24 January 2018

Tucked away on Congress Parkway, between 1000M’s front door and the Art Institute of Chicago, Cafecito is a perfect place for a quick bite after an artistic excursion, where delectable Cuban coffee drinks and sandwiches await.


Cafecito on Congress Parkway near 1000M
Cafecito on Congress near 1000M

Hidden behind the brightly lit planar sculptures that adorn Congress Parkway between the Roosevelt University Auditorium Theatre and the Harold Washington Library, Cafecito is a uniquely bright and open café that offers as much Cuban culture as it does taste. In addition to bringing distinct Cuban coffee and sandwiches to the 1000M neighborhood, Cafecito boasts a full menu of salads and platters, making it friendly to vegetarians and gluten free eaters alike.


Cafecito takes its name from the traditional Cuban-style espresso that richly integrates emulsified sugar into freshly brewed coffee. For both the cafecito and the cortadito, the barista emulsifies sugar in the first sputters of the espresso machine before pouring in the rest of the espresso, resulting in a richly fragrant shot of luxurious coffee. The cortadito combines this signature espresso with lightly steamed milk, creating a lacy but deftly flavored drink.

One of the best espresso spots in the South Loop.
One of the best espresso spots in the South Loop.


Taking the same care with their food as they do with their coffee, Cafecito’s sandwiches are second to none in the Cultural Mile. A critic’s favorite, the Cubano sandwich masters the elusive delicate balance of pickles, roasted pork, ham, Swiss and mustard. Jon Yates of the Chicago Tribune notes that many foodies believe this to be the best Cubano in the city.[1]

Beyond the classical Cubano, you’ll also find the Chivito — extravagantly filled with bacon, steak, ham, mozzarella cheese, lettuce, citrus mayonnaise and a fried egg, and the vegetarian Jardin sandwich — full of eggplant, roasted peppers, mushroom, arugula, mozzarella and jalapeno hummus.

Cafecito’s owner and founder Phillip Ghantous ensures that all the sandwich options are perfectly proportioned, layering ingredients carefully so that sandwiches are heated evenly throughout. Speaking to the Chicago Reader in 2008, Ghantous noted that, “The most important thing to me is you want it be warm on the inside … When it is, that’s when all the flavors come together. That’s why you want that mojo in there. You don’t want to just go off the mustard and the cheese and the juice from the pickle—you want the mojo.”[2]

Sculptures outside Cafecito
Sculptures outside Cafecito


This attention to detail has garnered widespread recognition for Ghantous and Cafecito throughout Chicago. Shortly following its opening in 2008, Cafecito was hailed by Chicago Reader as one of the best restaurants of the year, and has since then grown to become a central part of 1000M’s neighborhood identity.

With street cred like this, it’s no surprise that faculty, students, Art Institute patrons and business people working in the 1000M neighborhood are all loyal patrons of Cafecito. During lunch, Cafecito’s small café is packed to the rafters, abuzz with conversations of the most recent exhibit at the Art Institute or an upcoming play at the nearby DePaul University Merle Reskin Theatre.

Whether you find yourself looking for a tasty caffeine boost before exploring the Cultural Mile, or seeking a late night snack following a night at the theater, Cafecito brings amazing authenticity to this neighborhood café.

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Cafecito  //  26 East Congress Pkwy