Fluent City is new to Chicago, and to celebrate we’ve rounded up some of the best Spanish and Latin American restaurants in the city. Below are some our new favorites – let us know what we’ve missed in the comments below!
Opened in 1985, Ba-Ba-Reeba was Chicago’s first tapas restaurant, making it a city classic. It’s on our list because the tapas served here tastes just like you’d get in Spain. The spot has a spacious outdoor area, making it perfect for big groups – as does the sangria on tap (choose from six different flavors!).
What to order: Seafood paella and the white peach sangria
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
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Looking for something a little more hip? Black Bull is where it’s at. With its candy apple exterior, and casual bar vibes, this place is perfect for a couple of drinks, or your next date night. The spot is known for high quality ingredients and a fusion between classic Spanish flavors and more contemporary techniques. We recommend coming by for a long Spanish style dinner with lots of tapas and great conversation. Spain’s known for their special take on gin tonics, and you can try three different styles at this spot. Once you’re done with dinner, head up to Bordel – the burlesque bar hidden upstairs.
What to order: Bacalao con Pisto Manchego (the chef’s favorite!) and a stiff gin tonic cocktail
Neighborhood: Wicker Park
For something south of the border, Mi Tocaya is a cool new spot by Chicago native, chef Diana Dávila, which opened earlier this year. The spot has become a local hangout thanks to the inviting atmosphere, bright pops of color and Dávila’s inspired dishes that go way beyond the tacos that originally caught our eye.
What to order: Guacamole sprinkled with chile seed “ash”, peanut butter y lengua and all of the tacos
Neighborhood: Logan Square
El Che Bar
Built into the old Checker Taxi space is chef John Manion’s “love letter to his time travelling in Argentina”. The space stands out thanks to the unassuming entrance, great food and buzzing atmosphere. We recommend the filet “Dada” named for one of our favorite restaurants in Buenos Aires. Time Out also lists it (and Mi Tocaya!) as one of Chicago’s most Instagrammable restaurants, if you’re looking for something new for your feed!
What to order: Grilled oysters and your favorite steak
Neighborhood: West Loop
Ever tried Costa Rican food? This cheap and cheerful little gem will make you a fan in no time. The restaurant’s motto is Pura Vida, meaning no worries, no regrets and no stress. It’s on our list (and should be on yours too) because the food is great, and it makes the most of both their great patio space and Chicago’s BYO liquor laws. So bring your appetite and favorite hard liquor to mix with a pitcher of their watermelon and lime juice. The portions here are big, and the crowd gets lively. We already know you’re going to have a great time!
What to order: Chifrijo to start and then the pepito sandwich, finishing with the oatmeal shake (it’s better than it sounds we swear!)
Created in part by chef Gastón Acurio (owner of Astrid y Gastón in Peru, one of the world’s best restaurants), Tanta makes our list thanks to the fun and casual setting, and the delicious food. A country known for it’s diversity thanks to high immigrant populations from countries like China, Japan, Spain and Italy, Peru is a cultural melting pot – and that’s reflected in the food. At Tanta you’ll find sashimi style ahi tuna in passionfruit tigre de leche, and pork fried rice covered with a shrimp omelette. It’s a great place to pretend you’re in South America, Pisco sour in hand, without leaving home.
What to order: One of the six cebiche options (or the tasting plate if you can’t choose!), pobre niguiri and the chaufa aeropuerto
Neighborhood: North Lake
Looking for something a little more wallet friendly? This family owned spot now has three locations, and we can definitely understand their success! Our recommendation is order the Atotonilco taco (the only acceptable time to put sour cream on a taco in our opinion!), but the place is famous for the traditionally prepared al pastor.
What to order: We love Atotonilco for the tacos, but the tortas are really great too. Either way, you need to try the licuado fresa (strawberry milkshake) here stat!
Neighborhood: Little Village
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Last but not least, we love this little empanada and coffee shop – and they’ve just opened a second location, so looks like Chicago does too! The original space is about 400 square feet, but hard to miss thanks to the brightly painted exterior and neon sign in the window. The space is full of Latin themed art by local artists and vintage toys for sale.
What to order: The menu changes daily, but we love the chicken verde and the crowd favorite – black beans, plantains and goats cheese! The coffee is great here too – try the coconut iced latte
Neighbourhood: Lakeview and Avondale
Now that we’ve got you hungry, we’d love to meet you! Why not brush up on your Spanish with us? Fluent City offers Spanish classes for all levels