Being a vegetarian, I cannot tell you if the South Loop’s Cafecito is a place to get a good cubano sandwich. Many people would even wonder why I would try to review a place with a culture so heavily based on a perfectly made ham sandwich. Well, I’m here to say that while I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the traditional cubano, I can say that their Jardin sandwich is probably one of the better all-vegetable sandwiches I’ve eaten.
But before I discuss the food, let me tell you about the ultimate reason to venture down to Congress and Wabash: the hot chocolate and the cafecito. Without any hyperbole in my heart, I am not afraid to say Cafecito’s Hot Chocolate may be THE GREATEST HOT CHOCOLATE IN THE WORLD.
Sweet to the point of no return, using only whole milk, and with hints of cinnamon, vanilla and almond, the drink is the perfect type of cold weather comfort beverage. When I spoke with the owner he told me his original plans were to shave chocolate fresh, but realized his customers could get antsy waiting for that kind of service. Instead he searched around for everything he was looking for but in a hot chocolate mix.
The cafecitos are small, but priced accordingly. It was 1.59 for a double cafecito. The best part was that it held the bitter of the coffee, yet was incredibly sweet thanks to the tablespoon of sugar used in each cup; a perfect mix for someone like me who still can’t quite get past the coffee taste of coffee.
Katie went with the traditional cubano, a pressed sandwich full of pork, ham, swiss, pickles and mustard. Sans pickle (because as stated previously they are of the devil) the sandwich earned several orgasmic eye rolls and a couple thumbs up along the way from her. And she’s not alone, Time Out Chicago has voted it the best Cuban sandwich in town.
You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t get a Jardin sandwich either. Pressing the vegetables still cooks them evenly, but saves them the terrible fate that suffers most veggie sandwiches: tasting like grill. The individual flavors of the eggplant, roasted peppers, arugla, mushrooms, mozzarella and jalapeno hummus actually get a chance to do their jobs to a delicious end. My only complaint is that I would have preferred a little more hummus to ramp up the spice a degree or two.
Cafecito also offers nearly a dozen types of salad to go along with your sandwich, from caprese to hearts of palm. All come in a generous portion for the price. The hearts of palm salad had a little too much vinegar for my tastes, but I’ve always had more of a sweet tooth.
What may be the best thing that Cafecito has going for it though is the friendliness of its owner, Philip Ghantous. He took the time to not only explain his drinks to us, but also his pastries. He originally forgot my salad, apologizing profusely, letting us know that his parents had just stopped in causing his brain “to forget how to work.”
With affordable prices, perfect for the college area location it resides in, friendly service, and good food, Cafecito has earned a couple repeat customers. And I’d like to think that my reward for walking down to the South Loop is that delicious hot chocolate and it’s unhealthy caloric intake.
26 E. Congress Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60605