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New York, New York
January 10, 2007
From journal Chicago for Lunch
November 8, 2005
Our first meal in Chicago was a Saturday lunch at Cafe Iberico, 739 North LaSalle. It had been one of my favorite restaurants during college, and once I ate so much that I got "food drunk" and couldn’t drive home. I’m not sure if it’s my memory or the restaurant that has gone bad, but the restaurant looked decidedly less impressive than what I remembered. During my evening visits in college, Café Iberico had been festive and hopping; now in the daytime it looked large, empty, and more than a little dingy.
While we checked out the menu, the waitress brought us a fairly unimpressive loaf of French bread that we halfheartedly began to eat. Cafe Iberico is a tapas restaurant, so Maya and I decided on four dishes to share between us. The first to arrive was a plate of spicy potatoes, "Patatas Bravas" for $4.25. Our first thought upon receiving this dish was how large a serving it was for tapas, but we rationalized that what the restaurant lacked in quality perhaps they made up for in quantity. Second up was grilled salmon in a green sauce, "Salmon Pimienta" for $6.25. This dish was also very large, and actually felt more like a full entree than a side dish, especially since it was served with a side of its own--more potatoes. The salmon was crispy and well-seasoned, but again, nothing remarkable. We split the dish, and by this time, were already both full, but in the spirit of vacation, we vowed to indulge ourselves and continue eating.
The third dish to be served was grilled calamari, "Calamares Plancha" for $4.50. It’s seldom that restaurants offer grilled rather than fired calamari, but the lemon and garlic dressing made this a good choice. After the potatoes, salmon, and calamari had all been sampled, our waitress finally brought out what would have probably worked better as an appetizer, warm goat cheese or "Queso Cabra" for $5.75. The goat cheese, although floating in too much thin tomato sauce, was itself pungent and creamy and a good complement to the pesto toasted bread that accompanied the dish.
Even after all that food, we still craved something sweet to cap the meal, and because each tapas dish had been fairly inexpensive, we still had room in our budget (if not our bellies) to try a dessert. We chose a caramel-chocolate flan, "Flan Chocolate" for $3.25, and managed to eat most of it.
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Café Iberico is that we were able to wash down all the above with a carafe of red sangria for just $6.95. The sangria was in itself nothing special, but it was plenty refreshing after our long train ride and certainly worth the price.
From journal A Return Trip to Chicago
March 29, 2002
The location is only a bit removed from the frenzy of the Magnificent Mile, situated six small blocks west of Michigan Avenue. If you want to avoid a wait for dinner, try to show up a bit before 6pm or after 8pm. Otherwise, try to make a reservation, or just enjoy hanging around the crowded bar area with television programs beamed in from Spain. This place can be quite loud, but not in a bad way.
A pitcher of fruity sangria is a good way to start your dining experience. You will get a basket of fresh bread, which is great with olive oil. The menu has many selections of cold and hot tapas, daily specials, and terrific desserts. The selections can be quite varied, but all are delicious. On a given day you can have lamb, rabbit, shellfish, or other "exotic" dishes. Order a couple, and if you are still hungry order a few more! I have been here many times and the food has never disappointed me. Definitely save room for dessert, with a range of favorites like creme catalan, flan, and caramalized banana. The service is fine, with the occasional waiter trotting out about six dishes on each arm.
From journal Bill at home in CHICAGO - Dining
Kansas City, Missouri
February 21, 2002
From journal My Kind of Town