The lively atmosphere and colorful dining room alone at Carnivale are a draw, but once you try any of the dishes from Chef Rodolfo Cuadro’s menu you’ll be doing shoulder shimmies in your seat. We recommend starting off with the ceviche tasting, where you can pick a selection of three. Make sure to include the mixto that uses an octopus that couldn’t taste any fresher and soaks in the poblano sauce. For your entree there is no wrong choice but we’re partial to arrachera whose chimichurri sauce will have you licking your plate or the ropa vieja, vieja, a drool-worthy concoction of braised veal cheek, sweet plantains, malanga, aji amarilo aioli, and queso fresco. Added bonus? Portions here are big enough that your grandmother wouldn’t dare to offer to serve you any more making it a real bang-for-your-buck dining experience. (702 W. Fulton St., 312-850-5005, reservations)
Ask a Chicagoan to name a BYOB restaurant, and their answer will likely be Tango Sur, a long-standing Lakeview favorite. This authentic Argentine steakhouse offers a dimly lit, cozy interior complemented by flickering candlelight and, of course, tango music, which make it an ideal spot for date night. The food here is meat-centric, to say the least, with dishes such as churrasco and bife Vesuvio. If you’re not looking to chow down on red meat all night, fear not. Their empanadas are among the best in the city and they have vegetarian-friendly items as well. Insider tip: Unlike most BYOB joints, Tango Sur doesn’t charge a corkage fee. We’ll cheers to that! (3763 N. Southport Ave., 773-477-5466)
90 MILES CUBAN CAFE
Featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” Logan Square’s 90 Miles Cuban Cafe is the city’s most popular Cuban restaurant and with good reason. Sandwiches are also king here with a rule-followin9g Cuban along with a pan con bistec, pan con lenchon, and even a frita cubana—can you tell Cubans like sandwiches. The frita cubana is a Cuban burger that is made of ground beef and chorizo and comes topped with the all-important shoestring fries. Don’t miss out. Insider tip: restaurant is BYOB, make sure to bring a bottle of rum or wine to take advantage of their excellent mojito and sangria mixes.
Carnivale is already known for their charcuterie plate, whose selections of cured meats are made in house, but did you know that that the honey accenting them is also made in house? From the hive on their rooftop garden, Chef Rodolfo is able to harvest between 60 and 80 pounds of Mother Nature’s pure sweetness.