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The second outpost of Alberto and Christine Gonzalez’s 90 Miles Cuban Cafe has table seating and a charming enclosed patio in addition to a counter, the sole seating option at the original on Clybourn. But it retains the warmth of its predecessor, as well as sharing the menu. Pressed sandwiches include innovations like one with tofu in Creole sauce alongside traditionals like a medianoche, a lechon, and a Cubano, the last one of the best I’ve had in town. Amply portioned dinner plates also offer a few vegetarian options in addition to ropa vieja, lechon, steak, and chicken; all come with plantains and a molded round of rice and beans. We went with a special of masas de puerco, delicious deep-fried pork chunks smeared with mojo and served with rings of white onion. We also liked the crispy tostones and a savory goat-cheese empanada. A big part of the appeal of 90 Miles is the crack service—the staff is assiduous and outgoing, making jokes, pouring water, checking on the meal, backslapping, and handling large parties with aplomb. On a friend’s last visit, Alberto was going around offering wine to his guests (the restaurant is BYO); on mine it was samples of Cuban coffee that ended up luring me back for breakfast. There’s Latin music on the sound system, and the space is decorated with wallpaper showcasing vintage Cuban posters and hung with photos—yes, that’s Alberto with former White Sox pitcher Jose Contreras.
— Kate Schmidt
It’s a simple fact. The forbidden always tastes sweeter, so what better slogan for a Cuban café? The people of the United States have had a strange fascination with the Cuban lifestyle since the days we considered the island nation the “playground of the Americas.” Chicago’s Latino residents comprise about 26% of the city’s population according to the 2000 census, some of whom are Cubans and Cuban Americans. One such Chicagoan, Alberto Gonzalez, is the owner of the 90 Miles Cuban Café. Gonzalez came to the United States as part of the Mariel boatlift in 1980, grew up in Miami, and moved to Chicago after meeting his wife. Following nine years of mortgage brokering, Gonzalez changed careers, became a restaurateur, and 90 Miles was born.
Gonzalez talks enthusiastically about the experience he wants his customers to have. He aims to create an atmosphere like the one he remembers from his childhood. He kept the menu simple and the food fresh. It’s the little touches that really bring this café to life. These details might be lost on most people, but Cuban Americans who stop in notice. On the tables, he put household objects that bring a sense of nostalgia to those who recognize them from their own childhood—a sewing machine, a lantern like the ones families used during black outs. He serves drinks in glass jars rather than glasses, an acknowledgement of how living with scarce resources led to household objects serving multiple purposes. The walls are adorned with pre-Castro newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, and stamps. But he carefully avoids making political statements at the risk of offending or making anyone uncomfortable. But how’s the food? Incredible. Gonzalez wants his food to be authentic and fresh. He believes some struggle to prepare Latin American food in the United States without compromising its original flavor. It doesn’t hurt that Gonzalez uses recipes passed down through the family. He told me his grandmother ran a catering business for Castro when they lived in Cuba, so you know it’s good. A mix of African and Spanish influences, the Cuban food offered at 90 Miles is truly delicious.
Gonzalez opened the cafe with his wife Christina in 2008. Their nephew, Anthony Cruz, is the operations manager of the Armitage location.
The cafe was recently featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Since then, Cruz told Savor, they have had visitors come from all over the world to try their authentic Cuban cuisine.
Serving traditional family recipes, the cafe is festooned with eclectic decorations that create a lively, inviting and distinctly Cuban atmosphere. In addition, every Tuesday night features live Cuban jazz from 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m., and a saxophonist and pianist perform from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. every Sunday.
“Savory” was the first word that came to mind when I bit into my appetizer, the chicken tamal. I loved both the texture and flavor. As for my friend’s masitas de puerco (pork chunks) appetizer, he liked the balance of ingredients and said that fresh lime definitely enhanced the dish.
