Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.


[Photographs: Dennis Lee]

Sometimes at lunch I ache for a taste of home after being cooped up in an office all day. The morning is an exercise in monotony, listening to people talk at me, using inconceivably useless terms like "implement" and "thought leadership." You feelin' me, bro? I'd fight the power of the man, but then I realize I need the paycheck and hang my head in shame at the things I have to do to make money. So I daydream about lunch.

Or, let's say you're a tourist visiting our awesome city, looking for a secret and amazing place to eat, in which case I really envy the fact that you're on vacation and man could I use one of those and... Ahem. Anyway.

Cafecito is located near three or four colleges and universities, the Harold Washington Library, and a block and a half away from the Loop L Train. It's also next door to a hostel in a relatively nondescript building. But don't let that fool you. Cafecito has some of the best Cuban sandwiches in the entire city of Chicago. And they're cheap, too!


For example, check out the Chivito ($6.29). Yes, it's a busy and messy grilled sandwich containing steak, ham, bacon, a fried egg, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, onion, citrus mayo, and shoestring potato chips. Phew. The Chivito is for the person who wants to try pretty much everything on the menu stuffed into a sandwich. It may look like a Potbelly sandwich on crack, but is absolutely delicious. The fried egg brings everything together, and it's cooked to the point where it's still moist, but firm.


But the real star of the show is the Cubano ($5.49). I still daydream about this thing. It's pretty simple, featuring roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and yellow mustard. It's pressed while being grilled, which makes it flat, crisp, and dense. There's a deep flavor to the roast pork, the familiar taste of hot ham, melted cheese, and the vinegar from the pickles and mustard makes the entire thing a masterpiece.

And when at a Cuban place, you've always got to have some form of black beans, and in my case it was black beans and rice. By the time I got to them, let's say I might have eaten both sandwiches pictured above, and my self esteem had bottomed out, so I just had a little. And they were good too.


If you're just traveling through the hostel, or you're a student, or a demoralized office worker like me, who needs some of mom's Cuban cooking (I'm Korean, so this metaphor is totally broken), or if you're any human being who eats, sleeps, and breathes, you HAVE to eat at Cafecito. Seriously. I'll cry if you don't. And you don't want that, do you?

...do you?


26 East Congress Parkway, Chicago, IL 60605 (map)

About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.


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