It’s probably obvious by now that we haven’t been going out to eat at all recently. COVID is still very much a thing and up until recently, indoor dining in Illinois, and the Chicago area specifically, has been restricted. We could have gone out to eat and sat outside, or outside in an igloo on the street… which is basically just bringing the inside outside, but we opted to remain safe and cautious as we have parents that are a little older and we wanted to ensure that nobody got sick.
Now that’s not to say that we’ve been 100% safe this entire time. We do have a small “pod” of people that we see on a semi-regular basis that we’re comfortable with and that we trust to be safe as well… which does include both of our parents because they help watch our kids a couple times a week so we can get some work done. But for the most part we haven’t seen many friends outside of that.
So when Chicago decided to start lifting their restrictions on indoor dining we were (and still are) a bit more hesitant than a lot of people I know. I’ve seen and heard about too many restaurants that aren’t taking things seriously and I didn’t want to risk anything by ending up at one of those restaurants.
We had an experience at Tavern on the Point in Edison Park late last summer that really turned me off to the idea of going out to eat right now. Even though we were sat outside, nobody was taking things seriously. The tables weren’t spread out at all, nobody wandering around (aside from the staff) had masks on… and it was a little unnerving. Needless to say I’m not going back to Tavern on the Point until I’m at least vaccinated or they get their shit together… but probably not until I’m vaccinated. They really dropped the ball on things.
It was because of that experience that I was kind of put off by going to eat at restaurants, but that didn’t mean we didn’t support our local establishments by ordering carry out or delivery, because we still did. And we even visited one of our favorite local places, Las Fuentes, for lunch at like 2pm on a Thursday because we knew it would be pretty empty, and it was unseasonably warm, so we sat on the patio (which they enclosed with some of those white tarps with windows). That has probably been the only in-restaurant dining experience we’ve had since COVID hit.
But like everyone, we’ve been getting a little stir crazy and decided that we would be up for eating inside if the place was taking it seriously and we could kind of determine it wasn’t going to be busy.
And that’s how we ended up at Cabra Cevicheria in Chicago on a Tuesday night for dinner.
Cabra Cevicheria Chicago Restaurant
I was the only one out of our group of 4 (my wife, and the couple that are part of our “pod”) that had never been to Cabra, so I knew I would probably be letting them order everything and I’d just try whatever showed up to the table.
And I was definitely right after I took a look at the menu.
Cabra is a Peruvian inspired restaurant by chef Stephanie Izard… I actually didn’t even know it was a Stephanie Izard restaurant until this very moment, which is funny because we also went to Little Goat Diner this past weekend, which I’ll write about soon. But anyways, it’s a Peruvian inspired restaurant that features a lot of sharable dishes, kind of similar to tapas. Most of the plates are smaller and meant to be shared, so as I said before, I just kind of rolled with the punches and told the group I would try whatever hit the table.
The restaurant itself seems to be doing a good job of adhering to COVID restrictions and doing what they can to keep the staff and the guests feeling safe. We rode the elevator up to the top, alone as our group, and had our temperatures taken as soon as we approached the host stand. All of the staff was wearing masks and when we first arrived the restaurant was pretty empty with the current diners spaced very far apart.
I was a little disappointed that we were seated way in the back corner, near the outdoor patio space and the huge glass windows (it made it a little chillier than it would have been), but the view was incredible and it wasn’t something that took away from our dining experience.
The one thing that did seem a little odd was that about 1/3 of the way through our meal, a man was sat at the table directly behind us, which, when seated, probably didn’t put 6-feet of space between us, and the restaurant was pretty dead, so it was a little confusing as to why he was sat there, but his back was to us, so it was alright. And, to be fair, by the time we left, the restaurant was fairly filled up. And when I say “filled up” I mean that we were probably getting close to the 25% indoor capacity that was currently allowed at that point… by no means was it packed.
I will also say that the restaurant is very dark. Almost too dark. But even with it being super dark, there was no issues reading the menu because everything was accessed via a QR code on your phone.
Speaking of which, their system for paying your bill via scanning a QR code at the end of your meal is amazing. I hope all restaurants adopt this technology and allow guests to scan a QR code once the bill arrives in order to pay. It was so much easier to just pay via Apple pay (or using a credit card on your phone). It was easier to split the bill and figure out tip…. And the best part was, you didn’t have to wait for your server to come back to go run your credit card and bring it back for you to sign.
It probably wouldn’t have been a big deal right now, since the restaurant wasn’t crowded, but if a restaurant is super busy and you’re in a hurry and the server is busy, this would be amazing.
I love that QR codes are finally finding their place, and this is one place that I would love for it to thrive.
With all that said, our service was amazing, our waiter was great and super helpful with recommendations, and we had a great time… but how was the food?