My bistec de palomilla was unlike any steak sandwich I’ve ever eaten and had just the right amount of kick. I loved it. Opting for a tilapia filet, my dining companion chose the sandwich de pescado. What stood out for him was that the tartar sauce enhanced the fish without overpowering the entire sandwich.
Of course, we couldn’t go without dessert. The bread pudding was a perfect blend of sweet (but not too sweet) ingredients; it was the best bread pudding I’ve ever tasted. As for the pastelitos, my friend pointed out that the guava and cheese inside the pastries played off of each other perfectly.
Along with the cafe, 90 Miles also offers takeout and catering services, and will even roast a whole pig during a catered event. Seating ranges between 75-100 people depending on the season (patio service is available) and as for alcohol service, it’s BYOB.
Visiting 90 Miles Cuban Cafe made me want to seek out other restaurants featuring authentic food from other areas of the globe. The food was that good, and I definitely plan on returning.
Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/restaurants/il/chicago/90-miles-cuban-cafe-restaurant.html?oc=linkback
— Mike Sula
Both BYO restaurants—the is original, smaller café is in Roscoe Village—share the same menu and are owned by husband and wife team Christina and Alberto Gonzalez. As the story goes, the pair came to Key West by shrimp boat back in 1980. (That trip, in case you didn’t catch the reference, is 90 miles long.)
Alberto gives his grandmother the credit for most of the recipes you find on the menu, from the smoky ropa vieja to the Cuban black beans. He also steps just outside the bounds of the strictly traditional to make tofu en salsa criolla, egg-topped mango pancakes, and a chorizo burger. But faithful to his country’s fusion cuisine, each dish is suffused with earthy flavors like adobo, pepper, and oregano, and then accented with bright garlic and citrus.
While not comprehensive—I didn’t include the worthy Cuban sandwiches for now, since that could be an entire story on its own—these are entrees the restaurant’s servers eat themselves and repeatedly recommend, as well as my personal favorites. A couple of them, as the menu will proudly make sure you know, caught the attention of the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in 2012. Starting things off is the choripan ($8), which represents a major upgrade on bruschetta. A hunk of sandwich baguette is sliced on a bias, toasted, and topped in abundance with a sort of julienned sofrito and big slices of chorizo. The perfectly tender bell peppers and caramelized onions have been sautéed together with the sausage, and are infused with its garlicky, spiced flavor. A crisp salad might not grab anyone’s attention on a menu focusing on deep, slow-roasted flavors, but this one is worth it. The avocado salad (with churrasco, $13) is a classy, simple thing done right. The kitchen doesn’t skimp on the avocado—just the opposite, in fact—and it’s gently but expertly dressed with olive oil, salt, and a splash of vinegar. Adding the churrasco isn’t necessary, but I recommend it. The skirt steak is marinated in citrus, salt, and garlic overnight, making it incredibly tender. Ask for a side of the zippy chimichurri to top it off with. Your first bite of puerco rostizado ($15) skews sweet—prunes, guava, hoppy non-alcoholic malt beer, and sugar are all part of the marinade—but not too sweet. On the finish, you get a distinctive tang lent by a big pour of bitter orange juice. It’s roasted slowly overnight, pulled, flash-sautéed with caramelized onions, and paired with rice and beans. In my experience, this crowd favorite disappears within an infinitesimal fraction of the time it took to cook. Its nutritional profile may be practically nil, but yuca makes a killer fry ($4). It’s partly a textural triumph over the Idaho potato—the starchy root has a lower water content, so it’s less prone to sogginess. It’s also partly because of 90 Miles’s incredible mojo sauce—the fried wedges are spooned over with lots of minced garlic, soaked in a lightly citrusy olive oil. Compared to the powerful punches of chimichurri, sweet prunes, or raw garlic, the fricase de pollo ($13) represents a gentler side of Cuban cuisine. These chicken quarters are slowly braised in a tomato-based stew with plenty of oregano, cumin, bell peppers, onions, cumin, turmeric, and olives until the meat practically falls off the bone.
