My parents are both Cuban. They came to the United States in the early 60's and while they never returned to their homeland, the one thing they've never forgotten is how to cook fantastic Cuban cuisine. I grew up with arroz con pollo, croquetas, frijoles negros and the like. The spices and seasonings, the flavors, the aromas of stews and beans and meats cooking for hours on the stove; it has my mouth watering.
While my mom has taught us the recipes and many of my siblings and I can nearly match her dishes, we have only sampled a handful of restaurants north of Miami, Florida to do so.
When I stumbled upon Lulo's Cuban Cafe in the Station Square shopping center of Prairie Crossing, I was thrilled.
Lulo's was the brainchild of Rick Felipez and Hayden Taylor, a brother and sister team who both live in Grayslake. Their parents met while their mother was vacationing in Cuba. While the siblings grew up in the Elgin area, they often visited their father's family members in southern Florida.
Felipez said he and Taylor tossed around the idea of opening a Cuban restaurant for fifteen years before it actually happened. Felipez, a former construction worker, said he was on a job in Prairie Crossing when the customer mentioned a location open in Station Square. Suite 2A at 970 Harris Road was already partially equipped with necessary kitchen appliances. "I knew that spot would work perfectly," he said.
Within months Taylor had quit her job and work began to open Lulo's Cuban Cafe, named after their father.
Felipez said he's worked to get authentic recipes from his relatives in Miami, something at times he and his sister interpret differently. "We had a black bean war between us," Felipez said. "I think mine are the best and she thinks hers are but they're both different." Felipez still won't admit who won, although Taylor is the chef in the kitchen.
I sampled the Cuban sandwich with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese and sliced pickle piled high, flattened in a sanwich press and served fairly warm. (Of course, I added the mustard, a staple on authentic Cuban sandwiches.) The bread was spot-on and the pickles were perfect. If you have ever had a Cuban sandwich at a local diner in southern Florida, you know what I'm talking about.
I also ordered the tostones (deep fried green plantains) and the croquetas (seasoned minced ham and onion, breaded and deep fried). I took these to a family gathering for my mom and brothers to sample. They agreed they were very good.
I'm looking forward to sampling other dishes at Lulo's. The menu lists arroz con pollo, ropa vieja, milanesa and more. And, you can guarantee next time my mom is in town, I'm taking her there so she can taste it herself.
Lulo's Cuban Cafe is open Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. You can also find their complete menu online at luloscubancafe.com.
Have you been to Lulo's? What do you think? Have you tried any other restaurants in town? Tell us what you liked, in the comments section below.