Don't Miss the El Lomito Sandwich at La Sirena Clandestina

A Sandwich a Day

Reviews of Chicago sandwiches.


[Photographs: Dennis Lee]

Fulton Market is like the cafeteria table where the cool kids hang out, in terms of restaurants. You have Next, The Aviary, The Publican, Publican Quality Meats, and Moto. and . And even though it's the meatpacking district, you might be surprised to find out that there's actually a lot of office space in the area dotted in between all the warehouses, too. Office workers need lunch (as you know), and if you're sneaky and follow one around, you might just end up at the new kid on the block, La Sirena Clandestina.

La Sirena Clandestina (which means "The Hidden Mermaid") is a Brazilian-inspired restaurant that puts out some thoughtful and delicious plates that are packed with vibrant flavor. If you've been curious and wanted a taste, without spending too much, go for lunch. The menu is cheaper and no less satisfying.


The empanadas ($4.00 each) are the hot sellers on the menu, and for a good reason. They do rotate out often, so when you visit, you might get different versions. We tried a vegetarian empanada (top) filled with kale, spinach, ricotta, pine nuts, and garlic. The pastry crust is buttery, flaky, and puffy, and the filling is like a creamy pesto with a garlicky bite at the end. I could probably eat ten of them in one sitting, and maybe someday, I will. By myself, because I'm a total loser.

The meat empanada (bottom) is filled with ham, cheddar, and horseradish, and it isn't nearly as good as the vegetarian empanada. The filling is dominated by the horseradish flavor, making the cheese and ham difficult to detect. In theory, it's a decent combination, in execution, too much horseradish.


The milanesa sandwich ($13) is a pounded, breaded, and fried pork cutlet, topped with a generous portion of melted provolone, bacon, arugula, tomato, mustard, and mayo. The cutlet is thin, crisp, and easy to bite through (I've had my fair share of chewy ones). And who doesn't love pork-on-pork lovin' with some bacon on top? Overall, it's a respectable sandwich that I salute—with my mouth.


But man, if you guys miss out on the el lomito ($14, +$2 with egg), I will never forgive you. This is one of the best sandwiches I've eaten in a while; it's a grilled beef tenderloin topped with lettuce, tomato, and chimichurri mayo. In my opinion, the egg is totally required as well; the yolk bumps the whole package up to the next level. The beef is juicy and distinctly steaky; the mayo is herby with a punch of garlic; and the egg yolk brings the whole thing home. The bread is ideal for the combination, too, with a chewy crust and soft interior that doesn't fall apart when you eat it. Even though I just had it, I want to run over and eat another one, but that requires putting on pants. Today, no-pants win.

Just so you know, garlic fries are included with each sandwich and you don't need to order them separately, like we did by accident. They're crisp, a little oily, and if you eat enough of them, you'll be able to ward off any close-talkers in the near future.

In conclusion (I haven't finished anything with "in conclusion" at the end since fifth grade), I give La Sirena Clandestina's lunch options three thumbs up. I'm not sure who's thumb is the third one, but I said it, so I'm sticking to it.