Never mind that Chicago is 1,450 miles as the crow flies from Cuba; we’re just glad the Gonzalez duo is here.
In 1980, the Gonzalez family boarded a shrimp boat in Cuba’s Mariel Harbor. They sailed through turbulent waves and wind, finally docking in Key West. The family began working toward their American dream, and eventually gained the resources to open 90 Miles Cuban Café in Chicago. Named for the distance of their initial journey, the café reprises recipes from the Gonzalez’s homeland. Pressed Cuban sandwiches, garlic-laced or sweet plantains, and empanadas filled with ingredients such as chorizo and goat cheese rank among the restaurant’s specialties. Heartier dishes, such as vaca frita (braised beef with grilled onions) tenderize for hours on low heat. Another slow-cooked dish, puerco rostizado (pork sweetened with guava and prunes) lit up Guy Fieri’s taste buds during a segment on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Unlike most Cuban restaurants, this one also offers vegetarian items such as soy beef empanadas and Cuban sandwiches with tofu. Patrons can visit the eatery at two BYOB locations—one in Roscoe village, and the other, with a heated outdoor patio, in Logan Square.
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This sibling location of Clybourn Avenue’s popular Cuban carryout joint is nearly a spitting image of the original—same toasted Cuban sandwiches, same flaky empanadas, same garlicky yuca chips, same potent café con leche. But even if the tiny interior, with its newspaper-covered walls, elicits the same claustrophobia, the big draws here are the spacious front and back patios, tropical ambiance and mixers to turn BYOB liquor into mojitos.
Sometimes, everything goes wrong with an evening out – and you still have so much fun that you don’t care. During our visit to 90 Miles Cuban Cafe, we got caught in a torrential downpour. After it ended, we were seated back out on the patio and got caught in another torrential downpour – just our bad luck. We were quickly moved to a great table inside, but had to deal with the inevitable service fallout of moving every customer in the restaurant around, over and over. Despite these difficulties, the experience was great. Everyone was cheerful, the food was tasty and our bottle of rum remained intact and rain-free.
90 Miles Cuban has the atmosphere of a huge, outdoor party. We usually despise patios, especially those with a tropical flair – all fake palm trees, Corona ads and drunken frat types whooping it up. 90 Miles keeps the good parts (the party atmosphere, the joy of being outdoors and a giant pig roasting on a spit) but somehow eliminates all the unbearable bits. Live Cuban music and mojitos add to the fun. They have both a covered patio and a traditional outdoor area – we ended up in the covered patio during the rain. 90 Miles is BYOB, but has an ingenious way to still serve great mojitos – you bring your own bottle of rum, they’ll mix it for you and give the remainder back at the end of the night. They also offer sangria (bring your own red wine) but we didn’t have the guts to try it.
The food is simple and excellent. We tried a roast pork platter (with the pig that had recently been on the spit taking center stage) with onions, which was one of the better pork dishes we’ve had recently. Fried plantains were crispy and delicious, and their yuca con mojo (cassava root in a garlic sauce) was the best we’ve ever had. The menu also offers a variety of Cuban sandwiches and tropical shakes. Our only complaint – and it was minor – was with the service. At times, it was very very slow, so be prepared. On the other hand, with a pitcher of mojitos, a plate of pork and a great party, who cares if it takes a few hours?
90 Miles Cuban Cafe has 2 locations: 3101 N. Clybourn and 2540 W. Armitage. We visited the Bucktown location, about 5 blocks off of the Western stop on the Blue Line. Remember to bring your own rum!
