This is apparently where it all started -- the exact location where someone decided to stuff hunks of fatty meat between two fried plantains and call it a jibarito. For that fact alone, Borinquen in Humboldt Park is worth the trek. When done right, it achieves a strange balance of sweetness and pure gluttony. But as jibarito fans know all too well, it is a fragile and precarious creation, which can just as often come out greasy and tough. (And let's be clear, there are few things worse to make a sandwich with than soggy, cardboard-like plantains.)
Luckily, Borinquen's rendition is still alive and well, especially if you stop by during the busy lunch rush. Freshly fried to order, the plantains are slathered with mayonnaise, topped with cheese and lettuce, and then stuffed with the meat of your choice. Steak is popular and good, but I have hard time ever saying no to the crispy roast pork. Sure, there are other contenders for best jibarito in the city -- and I can't wait to try more -- but it's rewarding to find the original still taking the time to do things right. This is as Chicago as a hot dog and fries.
Borinquen Restaurant 1720 N California Ave # 1, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-227-6038