By Michael Dritto
Where it’s located: 2890 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-360-7536. LaCeliaChicago.com
The scene: La Celia Latin Kitchen is a comfortable, 50-seat BYOB eatery located in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago. The restaurant is inspired by the flavors of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is made very apparent by the bright and welcoming color palate of its interior. Upon walking in, you are met with a bold and colorful mural decorated with the faces and culture of Latin America that takes up an entire half of the restaurant. Lively colors accent the adjacent walls, helping make the place feel warm and inviting.
Food and drink: La Celia offers a variety of choices from small, tapas-style plates to more filling entrées. We decided to order a medley of items and probably ate a little too much, but here are the favorite dishes that really jumped out to us.
First and foremost, make sure to order some crispy taquitos for the table right out of the gate. The dish can look a little intimidating, as it comes covered with sour cream and salsa verde, but the combination of flavor, crunch and just a little bit of that Latin heat really brought it home for me. It’s definitely something I would insist on ordering during any repeat visit.
There is something about a combination of mango, fish and fresh citrus juices that really creates a euphoric experience for the taste buds.
Perhaps the most interesting dish we ordered was the pulpo a la plancha — grilled octopus mixed with Yukon gold potatoes, onion, tomato and pepper flakes. It comes with a side of tortilla chips and is essentially ceviche made with octopus, which is grilled just to the point of being chewy but not rubbery, and is complemented well by an assortment of flavors. My girlfriend could not stop talking about it.
Of course, this did not stop me from ordering the mango ceviche (probably because I did not realize the similarity of the dishes). Nonetheless, this was hands-down my favorite dish at this restaurant. There is something about a combination of mango, fish and fresh citrus juices that really creates a euphoric experience for the taste buds.
My girlfriend and I then decided to split an order of the churrasco, a grilled skirt steak over yucca fries with rice and beans. The steak was juicy and great, but I was blown away by how good the beans were (mostly because I generally do not care for beans). But these were so good, I helped myself to multiple servings.
We finished it off with some mango cheesecake. Which was good. Because it was mango cheesecake. And if that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then I guess you can try their coconut flan. But, again. Mango. Cheesecake.
We’ll be back because: The food was so good, and the atmosphere is vibrant and welcoming. I think it goes without saying that if you are a fan of Latin food, you will enjoy this spot. And if you aren’t, La Celia may just change your mind. And don’t forget to check out its sister location across the street, Tacos Tequilas.