“taste the forbidden.”
that’s the tagline for 90 miles cuban cafe, a family owned restaurant offering authentic cuban food in logan square & roscoe village.
i had never had cuban food, so i was really excited to try this place. we wanted to eat there, but eating hot food in 95 degree weather was not appealing. so we brought it home for lunch. here’s what i had i don’t really like to eat fake meats, but i decided to try this since the guy at the restaurant was raving about it. but unfortunately, no me gusta. i think the raisins are what threw me off. not a good flavor combo for me. but still, a great option for other hungry vegans!
oh.em.gee.yum. i actually inhaled this because it was so good. i could have done without the beans, but still amazing. the bread soaks up all the sauce so it gets nice and soggy. (seriously, not lying, the way i like it.) mmmmm. my first experience with cuban food was a good one… i cannot wait to head back to 90 miles cuban cafe again!
90 Miles Cuban Cafe…Why Haven’t You Been Here Yet?! I was invited by a friend of mine to have a late Sunday lunch at a little Cuban cafe located in Bucktown. I had heard wonderful things about 90 Miles Cuban Cafe and knew I couldn’t miss out on a meal there. One of the things I heard was there is usually a bit of a wait for a table. Luckil,y we arrived around 3pm and were seated on the front outdoor patio right away.
90 Miles is a BYOB cafe, so we brought a bottle of rum to mix with some of the restaurant’s drinks. As we got settled, we ordered a pitcher of Passion Iced Tea which was a mix of raspberry iced tea with fresh strawberries, passion fruit puree and sugar. This paired nicely with the rum and was extra refreshing with the addition of mint and lime, which we requested. I also loved the cute little cups we enjoyed our drinks from.
For a second appetizer we had the Empanadas. Each order comes with a choice of three of either, guava & cheese, beef, chorizo, ropa vieja, goat cheese, veggie, or soy. Talk about options! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many empanada variations on a menu before, let alone empanadas on a Cuban menu. I didn’t try them myself, but I can only assume these little pastry pockets were amazing.
Our awesome waiter, Felipe, (fun fact: he is the only Brazilian server at 90 Miles), kindly guided us through the menu, offering suggestions and pointing out his favorite dishes. He put up with me asking a million questions about the menu but it paid off since we got to try so many delicious items off the menu.
Most of us opted for Cuban sandwiches for our meal. The first was the Lechon which featured roasted pork, romaine lettuce, tomato & sweet plantains on Cuban bread.
The second sandwich was the Pollo, featuring grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, tomato & grilled onions. Notice the massive portion sizes! I went with the Ropa Vieja sandwich because I had always seen it on Cuban menus, but was curious about how it tasted. The common Cuban sandwich included shredded beef, peppers & onions slow cooked in Creole sauce. I loved the combination of the tender beef combined with the flaky and crispy bread.
During lunch, all sandwiches come with a garnish of plantain chips but since I’m so in love with sweet plantains, I just had to get a side of the fried fruit.
The last of our group’s entrees was one that came highly recommended by our waiter. The Puerco Rostizado featured roasted pig with guava and grilled onions and was served with black beans, white rice, and fried sweet plantains. I sampled some of the delicious pork and you could instantly tell there was a lot of time and love that went into the dish. It’s no wonder our waiter said he would eat it everyday! Since we had an entire bottle of Bacardi to finish, and we were enjoying our afternoon on the lovely outdoor patio, we tried a pitcher of mojitos to mix with our rum. The mojitos were not too sweet and were just the refreshing drink we needed on a hot Sunday afternoon. 90 Miles Cuban Cafe is the type of place you go when you want to feel like family. I’m not sure if it’s the intimate setting of the restaurant and its patio, or the friendly staff, but we felt as if we were dining with old friends in a tiny Cuban town. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had such an enjoyable meal from start to finish; I’m already planning on returning for my birthday next month!
90 Miles Cuban Cafe gets a whopping 5 stars for its flavorful and colorful Cuban food, terrific atmosphere and the friendliest servers and staff you will ever encounter. Why haven’t you been here yet?!
Good afternoon ladies and gents!! I am so so so so so excited to share this restaurant with you all, though many of you have probably already feasted at this super fun, super authentic Cuban joint before. My highly exclusive dinner club went to 90 Miles Cuban Cafe last week to dive head first into traditional Cuban fare, and we left 90 Miles beyond satisfied. The atmosphere at 90 Miles is so fun and lively, and most of their seating is outdoor or at least semi-outdoor. It’s the perfect eatery to hit up during Summertime Chi. The waitstaff here is super attentive and oh so friendly!! Our server was a hoot and he shared some great recommendations with us.
