Everyone likes to find a hidden gem, a cool little place off the beaten path that serves up interesting food at great prices.
Irazu could be that place.
Irazu has a loyal following that has been trying to keep it secret for years, but with only middling success. Residents of Wicker Park and Bucktown mostly know about its signature Costa Rican cuisine, but visitors to the neighborhood will find that what’s being served in the former convenience store on a sparsely populated stretch of Milwaukee is well nigh a revelation.
Authenticity and Creativity at Great Low Prices
The Cerdas-Salazar family has been dishing up authentic Costa Rican cuisine like Casado (rib eye steak with caramelized onions over white rice) and El Tico (chicken breast sautéed with onions, bell pepper and tomatoes) for more than two decades. But what really keeps the loyalists coming back are the vegetarian options.
The oatmeal shake wins glowing praise from every vegetarian and vegan who has ever taken a sip, and the vegetarian burrito with black beans, yellow rice, hot pepper, avocados and sautéed onions is award winning. But for my money the hands-down winner in the creativity department is the potato taco, a rolled up corn tortilla, fried, filled with mashed potatoes topped with guacamole and served with yellow rice.
If you are a fan of empanadas you will be seduced by the spinach and cheese emapanada. This is the kind of thing upscale restaurants put on their menus as a measure of their ingenuity and then charge you handsomely for. Here you can pick it up for a mere $2.95.
Keeping the Secret
Low prices are definitely part of the draw at Irazu. Many of the menu items are under $10, and nothing is higher than $15. Add to that the fact that Irazu is BYOB and two people can enjoy a fine meal out for under $25. Is this Chicago?
Irazu’s cash only policy helps keep the prices low, and if you are looking for valet parking, you will have to look elsewhere. What’s more, be prepared for long waits during peak times. But these minor hurdles shouldn’t discourage you from enjoying Irazu’s many charms.
Irazu is open Monday through Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Outdoor dining is available during the summer months. The dining patio is under a climate controlled canopy in the winter months. The staff is attentive, the portions are generous and the food is delicious and reasonably priced. Irazu is a hidden gem. Come and enjoy.
But keep it under your hat.
1865 N. Milwaukee Ave.