Feature photo by protoflux
Let’s cut to the chase. I went to Craves Cafe desiring one thing: empanadas. Not any empanadas, but crisp, traditional Argentine empanadas filled with ground beef, chicken or ham and cheese. In Argentina, most restaurants allow the customer to pick whether they want their empanadas fried or baked—-not the case in Chicago. Too often Argentine empanadas are served like fried, heavy bricks turning in your stomach, not at all like the ones I know and love. Then I found hope. I saw her, the Argentine abuelita preparing food inside the kitchen, and I began to feel that Chicago’s empanada scene had a chance.
Craves Cafe is not just an Argentine restaurant. Immediately after I order my empanadas, the server brought my husband and I a basket of tortilla chips with mild and hot salsa. Like they advertise, Craves Cafe is a “with a little of this and a little of that.” They are a mescla of Argentine, Mexican and American food. Their huge menu encompasses steak or chicken milanesa, quesadillas, burritos, tacos, sandwiches, paninis, soups and salads.
A minute after we devoured the tortilla chips, my empanadas appeared wrapped in foil. I slowly unwrapped the ham and cheese empanada, took a bite and smiled. Finally, it has happened. Chicago has a place to enjoy empanadas. Craves Cafe boasts twelve varieties of empanadas ranging from traditional (ground beef, hard-boiled egg and green olives) to more unique combinations like Roquefort cheese and onions in béchamel sauce with chimichurri on the side.
After lunch we enjoyed coffee with a fresh alfajor (a vanilla cookie stuffed with dulce de leche). The unbelievable alfajor was the size of my palm and only $1.75. Without a doubt, Craves Cafe raises the city’s expectations of coffee shop food.
Do you like Craves Cafe? Or do you spend hours contemplating empanadas? Let Gozamos know your innermost thoughts in the comments section. . .
4431 N Milwaukee Ave (Jefferson Park)
Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday 7 a.m.-7 p.m.