We began by poppin’ bottles (of wine and beer that is) because this place is BYOB! They even have a homemade Sangria potion if you’d like to spice up your ordinary wine! After that, we ventured on to try the Choripan, or “Cuban bruscetta” as our server called it. Choripan is typically a sausage sandwich, however 90 Miles has morphed it into an appetizer, which is toasted bread, topped with sliced chorizo and sauteed onions and peppers. Simply scrumptious. Though I would have liked a little more chorizo and a little less peppers… But then again, who wouldn’t?! Next, we ordered another suggestion from our waiter, the Tostones Rellenos, which were mini plantain “cups” filled with shrimp and a tomato based sauce. These were perfect “2 biter” cups from heaven! Then it was on to the main event. So let me first let you in on a yummy little secret. Every Thursday evening, 90 Miles Cuban Cafe has a pig roast. Yes, every Thursday. And here’s another little secret: it’s all you can eat. The pig roast includes all-you-can-eat pork (all cuts), sides (a plethora of them) and dessert, all for $18. I swear to God people!!
So naturally, I went with the pig roast for my main course. It’s serve-yourself, so I went H.A.M. Literally. As far as sides go, the options are plentiful. They offer chicken soup, avocado salad, maduros, two different styles of yuca, croquettas, yellow rice, white rice, black beans and a few other options that I simply can’t recall. Trust me, you won’t feel limited. And then there was the cute little piggy just laying there on the chopping block, smoked to perfection.
And then there was dessert. Bread pudding with a delicious “boozy” caramel sauce.
The perfect ending to a perfect pig roast. I will admit – it was tempting to order something off the regular menu, because everything looked so good! I tried the Churrasco, which is like a full pound of the most tender skirt steak topped with chimichurri, and it was divine!! But I came here for the pig roast so pig roast it was!
Overall, 90 Miles Cuban Cafe was an awesome experience. The food was great, the atmosphere was bumpin’ and the good times were definitely rolling. I spoke with the owner after dinner and he described 90 Miles as being a small place with a lot of heart. Boy was he right! So head on over to 90 Miles Cuban Cafe for date night, friends night or family night. No matter who you go with, you’re bound to have a great time!
I miss the country profile articles already. While I’m going to truck forward without them, I’m a bit of a geography nerd so I feel compelled to still throw the country map in there. So now you get TWO pictures with each of these posts! Hooray!
I’ve heard some good things about 90 Miles, the Cuban restaurant with two locations here in Chicago, for some time now. A group of friends had gone a while back but I missed it, so I was determined to make it sometime soon. A couple of my buddies had just moved into the area a few weeks back so now was as good a time as any to check out the restaurant.
It has a nice, fun feel to the place. The music was going, the inside was dark except for some strings of lights and candles throughout, and there was a big outdoor seating area with heating lamps. Even though it was dark there was a lot of color on the walls and travel-themed decor. It felt like it would fit well in Miami without being kitschy. A good place to chill out with a few folks and enjoy dinner.
Vettel loves cheese but finds that Oak Park’s new outpost, Marion Street Cheese Market, misses the mark. So much so that he only gives it one star, yowch. “I don’t have many quibbles with Pivoney’s food; the worst that I can say about his uncomplicated, three-to-four-ingredient dishes is that a few of them are, oh, unexciting. A shrimp pasta dish one night was a certifiable snooze, and a chorizo and shrimp dish needed a wake-up call.” [Trib]
The Gonzalez family came from Cuba on June 13, 1980 on a shrimp boat from the Mariel Harbor Cuba. After 15 hours in a stormy black sea they finally reached Key West, only 90 Miles from their beloved Cuba. They immediately started working towards their American dream. Their dedication has given them the opportunity to be able to share their essence of Cuban culture and authentic Cuban cuisine right from their kitchen table to you. They hope that at the end of your visit they have made a cultural impact on you that will make you come back to share it with family and friends.
