Habana Libre


This is a standard Cuban dish called ropa viaja ($11.95), and Habana Libre, at 1440 W. Chicago, does it very well. It’s a serving of shredded beef in a tangy tomato based sauce, with sides of rice, plantains, and black beans. My sister from Miami introduced me to this dish, and for that, I owe her my life.

My loyal readers know how important it is for me to get a protein and a starch in-bite (technical term meaning within a single bite of food, or in one forkful). I like this dish because I have my choice of starches – rice or plantains. Both of which meld perfectly with the sauced-up, shredded beef. I found myself going with the double starch during this meal. I would cut a small slice of the starchy sweet plaintain, spear some shredded beef, then push a little rice on the fork. Really nice. Just a flash of food brilliance that you can thank me for later.

This plantain thing could catch on with me. I love the texture and the flavor, especially when paired with some meat. I think I’m going to get a more savory meat the next time I go and a side of plantains. That way, I can get that savory-sweet thing going…like Garrett’s caramel and cheese corn.

This place is a little neighborhood storefront on Chicago with linoleum floors and not much atmosphere. But the food is great and the prices ideal. I can vouch for my dish, for the black bean soup, and for the empanadas, because I tried them all. They were all good and everybody at the table was highly satisfied with their meal. It is BYOB so you save some cash. I gotta try the Cuban sandwich and my wife wants to have the chicken and rice, which takes 45 minutes, so we will be back.