May St. Cafe: Eclectic Latino Food at its Best
Every so often, I ask you to just trust me on something. Remember the Mock Deep-Fried Chickpeas and the Bacon Sandwich I recommended so highly? They sounded weird at first, but they are in fact fabulous and many of you wrote in to tell me you tried them and agreed. This time I’m asking you to trust me on a restaurant. Why do you need to trust me? Well, this restaurant is totally off the beaten path in a neighborhood that’s known to be somewhat dicey. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the dishes being prepared inside its walls are pure heaven. So trust me on this one…you will want to pay a visit to the May St. Café. It is one of my new favorites.
May St. Café specializes in what they call “gourmet eclectic Latino food.” It’s food from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and other Latin lands, with some eclectic American thrown in.
May St. Café is bright on the outside and boasts a sophisticated, yet minimalist, feel on the inside. Tables are adorned with wooden bead placemats and simple votives. A flower arrangement in the corner consists of a few dried stems in a clear glass vase. The real focal point in the dining room is the open kitchen where you can see Executive Chef Mario Santiago and his small staff whip up all their dazzling creations.
There were so many great dishes on the menu that choosing was a challenge. For my first course, I selected one of the daily specials, Crème de Chayote y Maiz with Grilled Shrimp. This was a somewhat creamy soup made from a sweet, fruit-like potato native to Mexico. This soup was outrageous. Creamy, yet not too rich. Sweet, but subtle. Full of flavor and completely unique.
Win chose a mango salad for his first course. This salad had an interesting sweet dressing, goat cheese, and delicious dried mango. It was really fresh with flavors that popped. Win loved every bite.
Next we decided to share the Double Cream Brie and Pear Quesadillas. These were so delicious. As you can see from the photo above, they were served with sour cream and what I believe was adobo sauce. The Brie and pears were perfect together and the quesadilla was outstanding on its own. Dip it in the spicy sauce and the dish went to another whole level though. Great flavor complements and contrasts.
For my main course, I selected another daily special. The Corbia with a White Wine and Fig Shallot Sauce was excellent. According to our server, corbia is a white fish similar to sea bass. The presentation of this dish was gorgeous and the fish moist, flavorful and accompanied by so many tasty side dishes, including beans, rice, grilled pineapple, tomatoes and other assorted vegetables.
For his entrée, Win selected Pork with Spices from Puerto Rico. He also ordered a side of Chipotle Potatoes, pictured above with the pork. The pork won him over immediately with its unique flavor and he loved the spice of the potatoes.
May St. Café is BYOB and there is a $3.00 corkage fee. We enjoyed our dinner with one of our favorite reds, a 1998 Borgo Scopeto Chianti. Two waitresses managed the small dining room themselves the entire night, tag teaming quite well. Service was efficient, friendly and down to Earth.
Too full for dessert, we walked around the neighborhood after dinner. Everything you read about Pilsen, the neighborhood May St. is in, makes it sound somewhat dangerous at night. We found the neighborhood to be fine when we were there. Lots of friendly families were out socializing on their front steps and the few stores that were open late seemed to be doing a good business. There isn’t much to see around May St., but the food alone is worth a visit to this true gem off the beaten path.
May St. Café
1146 W. Cermak
Chicago, IL 60608
Web Site: http://www.maystcafe.com
Next time At Our Table: A small misunderstanding about some brownies