Let your taste buds take an exotic vacation in the heart of winter with one of the killer sandwiches from 90 Miles Cuban Cafe. 90 Miles Cuban Cafe serves up authentic Cuban cuisine brought from its home country to the states by the Gonzalez family. They’ve pulled out all the stops to re-imagine traditional recipes in a setting that’s fun and relaxing. Make sure to put your party face on when heading to this local hot spot. While it is BYOB only, they are more than happy to help mix your rum with their house made mojito mix or that bottle of red wine with sangria. Just be careful though, because live Cuban music, slow roasting pork, and tasty drinks made from your liquor of choice quickly leads to dancing, laughing, and talking the night away with friends. When searching for something to truly hit the spot, taste no further than 90 Miles Cuban’s delectable sandwiches. The next time the tropics are beckoning while roaming the streets of Chicago, be sure to hit up 90 Miles Cuban Cafe and let your worries slip away.
Started by a Cuban-American couple whose family’s been cooking professionally for three generations, 90’s a quick-serve, breakfast/lunch/dinner spot dominated by an 11-seat, U-shaped counter made from a century-old Wisco pine fence, and collaged up with pre-Fidel nostalgia: 30s & 40s magazine ads, b&w family photos, even a 1950 Bacardi invoice (Cuba Libres ain’t free). The cafe’s house-curing its pork and ham for pressed sandwiches like the mainstay Cubano and the house special “Lechón”, which’s stuffed with pulled pork, grilled onions, and fried plantains, then slathered w/ garlic sauce (once you’ve got “pulled-pork breath”, does it really matter?). 90’s also serving up fruit-filled pastries (pastelitos), meaty dinner plates (ropa vieja, bistec, lechón, chicken, etc, w/ rice, black beans, and fried plantains), plus in-house-ground beef empanadas, and breaded & deep-fried ham croquetas — a triple-can’t-miss item, since “everything deep-fried is good”, “everything stuffed in pastry is good”, and “everything ham is good”
To wash things down, 90’s pouring eight tropical fruit shakes (guava, mango, banana, etc), plus caffeinated action like cafe con leche, café cubano, and 4oz cups of cortadito, a 50/50 mix of café cubano and milk — a milder mix of joe when you’re not up to facing a real heater.
A small Cuban café in Chicago’s Roscoe Village serves up excellent Cuban food while paying homage to the owner’s memories of his island home. “We made our home in Miami and I lived there until I turned 21,” said Gonzalez. “After I met my wife Christine, who is Cuban and Mexican, we decided to come to Chicago,” he said, where they’ve been for the last 20 years.
Before opening his Cuban café at 3101 N. Clybourn Ave. in Chicago’s Roscoe Village, Gonzalez worked as a mortgage broker. When the economic bubble burst in 2008, the Cuban-American decided to look for a new business venture.
“My wife and I had traveled to Spain to celebrate our 16 years of marriage. It was there that I saw small tapas eateries that were extremely busy,” said Gonzalez. “Back in Chicago, I saw that there weren’t many places that sold Cuban food and I developed the concept of having a small place with a lot of atmosphere.” 90 Miles Cuban Café is so-named because Cuba is only 90 miles away from the Florida coast. The walls of the café are papered with old newspaper clippings, ads and posters from and about Cuba. One tourist poster from the 1950s shows a rumba dancer holding two maracas in her hands and reads: “So Near and Yet So Far: Visit Cuba.”
A “Gente” magazine cover really takes us back. It shows a picture of the late Italian actress Silvana Mangano with the words, “Vea a Silvana Mangano bailando Mambo.” The magazine’s cover price says more about time then we want to know: “15 centavos.” On a window of the café sits a set of dominoes for anyone who wants to sit outside the café and play this favorite Cuban pastime.
