Last night I dreamed that I went to some friends’ house for a dinner party. Then there was this great snow storm coming and everyone was rushing to leave in advance of the angry weather — including the hosts. Considering I had stuffed myself with food and drink during our Christmas party at work and then went on a date after work to Tre Kronor for their Christmas buffet, dreaming of eating more food should have never entered my subconscious. To make the whole scenario even more unbelievable, I awoke with a ravenous appetite. Grrr! Yes, my appetite is out of control and when the belly starts to growl, I comply and feed the monster. I am an obedient slave to my hunger.
Fortunately for me, my neighbourhood in Chicago is fast becoming a magnet for the young, the hip, the artistic, the professional, the thinker, the culturally aware, the progressive, and all good things. What used to be deemed as a danger zone has now become one of the top hottest spots to live and hang out in Chicago. Of course, the presence of fine dining makes its way on to the list of attributes that raise a community to great heights on the list of top neighbourhoods to seek. Within walking distance of my home is a Cuban restaurant called Cafe Con Leche at 2714 N. Milwaukee Ave. And oh what a happy day it is — hmmm, everyday actually — when I can walk a short distance to some fantastic dining in my community, even in temperatures below 20 ° Fahrenheit.
It had been over a years since I last went to Cafe Con Leche and I was quite surprised at how what was a little hole in the wall has morphed into a rather large eatery. Instead of just Cafe Con Leche, the addition is now De Noche. In the past, I had gone in for jibaritos, a cup of café con leche, and torta milanesas. Never had I taken the time to sit and enjoy my food because I was getting it for take-away and dashing on my way to whatever destination was on my schedule. This Saturday morning, I decided it would be a fantastic time to enjoy a slice of my community without merely passing through it.
Upon entering, I opted to sit in the original section of the restaurant. With only four tables in the area, I felt like I was in the old spot — nostalgia. I took a seat by the window so that I could people-watch individuals traipsing through frigid temperatures and so that I could, of course, get some shots of my food with one of my trusty cameras. And while I glanced over the menu, I had a cup of café con leche. ¡Dios mios! Si, hay un dio. I was always pleased with the café con leche I got in the past, but today it was so reminiscent of the cups I drank of it in Havana and in Miami. As I sit in Starbucks typing up this journal entry, I feel a pang of betrayal to my sensibilities for not being at Café Con Leche instead having another cup of their delight. But I shall be okay about that for now.
In between trying to decide what I wanted to gobble, I took a moment to snap a few photos of my cup of coffee. While being ever so involved in the photography, the owner walked over to my table to welcome me. Sweet. With me clicking away using my fancy-schmancy camera, he asked if I was a photographer, to which I replied that I do photography on the side to keep from being fitted for a straight jacket. After a moment of laughter, I asked about the expansion of the restaurant. Having recognized that Logan Square was growing and lots of people were flocking to the area for dining entertainment, he said that he decided to enlarge the restaurant to accommodate growth. He also went on to explain that the restaurant has a liquor license now, which means that you do not have to bring your own alcohol. Considering the restaurant had started to fill rather early — I went at 9:30 AM — that was an indication of how much things were progressing in a very positive fashion for Café Con Leche.
Daring as usual, and greedy to boot, I ordered two large plates of food for breakfast. I imagined the devil was smiling at my gluttony and preparing a special fire for me to burn in Hell for satisfying my appetite. My first plate was a deviation from my vegetarian palate as I placed an order for a chorizo omelette with avocado and potatoes. Heaven, pure heaven, I say. There was absolutely nothing wrong with indulging myself in such a rapturous plate of satisfaction and in any future weakness, I have a feeling I will be sitting at some table in the restaurant stuffing that very omelette in my mouth again. The second plate of happiness was scrambled eggs with chihuahua cheese and potatoes. Right, as if the omelette was not enough eggs for me, I had another plate of eggs. But it was so good, so very good indeed. All coupled with the cup of café con leche, do not ask me how I ate it all to completion — or where any of the food I eat in excess goes. From the waist up, I looked like the epitome of a composed man. If you had seen my legs under the table doing the rumba, you would have said otherwise. I was decent, nevertheless. I did not lick the plates.
After I had finished downing the two large plates of food and the cup of café con leche, ordering another cup of coffee, and paying for what was an incredibly inexpensive breakfast, I went to the owner to find out a little more about the restaurant’s expansion. Wow! When I saw the other half, I had this great sense of pride although I was not the owner. The addition to the restaurant has a lounge atmosphere, an effect that I think goes over very well among those who appreciate contemporary dining. The restaurant still retained the character of the original part of the eatery, but the new dining area has to be a magnet for anyone with a discriminating palate for Cuban food and a want for gathering with friends or family.
I hope not to have any bizarre dreams about food and disruptions from bad weather or other scenarios that pull you out of your sleep in advance. Logan Square may be bustling with eateries to accommodate the appetite, but I want to take things a little slow. Yes, I say that now while my stomach is growling and I am on the Near North Side with what looks like a rather appealing restaurant across the street. What am I to do about this constant craving? Nothing, Gino, do absolutely nothing but feed the monster.
18 December 2010