Rapidito Colombian Gourmet Bites

Rapidito

After a recent excursion to a rather fantastic Spanish restaurant in Chicago’s Lakeview, my restaurant advisor and I noted a Colombian restaurant on the landscape east of where we had experienced a wow factor in coastal Spain dining. What was once a dessert cafe is now Rapidito, at 1855 W. Diversey Parkway, dishing up  authenticity and not as an attempt.

Arepa Blanca

Arepa Blanca

Taking advantage of an early lunch during the weekend, I opted for my first trip to be for a sampling of a few items. Not like many of the Colombian steakhouses dotted throughout the Chicago landscape, Rapidito places emphasis on street food. There were traditional items like pinchos and arepa, the latter being an influence from Venezuala, along with empanadas, and surprisingly Colombian style hot dogs on the menu.

To kick my appetite into gear, I started with an arepa blanca. Topped with cheese, this Venezuelan influence hit the spot. Slightly buttery, it was nice to be able to taste the cheese on the arepa, which reminded me of chihuahua cheese.

Arepa de Choclo

Arepa de Choclo

Having enjoyed the arepa blanca, I also tried the arepa de choclo, which was also topped with cheese. This was an item that I will return and buy in bulk. The sweet corn in the arepa recipe provided a natural sweetness that would make this a favourite for morning breakfast, an afternoon snack, and a side with dinner.

The two final street food items I had were choripapas and a plate of steak and chicken pinchos. The chorizo bites, chopped eggs, and creole potatoes with housemade creamy sauce were first-rate. And the steak and chicken pinchos served with a tomatillo sauce and small Andean baked potatoes on the ends of the skewers also get high marks for the meat being juicy and flavourful without being overly seasoned.

Pinchos: Steak and Chicken

Pinchos: Steak and Chicken

Although not in an area with a lot of foot traffic, there were numerous patrons coming and going. When there is authenticity in food, there usually is a constant lure to an establishment and Rapidito certainly draws an ongoing flow of individuals whose palates enjoy good Colombian eats. As this was my first visit, I can say definitively that I will return for a tasting  of several other menu items and certainly for a batch of arepas de choclo.

Rapidito Colombian Gourmet Bites Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wrap It Up, I’ll Take It

Bombay Wraps

The Chicago Blackhawks hockey team won the Stanley Cup. That meant Chicago was in the throes of a huge celebration and downtown was teeming with red jerseys, drunken presentations, and suburbanites who were acting as though they had never seen skyscrapers before.

“Wow, look at those buildings. They’re so tall. They go way up into the sky.”

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

And since the weather was nice outside and majority of the parade spectators were lingering around until the after-work rush hour, that meant public transportation was going to be a wild and packed ride for the few stops I take to get home. So, I lingered around downtown a little longer and wandered over to a certain Indian café that really gets me going with a smile.

Bombay Wraps at 122 N. Well Street in the Loop is a sparkling hole in the wall that server some really, really tasty street food. There are seats inside, but mostly when I’ve gone, which was during noon, the place has been filled such that you get your food to go. They close around 6:00 PM through the week, but stay open late on Fridays. Well, since people who work downtown go home or as far away from their job locations as possible, I figured I would get something quick from Bombay Wraps and call it a wrap.

Samosas and Cilantro Chutney

Samosas and Cilantro Chutney

Samosas with cilantro chutney. Potato tava wrap. Chicken tikka wrap. Mango lassi.

I sat outside and worked those samosas over with the casualness of a dignified brute. I love that the samosas are bite size rather than the size of a fist. Don’t get me wrong, as I smile with rapture any time I get a delicious samosa, be it large or small. But these, for some reason, are perfect. So flaky and bursting with potatoes and peas, it would be hard to even pretend like they do nothing for me.

Potato Tava

Potato Tava

The potato tava that came with curried mashed and chunky potatoes in a chapati wrap starts my rocket every time. I get it with spicy cilantro chutney and red onions – the latter to fend off pests, but me brushing my teeth and negates the effects of the onions. My rocket shoots straight for the stars with the chicken tikka wrap every time. The spicy sauce and red onions on the chicken tikka wrap really accents the dish with a kick that keeps me coming back to Bombay Wraps. And the pre-made mango lassi works beautifully as an all-natural drink. No high fructose corn syrup in my drink, please. I guess you could say that I am as fascinated with Bombay Wraps as the suburbanites are with wringing their necks looking up at the buildings on the downtown skyline.