“I did not open the place just to have a restaurant,” said Gonzalez. “The majority of the things in our restaurant all have a reason.” A friend and I stopped at 90 Miles Café on a recent Friday. The café was packed with a lunch time crowd of upwardly mobile young people, some with their work IDs still pinned to their shirts. There were also Hispanic couples, some with their young children.
I ordered the sandwich Cubano and my friend ordered the Media Noche sandwich. To drink we both had a café Cubano. The Cubano sandwich had ham, lechon asado, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on toasted bread. The Media Noche sandwich had the same ingredients but on sweet bread. Both were delicious and went well with the Café Cubano, which is served in tiny plastic cups. We chose to sit outside on the café’s patio and enjoy the spring-like weather. Cuban guaracha and rumba music played on the sound system and added to a pleasant lunch.
90 Miles Café has other authentic Cuban dishes and side orders that will please just about anyone. The Ropa Vieja sandwich or dinner is made with shredded beef, and comes with a side order of yuca frita, also known as cassava, or empanadas made with guava and cheese. For dessert the café serves pastelitos with guayaba or guava and flan and also bread pudding.
90 Miles Café has two locations: the original is on Clybourn Avenue , and another, larger location is at 2540 W. Armitage Ave. near Western, in the Logan Square neighborhood. The café accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa and is worth a visit next time you are in Chicago.
Alberto Gonzalez was only 11-years-old when he and his family left Cuba on a shrimp boat during the Mariel boatlift of 1980. After 15 hours at sea they arrived on the Florida coast.
Christina González, fundadora junto a su esposo Alberto del popular restaurante cubano, admitió en entrevista con Negocios Now que se trata de un desafío colosal, pero dijo sentirse confiada por el futuro de la nueva criatura
“Cuando vi por vez primera todo esto (dijo en referencia al espacio del lugar), me asusté un poco. Pero una vez que estás aquí, sentimos confianza y mucho optimismo de que será otro éxito”, aseguró.
Oriunda de Chicago, Christina ha sido una pieza clave en el éxito empresarial de “90 Miles Cuban Café” desde que la pareja lanzó el primer restaurante en el 3101 N. Clyborn Ave en el 2008 y, un año después, otro al oeste de la Armitage Ave.
Hija de padre cubano y madre mexicana, Christina asumió el papel de Directora Ejecutiva de Finanzas (CFO, por sus siglas en inglés). Ella maneja la nómina, contrata al personal, atiende a 60 empleados, las ventas y lidia con los proveedores de productos.
Una mujer en el trono
Dado su rol clave, más que la mujer detrás del trono, sería justo afirmar que es la empresaria que comparte el trono de una empresa que ha experimentado un crecimiento sorprendente.
“Mi esposo y yo somos buenos socios en el negocio. Juntos hemos criado dos hijos y juntos hemos llevado 90 Miles a lo que es hoy, un restaurante conocido no solo en Chicago, sino en el país, gracias a la difusión del negocio en medios nacionales, como la CNN”.
Pero este nuevo restaurante augura ser un parteaguas en la compañía, por su posición estratégica, por contar con un amplio espacio para organizar fiestas y otro para colocar mesas y sillas en las afueras.
“El local tiene acceso independiente, así que cuando todo el Mall cierra, 90 Miles seguirá operando”, asegura Christina.
Los González parecen particularmente emocionados de disponer de una amplia cocina y un bar dentro del restaurante para el expendio de bebidas alcohólicas.
“Es muy importante contar con una licencia para la venta de alcohol, como ya tenemos, si quieres ser un verdadero jugador en la industria de servicios”, enfatizó Alberto, quien en 1980 emigró con su padre de Cuba.
Y la pareja, que se conoció en uno de los viajes de Christina a Miami, está pensando como jugadores de Grandes Ligas.
