Paladar | Restaurant review
In Cuba, the alternative to a state-run eatery is called a paladar, a privately owned restaurant, often run out of someone’s home. It makes sense that Jose Gonzalez named his restaurant after these paladares: This new Logan Square spot has a surplus of warmth and homeyness.
The sign on the whitewashed brick outside calls Paladar a rum bar, and you’d do well to start your meal with a mojito—and even better to start it with the “premium” mojito, which has a deeper, more distinctive flavor from fresh sugarcane juice. But though there’s a designated, and comfortable, bar area up front, Paladar really isn’t a bar. It’s made up of comfortable booths, each one adorned with a small table lamp, and one wall is decorated with china. A note in the bathroom explains that this is a nod to the Cuban custom of giving wedding china to special guests; in any case, it lends the feel of being in someone’s home dining room. It’s an easy, quiet place to sit, and a very satisfying place to eat.
Not so much for the appetizers, which include basic empanadas and tamales, but for the hearty main courses. This is the meatiest Cuban sandwich I’ve ever laid eyes on—in fact, it needed more mustard and pickles to cut through all the bread and pork. The ropa vieja, on the other hand, is perfect as is, rich and comforting, accompanied by sweet caramelized plantains and tender rice, simple proof that sometimes, nothing beats a home-cooked meal. 2115 N Milwaukee Ave (773-252-4747, paladarchicago.com). Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $14.