Thursday, May 13, 2004

What's My Obligation to a New Restaurant/What Took Me So Long

Rather quickly, the space next to Armarind on North Avenue near Oak Park Avenue went from for lease, to coming soon, to open as Cafe LaGuardia West. There is actually a Cuban place a few more blocks west, Cafe Cubano, but there is something about this place that turns me off. The portions seem small, the food misses grease, something. Cafe LaGuardia seemed in my memory, to be rather base, more urban, more real, more what I wanted. Cafe LaGuardia West opened for business on Monday.

The Condiment Queen had the great idea to get there early. They would remember us. It would help going forward as they knew us as their FIRST customers. Unfortunately, I am not so sure if we will be repeat customers. I wanted a Cuban sandwich. I specifically asked for no mayo, not a big deal, but one that mattered to my sensibilities. Of course, the sammy came mayo'd. After about 10 minutes, my re-do arrived. I ate about 1/2 when I realized the sandwich was bad, really bad. It was not just the bread, dense, bland Gonnella that works awfully for these things.

A Cuban sandwich, of course, is one of those things that rises above its ingredients, the sum is greater from the press. Still, there is a harmony a magic from those simple ingredients when they all get smooshed. So, when the sandwich tasted that bad. I got curious. I broke the seal and peeked inside. No roast pork. I was eating a sandwich of (very) cheap ham, and overly melted cheese--I believe the sandwich might have been pressed and then nuked or vice-a-versa as the cheese was way different than the meat. After a bit of consternation from Cafe LaGuardia, they decided to free us with no obligation to pay.

Normally, when I eat really bad food, I lose my appetite. For a few moments I did. Yet, soon hunger returned, hunger for another (and better) Cuban sandwich. I decided to give that Cafe Cubano another shot. Could not be worse right? Well, closed. Now, really jonesing for a cubano, I decided to hit the place I've seen many a times, Cafe Prado in Maywood.

A small counter and stool kind of place that you would very much expect to see in the keys or Miami, but in Maywood. I mean it really looks right. Yet a combination of odd hours (or so it seems) and the fact that Maywood never seems like the place you wind up looking for lunch options kept me from actually fulfilling my desire.

Know what. The sandwich was better but only marginally. It still used the same dull bread, but it did have pork and hence worked a whole better. Still, what an infinitely cool place. Beyond that small counter, in fact past an almost forbidding door, stood a good sized dining room. A rec-room decorated room totally un-apparent from the street. It reminded me of the tents in Harry Potter. Outwardly this looked like nothing, within you seemed to be in a 60's era basement (on ground level). The menu contained all sorts of Cuban standards. What really convinced me that I need to return soon is the fact that the menu lists blanks where the prices should be for the various items. See, while the menu lists a lot of stuff, on any given day, only what the cook decided to make is there. My thoughts exactly.

I do not have the addresses for any of these places. Cafe LaGuardia West is on North Avenue just west of Oak Park Avenue. Cafe Cubano is on North near Johnnies in Elmwood Park and El Prado is on Lake Street just west of 5th Avenue in Maywood.

Monday, May 10, 2004


I've been pretty happy with the whole blog process, even if SethZ's stepped in a few times to fancy things up (to the extent that anything is fancied up on my blog). Google purchased Blogger a while back, and they finally made some upgrades (maybe?) in the enterprise. Read about it here.