is kind of what I look for in a meal. That sandwich and a Tutti Frutti Jarritos would make my day and gear me up for a day of studying. I've also had the Pollo Arugula which was also very satisfying.

    I have to mention that the staff is very accommodating and very nice. On one of my first trips, I asked if I could add avocado to my sandwich (I'll add it to anything if it's available, I love it so much) and they mentioned that they didn't have any on hand, but that they could offer me an avocado mayonnaise sort of dealy. I said that was completely fine and went to sit and wait for our order. I wish now I asked for his name, but the man who took our order came over with the sandwiches and apologized again for not having avocado and then offered me a guava pastry on the house. I was completely astounded. It showed me that Cafecito is definitely concerned with their patrons' happiness and satisfaction. These little details make a place memorable for me.....and getting a free delicious dessert didn't hurt either :)
  • Post #24 - April 6th, 2010, 4:57 pm
    Post #24 - April 6th, 2010, 4:57 pm Post #24 - April 6th, 2010, 4:57 pm
    SandyR wrote:I have to mention that the staff is very accommodating and very nice. On one of my first trips, I asked if I could add avocado to my sandwich (I'll add it to anything if it's available, I love it so much) and they mentioned that they didn't have any on hand, but that they could offer me an avocado mayonnaise sort of dealy. I said that was completely fine and went to sit and wait for our order. I wish now I asked for his name, but the man who took our order came over with the sandwiches and apologized again for not having avocado and then offered me a guava pastry on the house. I was completely astounded. It showed me that Cafecito is definitely concerned with their patrons' happiness and satisfaction. These little details make a place memorable for me.....and getting a free delicious dessert didn't hurt either :)


    What did he look like? Was he tall with a clean-shaven bald head? If so, that was more than likely the owner, Philip.
  • Post #25 - April 14th, 2010, 10:45 pm
    Post #25 - April 14th, 2010, 10:45 pm Post #25 - April 14th, 2010, 10:45 pm
    jtobin625 wrote:
    SandyR wrote:I have to mention that the staff is very accommodating and very nice. On one of my first trips, I asked if I could add avocado to my sandwich (I'll add it to anything if it's available, I love it so much) and they mentioned that they didn't have any on hand, but that they could offer me an avocado mayonnaise sort of dealy. I said that was completely fine and went to sit and wait for our order. I wish now I asked for his name, but the man who took our order came over with the sandwiches and apologized again for not having avocado and then offered me a guava pastry on the house. I was completely astounded. It showed me that Cafecito is definitely concerned with their patrons' happiness and satisfaction. These little details make a place memorable for me.....and getting a free delicious dessert didn't hurt either :)


    What did he look like? Was he tall with a clean-shaven bald head? If so, that was more than likely the owner, Philip.



    Yes, that was him! Thank you for letting me know his name.
  • Post #26 - February 9th, 2012, 11:31 am
    Post #26 - February 9th, 2012, 11:31 am Post #26 - February 9th, 2012, 11:31 am
    I believe Cafecito has extended its hours. A year or so ago we wanted to go for a quick dinner and I think it closed around 6:00. It's now open until 9:00. It made for a nice, quick bit before going to the Jazz Showcase, which is in walking distance. The food and service were as good as ever.

    Jonah
  • Post #27 - August 31st, 2012, 8:08 pm
    Post #27 - August 31st, 2012, 8:08 pm Post #27 - August 31st, 2012, 8:08 pm
    Had a Cubano tonight from Cafecito - I was excited as I've never been and have read about it for years.

    The bread was perfect but the sandwich was seriously lacking - disappointed as there wasn't a full, single layer of any of the components.

    I wasn't looking for a meat monster but each part should have had at least 1 full layer. The placement next to the hostel makes me suspect that maybe they assume the foreigners traveling through, don't know better.

    I half kid as I am sure they don't make sandwiches according to looks, and perhaps I am too generous thinking I just look like some college aged Asian exchange student :P
  • Post #28 - September 2nd, 2012, 8:32 am
    Post #28 - September 2nd, 2012, 8:32 am Post #28 - September 2nd, 2012, 8:32 am
    I was happy to see, when descneding form the Brown Line last week, that they are opening up soon at 7 N. Wells, which is actually walking distance form my office: http://www.cafecitochicago.com/
  • Post #29 - September 3rd, 2012, 9:46 pm
    Post #29 - September 3rd, 2012, 9:46 pm Post #29 - September 3rd, 2012, 9:46 pm
    Eva Luna wrote:I was happy to see, when descneding form the Brown Line last week, that they are opening up soon at 7 N. Wells, which is actually walking distance form my office: http://www.cafecitochicago.com/


    That will put it solidly in my weekly rotation. Great news!
  • Post #30 - September 7th, 2012, 1:09 pm
    Post #30 - September 7th, 2012, 1:09 pm Post #30 - September 7th, 2012, 1:09 pm
    This spot gets weekly love from I DO IT DAILY.
    Colombian women are skalleywags.

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