When I first had decided to purchase a condominium in Chicago’s Logan Square, several friends moaned and hissed at my decision. They warned me that I would be shot while putting the key in the front door to enter the building. They foretold omens of me running from bullets and violent gang blowouts. There would be pandemonium, angry little kids putting sailors to shame, cats and dogs smoking hash in pet harmony, and politicians telling the truth. Well, the chaos is in full bloom in the neighbourhood where I fled, but the rest is still wishful thinking. It has been three joyous years of living in Logan Square.
Having recently gone to one of the restaurants for breakfast that is walking distance from where I live, I wanted to go back for dinner so that I could see if the dinner menu was as fantastic as the breakfast menu was. It was. Cafe Con Leche had already proven time and time again that it was a top Cuban restaurant in all of Chicago. And then it expanded to bring life to its partnering restaurant, Cafe De Noche.
I had considered writing up Cafe De Noche in the like manner that I have done for the other ethnic restaurants. And then I decided that I wanted to give it front page coverage, so to speak. Because friends and others had viewed my move to Logan Square as though I was going to Dante’s 25th ring of hell — that being the ring not mentioned in Inferno — I wanted to showcase my community upfront.
Sharing the same space with Cafe Con Leche at 2714 N. Milwaukee Ave., Cafe De Noche is a perfect addition and a welcomed one to Logan Square. The space has a lounge feel to it. During the summer, the front doors may be opened so that a nice breeze may blow through the place. The service is absolutely top and the food is deliciously splendid. Well, splendid may be a bit too stiff. The food is damn good.
I went to the restaurant and took a seat at the bar. It seemed that many hipsters had absolutely no qualms about pulling a bar stool up to the counter and placing their orders. And while I am not a hipster, I clowned with the ones sitting next to me while I ordered shrimp tacos and a margarita. The first margarita came — notice I say first margarita — while I waited for my food and I pulled out the camera. Thou shalt not be a foodie who journals his or her food bliss and not capture the moment with a camera. Now, whenever bars announce that their drinks are half priced or something to the effect of not being full price, the drinks taste like a little bit of water has been added. Not at Cafe De Noche. And I did not even go for some flavoured margarita like a strawberry, apple, chocolate, orange dream sickle, Rachel — okay, so I made up that flavour — or raspberry margarita. The plain one was so damn good.
Then the shrimp tacos came. What a masterpiece I had sitting before me, causing me to drool, causing me to smile, inviting me to gobble them. And I complied before I clicked a few shots to memorialize the feast in advance of devouring it. The shrimp were plump and tasty in a rich tomato sauce on flour tortillas. And I heaved a heavy sigh of exaggerated satisfaction with each bite. The rice was somewhat like New Orleans style dirty rice but without the ground beef. It was so good that it was wrong of me to make such faces of food ecstasy. Add to the dish me having another margarita and the mood was just right.
While polishing off the meal there were several Spanish-speaking customers who came in and sat at the bar: a Puerto Rican, a Venezuelan, and a Cuban. And there was discussion about the influx of all things good in Logan Square, recommendations for other restaurants in the city, and a hope that the Bears would go to the Super Bowl. There was a moment of silence on that last point. I, of course, had another margarita done right and thankful that I had a good amount of food in the belly to soak up the alcohol.
But there apparently was not enough food to my pleasure, for I ordered a dessert, a chocolate bread pudding drizzled with a homemade burnt sugar glaze and a fist of vanilla ice cream on top. Click, click, click of the camera to freeze the scene. Now queue scene with me having utter enjoyment in slow motion. You can see activity and people talking the background, but the scene is silent while I smile with each bite of the bread pudding and scoop of the ice cream. I am also having a moment with a rather large cup of cappuccino and thinking about what my circumstance would have been if I had stayed on Chicago’s South Side where there were weekend shootings across the street from my apartment instead of having moved to Logan Square. I am also thinking of a number: 36, the size of my waistline from eating way too much rich food. And then the Venezuelan disrupts it all by nudging me and reminding me that I am humming “So Amazing” by Luther Vandross a bit loudly. I am now too full to be embarrassed because the bread pudding is for two people to share and I have eaten it all, every last bit of it except for the garnish.
I reflect on my life and while there are some decisions that I have beaten myself up over in the past, my move to Logan Square has turned out to be one that has not resulted in any disappointment. Community. Peace of mind. Restaurants in walking distance, which is most import to a food addict like myself. And Cafe De Noche. For a community that was viewed through such a dark filter, it is the third most heavily populated area in Chicago with outstanding restaurants. Everyday I repeat my mantra: There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. And if you find yourself in Logan Square, welcome.