Latin With a Local Twist
Chicago definitely has no shortage of good restaurants. Restaurants that are consistently doing business in this down economy are doing something right. Now, I am not talking about the heavy hitters, but I am referring to the smaller shining stars. La Sirena Clandestina is one of those shining stars. My husband and I have been to La Sirena Clandestina a few times on a Friday and Monday night, a contrast of what you would consider a busy and quiet night of the week. Not surprisingly, they were jammed on Friday. Even for a Monday, they had steady business. Open for almost a year, La Sirena delivers delicious food, creative cocktails, and great service - delivered consistently every time. For those of you unfamiliar with La Sirena, Chef John Manion serves up Latin with a local twist. The space is intimate (with only forty seats), but has a laid-back feel. The kitchen anchors the dining area, so you can watch all the action and Chef Manion expediting orders.
The menu is broken up into four sections - "de la calle", "de la casa", "parilla y playa", and "al lado". The first section features small plates which rotate based on seasonal availability, such as the ceviche and empanadas. Empanadas are a must have for me every visit! The Malagueta Crab Salad on tostones with avocado, cilantro, and lime is refreshing bite of happiness. The second section are large plates, made perfect for sharing. My favorites are the La Bomba Rice (made with roasted sweet corn, squash, serrano peppers, and manchego) and Moqueca (a delectable stew of of fish, shrimp, and mussels, topped with tomato, cilantro, and cashews). For the carnivore, make sure you try the Pork Loin Milenesa (served with wild mushroom ragu, fried egg, and mustard). The third section is the grilled section, which I have not dived into but cannot wait to try. You can expect simple preparations of various protein featuring local ingredients. The last section features sides to add, such as kale salad and shaved brussels sprouts. A must-have is the coconut cilantro risotto - a bowl of heaven. They have a simple dessert selection, usually a shortbread cookie with dulce de leche cream and fruit trifle - both worth getting. To complement Chef John Manion's dishes, the cocktail menu features pisco, rum, mezcal, tequila, cachacha, and fernet. I highly recommend the Caipirinha or Pisco Sour. They both go down pretty nicely, so make sure you pace yourself (this is really a note to myself!).
In addition to dinner, they are now serving lunch and Sunday brunch, both which I am excited to try. Their bar menu highlights some of the regular menu items, which is great for a late night or Sunday afternoon treat. With so many dining options for the week, La Sirena Clandestina has become a favorite go-to for my West Loop dining, without a doubt.