Since its founding in 1833, Chicago has been a final destination for “American dream” seekers from all over the world, and thanks to that, today locals can find themselves crossing international borders simply by strolling through three Northwest neighborhoods.
At the intersection of North Sacramento Avenue and West Lyndale Street, a small piece of Cuban culture lies inside a local corner store. Tropi Cuba is a grocery store and restaurant that serves traditional Cuban sandwiches. But that’s not where the menu ends.
Tropi Cuba offers an array of varieties ranging from the traditional “ropa vieja” platter, that includes white rice, black beans and shredded beef, to tacos. The menu even includes an entire section devoted to Cuban-Chinese options.
Owner, Andres Morales, started a business in Cuba and eventually sought out to begin one in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood 11 years ago.
“We have a choice for everybody,” says Morales of his unique menu.
Only a few miles down Fullerton Avenue in Belmont-Cragin, is restaurant El Azteca, 5011 W. Fullerton Ave. El Azteca serves Mexican food to patrons looking to leave without an empty stomach. As seated, El Azteca welcomes its guests with complimentary soup.
This won over the hearts of the Sanchez family. Upon their second visit to the restaurant, the family of two daughters and their father agreed that the great-tasting soup is what prompted their quick return.
“Having a little piece of home (Mexico) here in Chicago really encourages me to come and share a meal with my daughters,” says Sanchez, “I can spend quality time with them.”
Over in the neighborhood of Hermosa at Ponce Restaurant, 4312 W. Fullerton Ave., customers find themselves feeling like they are on the island itself. The vibrant authentic Puerto Rican artwork hangs over a backdrop of bright red walls. The smell of fried foods overpowers the small crowded space. As customers stand in lines almost out the door and in search of a vacant table, Ponce Restaurant owners and workers have no time to spare.
“Noon is the busiest time here in the restaurant,” says Yelitza, manager of Ponce, as she makes serving, taking orders and ringing up simultaneously look effortless.