As Chicago summer kicks into full swing, my taste buds immediately gear up for the distinct and powerful flavors of authentic Latin cuisine. I had my first salsa dance lesson last week and I thought: what better way to prepare than to indulge in some tapas and refreshing mojitos (complimentary with your Cheeky Card!) at Nacional 27.
The dimmed lighting, upbeat music and white leather booths that encircled the main dining room helped create an intimate and cozy setting. Within five minutes of being seated, an attentive busser brought us a mixed trio of salsas – mild, sweet and spicy – along with fresh, warm chips straight out of the oven. We trusted our waiter’s recommendations based on the thorough run down of the menu he provided us with – and he was definitely right, everything was delicious. First up was our Chadwick mojitos made with 10 cane rum, pomegranate, ginger and habanero – so many tangy flavors packed into one cocktail!
Nacional 27 is extremely unique in that the ingredients and flavors stem from 27 countries throughout Central and South America and the Latino Caribbean Islands. Our waiter was sure to give us a full history of the restaurant’s cooking styles. Our conversation with him did not stop there – we all got side tracked and later found out his recent move to Chicago makes this the sixth big city he’s inhabited. His animated, sociable and attentive style made our dining experience that much better. Next up? It was time for entrees! The entire menu sounded so appetizing, making it difficult to settle on one dish. Since we wanted to sample a little bit of everything, we decided on the tapas – empanadas, tiny tacos and the special of the evening: Spain’s mussels mejillonies. A unique offering Nacional has each week is coordinating a special dish with one of the 27 countries their cooking styles represent.
As we snacked on chips and guacamole, our main dishes arrived within minutes (did I mention the service was impeccable?). The tapas appeared full of exotic colors and were beautifully arranged on white rectangular plates. First came the shrimp and scallop, bbq’d lamb, and grilled beef tenderloin tiny tacos – sounds amazing, right? Next came the queso, smoked chicken and papas empanadas. Craving something sweet? The papas were red bliss potatoes, sweet plantains and queso fresco – this was by far my favorite; highly recommended!
We also found out that Nacional 27 is not only well known for its striking cuisine, but they happen to throw quite the party. If you’re curious about different styles of dance, Nacional offers free salsa lessons every Thursday night led by an expert whose moves come straight from Spain. Extending into the weekend, the main dining room is transformed into a Latin and Miami explosion. Both Friday Miami Nights and Saturday Vida27 are the hottest Latin dance parties to hit the Chicago scene.
Ladies, bring your appetite and sassy dance moves and hit up this trendy River North hotspot. Don’t forget to bring your Cheeky Card for a complimentary mojito!
She is fun, fabulous and fierce. She is chic, intelligent and in-the-know. But most of all, the Cheeky chick is the kind of woman who embraces, admires, respects, smiles at and opens her heart to other fabulous chicks. Now THAT'S Cheeky, darling!