“Mi visión es convertir a “90 Miles Cuban Café en una cadena de servicio rápido y un producto de calidad, como Chipotle o Starbucks, apuntó Alberto, quien también planea ofrecer el servicio de entrega a domicilio.
Si bien no tiene una fecha fija para la apertura, los González esperan que la remodelación del nuevo local esté lista para el 10 de noviembre, día del cumpleaños de Alberto. “Creo que sería un buen regalo de cumpleaños” , dijo Christina con una sonrisa.
“I’m nervous, very nervous. But then again it’s all about risk,” said Gonzales, owner of 90 Miles Cuban Café.
“It kind of fell in my lap. The location became available. A friend of mine brought it up and due to the success we had we thought it would be a good time to take advantage of everything that is going on,” said Gonzales.
But with a slew of small businesses closing each day, Alberto said luck isn’t a factor in his success. “I feel fortunate that I had a vision. I didn’t hold back from doing it, I risked it all. It’s kind of like going to Vegas and putting everything on red and I kind of did that based on my research and so far it’s shown that my research has paid off.”
Some of his friends think he’s crazy for risking it all in a downturn economy. “Very crazy. It’s okay though, I felt the pressure. It just gives me that much more eagerness to succeed,” said Gonzales.
He was was 11 when he left Cuba with his family. He helped his dad sell fish in Key West, Florida, to make a living. Almost 30 years later, after struggling in the mortgage business, Gonzales opened his own restaurant, using old family recipes. But in this economy, 90 Miles Cuban Café’s success isn’t just helping Gonzales. It’s helping his suppliers too. By opening up a second location, he creates a positive ripple effect by spending more with his suppliers, such as Daily Meats.
“It gives more volume for us on the pork products he buys and the beef products he buys. Volume goes up which is good. It’s always good,” said Mario Jaile, Jr. of Daily Meat Supply. And the ripple effect doesn’t stop there. The Turano Baking Company supplies bread to 90 Miles.
“Obviously our sales rep on the street was extremely excited because that is another new account but it was outstanding to hear. Nowadays especially, businesses have really cut back on the openings; they are holding a little tighter to the vest and here is someone who has only been in the business six months and they are opening a second location. How awesome is that?” said Turano’s Bill Carlson.
Ernesto Reyes of Ez Tech Design, who does advertising for Gonzales, is also benefiting from Alberto’s success.
“Good news for me. I know some people are struggling. It’s good news for me in this economy,” said Reyes. But it’s even more good news for Alberto and his second Chicago location.
“I like to believe that we are an inspiration to all of those that it’s possible to happen in a downturn economy.”
One of my first “snacks,” I’ll call it, was from a little Cuban restaurant down the street from my brother’s house called 90 Miles Cuban Café. It was late in the day, but I had barely eaten, so I grabbed a couple items from this shack of a place. I started with a side of Yuca con Mojo. Yuca is a starchy vegetable that is cooked until tender, and this one was served with a traditional garlicky mojo sauce. I also ordered the Maduros, sautéed sweet plantains, which were perfectly cooked and had great sweetness to them. Though my “snack” was quickly turning into a meal, how could I go to a Cuban place and not try the empanadas? I added one Beef Empanada and, intrigued by the unique filling, one Goat Cheese Empanada. It was a good decision. I am already looking forward to returning to “sample” their main entrée menu items.
(90 Miles Cuban Café, 3101 North Clybourn Avenue, Chicago, IL 773-248-2822 www.90milescubancafe.com)
A few evenings later, I tried out a popular local bar called Gaslight Bar & Grille, which is known for taking the basic bar food you love up a notch with fresh twists (and fresh ingredients!). We tried out their burger, which was made to order and served on a bakery-style bun. I also ordered the Mini Turkey Burgers, topped with Brie and arugula. We also tried the Crispy Reuben Rolls – imagine a classic egg roll stuffed with the goodness of a Reuben sandwich: sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and finely diced pieces of corned beef. I was a little skeptical, but it worked! Delicious.