Chicken Tikka

Chicken Tikka

I love going to full service Indian restaurants because it is a guarantee that the food is worthy of the visit. This whole concept of Indian street food is nothing new to me, having had it in surplus while visiting in Bangalore, Delhi, and Sri Lanka. I would make a wild statement about there needing to be more, but with the proliferation of Middle Eastern restaurants and all of them having the Chipotle assembly line technique to food preparation – and food quality a few notches below okay – I shall bite down hard and accept Bombay Wraps as “the” place to go for worthwhile street goodies.

To quote the Fabulous Thunderbirds from years ago: Wrap it up, I’ll take it.

Bombay Wraps on Urbanspoon

Loving the Whole Brazilian Food Experience

Brazilian Bowl

When you have lived in Chicago, Illinois, for eighteen years, there are a few things that you do not take for granted. The traffic is not easy on those of us who drive manual shift cars. You really do not need a car living in the city proper. People go on red and stop on green. The temperatures do not warm up until mid to late June, albeit there will be a few days of teasingly warm temperatures between February and May. It’s the latter that makes me hanker for being able to split my time between Chicago during the warmer months and Brazil during the rest of the year. I can dream, though. And I can also go to one of several Brazilian restaurants in the city when I need something to put me in the mind of being in a warmer climate like that of Brazil. And on a certain frosty evening after work, I met up with a friend in Chicago’s Lakeview at Brazilian Bowl at 3204 N. Broadway. Well, since I can’t get to Brazil the way I would like, the alternative is accepting the fact that a bit of Brazil has come to Chicago.

Steak Bowl

Brazilian Bowl is a relatively small cafe that has a few high tables and a lot of character as far as the Lakeview scene goes. I had gone twice in 2012 shortly after the cafe had opened. They were still in the throes of finding their place. Many kinks had to be ironed out and with crowds pouring it, I am sure they were biting down really hard while having to entertain long lines of customers heaving exaggerated sighs. Much has settled since and it was time to return for another sampling of something traditional. For me, I ordered a Brazilian lemonade, a coxinha, and a feijoada. My friend ordered a steak bowl and a flan.

Flan

Japanese do it well. Mongolians do it well. Koreans do it incredibly well. Now, it is apparent that Brazilians do it equally well. The steak bowl is not just some concoction thrown into a bowl as though someone is coming up with their own version of goulash. My friend had commented briefly that it was doing the trick and after seeing that he had polished the whole dish off with very little conversation, I was not going to argue with his assessment. Steak, corn, carrots, mushrooms, cheese, and rice joined forces to do their wicked bidding on his taste buds and he smiled. And I knew there certainly was no denying that the flan he had bought was worthy of the comment, “Oh, wow, ‘this’ is really, really good.” The steak bowl and the flan will be two items that I will have to be certain to add to my list when I return.

CoxinhaAs for me, I had ordered two of the more well-known traditional dishes — coxinha and feijoada. The coxinha was a huge tear drop pastry filled with chicken, corn, and some spices that went over very well. This falls more in line with street food, such that you can walk around with it and eat it from your hands, no utensils required. The feijoada was a bowl of rice, black beans, sausage, ham hocks, and greens mineira style was worthy. After a few scoops of the feijoada, it was quite clear that Brazilian Bowl is the second Brazilian cafe in Chicago to prepare the dish the way that I remember from my trip to Salvador Bahia. There was a lot more authenticity in the flavouring than what I have had in some small Brazilian cafes scattered throughout the United States. The Brazilian lemonade was, hands-down, the real thing. It’s not a failed attempt and fancy packaging. Only at Taste of Brasil have I had it authentically and now Brazilian Bowl matches the wow in the flavour exactly. The balance of tart and sweetness as well as the creamy consistency tell it all.

Feijoada

There are two other Brazilian restaurants in Chicago that I love to frequent — Taste of Brasil and Sabor Express. After the most recent visit to Brazilian Bowl and seeing that they have settled into a fantastic routine, I now can say that there is a third Brazilian cafe that I will frequent. I love the big box eateries like Fogo de Chão, Texas de Brazil, Sal y Carvao, Brazzaz, and the like, but there are times when you want something that puts you in the streets and along the beaches where the flavours reach out to you and tempt you to try what’s being prepared for your culinary delight. Hmm. Maybe sticking it out through the cold temperatures in Chicago isn’t so bad. Yes, I can dream of being in Brazil where it’s warm. Some delicious food from Brazilian Bowl will help me have clearer visions when I do start to dream.

Brazilian Bowl on Urbanspoon