Cabra Chicago – The Food
As I mentioned before, this was not my choice for a dinner spot, but I’m always looking for new things to write about and if it were up to me I’d just end up writing about burgers, fries, and the simplest tacos you could find. So I’m always appreciative when my wife and friends force me to try stuff that I probably never would have ordered… and that’s exactly what happened with the food at Cabra.
To start off with we ordered a couple queso dips, the first one was the Aji Verde & Queso Fresco Dip with taro and sweet potato chips. It was fine… I definitely enjoyed the 2nd queso dip much more, but this one was fine. I thought the sweet potato chips were way better than whatever the white chips are (taro?). The white chips just didn’t have much flavor to me. I’m also not a big fan of most of what was in this queso to begin with so I didn’t take huge scoops, nor did I get everything on the chip that you’re supposed to, so my opinion is probably very skewed (as it always is).
The 2nd queso dip we got was the Hot Chorizo & Queso Dip with apples, herby chimmi, sweet potato chips, flatbread. And despite the fact that I feel the other queso looked more appetizing, this one tasted better to me. The chorizo was delicious, there was some nice sweetness from the apples and whatever else was in here. Overall it was just better. The sweet potato chips were obviously the same, but the flat bread was a nice change from the other chips. If I were to go back, this is the queso I would order over the other one.
Next up was the Salmon Ceviche with pistachio and avocado leche de tigre. I honestly don’t know what leche de tigre means… but I’m assuming it’s tiger’s milk… although I’m pretty sure it’s not made from the milk of a tiger, so I have no clue what’s in this. I’m also not a huge fan of salmon, but I did try it and was ok with it. The salmon didn’t have that much of a fishy taste that I’ve had with a lot of salmon and the tiger’s milk did not taste like milk (I know, it’s not made of tiger’s milk, it’s a citrus based marinade, but I honestly didn’t know that until I looked it up just now). Either way, this would not be something I would order only for the fact that I’m not a big seafood person, but everyone else seemed to love it.
The Goat Empanadas served with a huacatay mayo were more up my alley. I did not try the huacatay mayo only because I know I don’t like mayo, and I can barely pronounce the other word, so I figured I’d just stay away. The goat empanadas however, were absolutely amazing. I don’t know that I’ve actually ever had goat meat… or if I have, I don’t remember it, but I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious this was. I’m just thankful there was no goat cheese in it, because I’m not a fan of goat cheese, but give me their meat all day long. Overall though, great empanadas, but I’m still not sure they’re as good as those empanadas from Savory Crust.
As with the empanada, the Chicken Thigh Anticucho with peanut chimmi yuzu-cilantro was also delicious. I tried to stick with one that had less sauce on it, but even with a touch of sauce it was still amazing. The chicken was cooked perfectly and everything tasted great. Chicken and meat are usually my safety options when looking at a menu like this, and I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious both of them were even with the sauces I’ve never heard of.
Lastly, the table was between ordering the broccoli or this next dish, and I’m glad that our server pointed us towards this instead of broccoli… I mean, seriously, who wants to eat broccoli (definitely not me… cause I eat like a 5 year old). My wife had been eying the chicharron since we got there, so it was no surprise this ended up on the table. The Chicharron Del Puerco – is skin on fatty pork shank with pickled vegetables , apple salad, limey huacatay, panca mayo, amarillo mayo, serrano cilantro, and sweet potato flatbread. I don’t mind chicharron for the most part. It’s just fried pork essentially and it’s always been solid when I’ve tried it. My wife is Filipino, so this is always as staple whenever we go out to eat at a Filipino restaurant, so it was nice to see it on the menu here.
I still didn’t try any of the random mayo sauces that came with it, but like I said, it’s hard to mess up fried pork skin.
To wrap up the night we went with a couple desserts that were both delicious. The Picarones which is 3 mini sweet potato doughnuts, spiced gastrique, caramelized puffed rice and the soft serve swirl which is passio fruit sorbet, vanilla soft serve, passion fruit honey and coconut/quinoa crunch. I preferred the donuts over the soft serve, but both were the perfect end to a great night out.
So while the food at Cabra may not have been up my alley, the atmosphere, the service, and most of the food, were great. They seemed to be adhering to the COVID restrictions and doing what they could to ensure the safety of their staff and their guests, which I appreciate. I did find it a little bit expensive, but I’m super cheap when it comes to eating out so take that as you will. We did also have like 11 drinks over the course of dinner, so that probably didn’t help… but overall if you’re looking for something a little different, then this is a great place to check out.
I would have loved to have come by in the summertime, since the rooftop patios look awesome, but unfortunately it’s still super cold in Chicago and that wasn’t about to happen, regardless of the enclosure or the heaters, but maybe next time.
Have you been to Cabra in Chicago? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!