Most Chicagoans know that if they desire Puerto Rican cuisine, Division Street is where they should head. Once you drive between the metal flags flying over that street, west of Western Avenue and east of California, you are in what is termed “Little Puerto Rico.” But do suburbanites have to make the trip all the way down to the city? Not any more! All they need to do is travel to Highwood, a town that is filled with restaurants and has been for eons. A long time ago, when most of the North Shore was “dry” (no liquor served), Highwood flourished being the first spot where one could get that drink with dinner. Many dining spots opened and to this day, the city of Highwood is where almost any type of food one could desire is available. Until recently, the missing type – Caribbean.
This is no longer the case with the opening of El Buren located at 331 Waukegan Avenue, the main street after Green Bay and home to many fine-dining spots. Under the direction of Beatriz Rodriguez and her husband, the flavors of Puerto Rico are now attainable on the North Shore. They opened just a few weeks ago.
We started our dinner with homemade chips made of taro roots with zesty salsa to get us in the mood. For our appetizers/apertitivos, we selected the Tostones Rellenos, four fried green plantains. Each had a unique stuffing; shredded beef, shrimp, octopus and meat. All tasty with no extra heat. The Calamar Frito with its remoulade dipping sauce was moist and juicy. Although we knew it was fried, it did not have the dry feeling that frying can produce. In fact, it was very tasty and the sauce was fantastic. Maria, our server, was very knowledgeable with the menu and made sure that we knew what to expect as we placed our food order. We shared the El Buren Salad – Romaine lettuce, red onions, chunks of mango, orange segments, avocado, candies walnuts, topped with a homemade guava vinaigrette. We opted not to add either the chicken or the shrimp and still found this to be enough for the four of us (and we took some home).
The portions and the presentations at El Buren are beautiful to look at and enough to share. Since the Caribbean is near water, we probably should have done more fish/seafood than steaks, but the steaks looked so good. For our meat, we ordered the Bistec a La VeraCruzana, a skirt steak served with white rice, black beans and plantains. The Veracruz Sauce is extremely flavorful. The Bone in Rib-eye steak called the Chuleton De Res was a far better choice of meat and the guava sauce truly made this a solid choice. The chicken choice was Pollo JamaiQuino, Jamaican Jerk Chicken served with white rice, black beans and sweet plantains with a fresh mango salsa that has a bit of a kick to it, but a nice “kick” and a taste we all found enjoyable.
As for their fish/pescado selection, the three main courses are red snapper options, shrimp items along with a seafood stew and our favorite choice, the Arroz Con Mariscos; rice cooked with coconut oil, saffron, white fish, shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari and octopus. This is an amazing and flavorful dish that is perfect for a seafood lover. In fact, when we return,
I am pretty sure that I will have this as my entrée (and not have to share with anyone!). FYI – they do have some items on the menu for kids, so you can take the whole family (chicken fingers, mac-cheese, sliders).
Our dessert choice was the Angel’s Cheesecake – a homemade cake of three flavors: a layer of chocolate, another of pomegranate and of course the vanilla, with a dynamite crust. The other choice was one of my favorites, flan, and their version of this coco custard and caramel sauce was as tasty as I have ever had. These desserts were to “die for.”
For the record, for those of you who know your Puerto Rican specialties, they do have Chuleta “Kankan,” a Puerto Rican pork chop surrounded by the pork rind, marinated in garlic, cilantro and other island spices, then fried and cooked to perfection with a crispy edge. This does take 25 minutes, so you might want to order this when you are doing the appetizers. They also have sandwiches, including the “Cubano” (pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard served on French bread and then pressed – they looked fantastic! Next time, for sure!
El Buren is located in Highwood at 331 Waukegan Avenue and their phone number is 847-780-3310
Hours are 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. and then again 5 p.m.- 10 p.m. Monday thru Thursday
On Fridays and Saturdays, the “dinner hours” change to 5 p.m.- 2 a.m.
They are closed on Sundays, and as of yet, there is no website. Street parking is readily available.