Ariel Zetina’s Top 10 Latin American Restaurants in Chicago
Ariel Zetina’s Top 10 Latin American Restaurants in ChicagoAriel Zetina
The Belizean-American producer is a staple within the LGBTQIA+ scene across both Chicago and the wider electronic music industry.
Born in Belize City, Ariel Zetina was raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and currently resides in Chicago. As a resident of the queer space SmartBar and a regular across venues in the city, the DJ and producer is firmly embedded within Chicago's underground scene. Aside from Chicago, she's gained global recognition in recent years, appearing on Finn and Local Action's Mixtape Club series and releasing her debut album, Cyclorama, via the Local Action in 2022.
For her guide, she pays homage to her heritage by spotlighting the best Latin American eateries in Chicago. There's a particular emphasis on family-owned businesses, and the producer has highlighted the spots that are Black-owned too. Alongside her guide, she's created a club-ready mix for your travels to the Windy City. If you're travelling to Chicago, or a local looking for new restaurants to try, make time for Ariel Zetina's Latin American favourites listed below.
In this Guide
“Belizean restaurants are so rare, and I’m literally so glad I live in one of the only cities in the US with the food I grew up with. Black-owned and family-owned, perfectly authentic dishes, this is the real deal. My go-to order is panades (Belize’s version of empanadas, filled with fish or beans) and Belizean stew chicken (get it with rice and beans – a must), Belizean potato salad and plantains on the side). If you have to go to one place on this list, this is literally not the one to miss!”More Info
“If you’re going to Chicago, please skip the deep dish; original Chicago pizza is thin crust. Chicago-style hot dogs are acceptable, but the real Chicago staple not to miss is the jibarito. Using tostones (fried plantain) instead of bread, this sandwich is a staple of Puerto Rican diasporic cooking in Chicago, and although it is not the inventor of the jibarito (Borinquen in Humboldt Park is, and also amazing), Jibaritos y Más in Logan Square delivers such a deep gastronomical experience that keeps me coming back. My favourite is the shrimp jibarito.”More Info
“This Costa Rican BYOB spot is amazing for groups, especially for vegetarians – the veggie casado is amazing. Really proud of this restaurant for surviving the pandemic and coming out strong on the other side! Costa Rican cuisine is another that is so rare in the world to find and this is, in fact, the only Costa Rican restaurant in Chicago.”More Info
“Sorry, I gotta do another Belizean place. Redz is on the very northern tip of Chicago, closest to the northernmost train station on the Red Line. Another family-owned spot that cannot be beat. My recommendations are the same here (panades, stew chicken), but be sure not to miss my favourite Belizean creation: the meat pie, basically replacing the terrible bland innards of British meat pie and replacing it with jerk turkey. Belize was a British colony until the 80s, the more you know! Don’t miss getting bun either – a raisin sweet bread on the dessert menu. Though I grew up eating it with cheese on it, so try that if you dare.”More Info
“The spot that’s also signed off by my Dominican friends. I used to live near this place and discovered Dominican food through here. Located in the very west of Logan Square off the beaten path, this casual place is a great breakfast or lunch spot. Get the mangu!”More Info
“OK, really, you can’t go wrong anywhere on or near 18th Street in Pilsen – a formerly immigrant Czech neighbourhood but now mostly Mexican American. The staple, 5 Rabanitos, is the most vegetarian-friendly place. Here you can find vegetarian versions of many of the different dishes available at most of the places on or near 18th Street.”More Info
“Also on 18th Street, and my go-to when ordering to-go Mexican. Make sure you’re headed to the correct Los Comales, the one on the corner of 18th and Ashland! I love the milanesa tortas here and also the escabeche on the table, marinated carrots, onions and peppers to top your dishes with (or to eat with chips).”More Info
“I used to have a DJ gig weekly on Mondays at nearby Beauty Bar. This is my most random choice on this, since there are so many good Mexican taquerias all around Chicago, but this is the one that speaks to me most intimately over the years. The chile relleno torta is incredible. Great place to go after drinking with friends in the area. Very little seating so get it to go.”More Info
“When you hear Peruvian food in Chicago, a lot of peoples' minds go to Cabra: the Stephanie Izzard-owned Peruvian rooftop restaurant above the Hoxton in West Loop. While this is good and one of my go-to rooftop spots, the real Peruvian staple is the family-owned, Guy Fieri-approved Taste of Peru on the north side. Rarely a wait, and a true Chicago hidden gem.”More Info
“Known exclusively as the Tamale Guy, anyone who frequents semi-popular late night bars in Chicago knows this man. The husband-wife team runs their business out of a single cooler, which travels from bar to bar serving drunk and hungry patrons. When I see him, I always get one. The best tamales in Chicago. Follow @tamaletracker on Twitter to find the Tamale Guy, but more likely you will run into him, as he somehow always knows where the crowd is. Truly, truly impressive.”More Info