Lord knows the Buds struggle with this one.
Especially when we're waiting for a new eatery that we're super, super, super excited about to open.
Bud Shaunna’s arepas, cilantro rice and guasacaca.
That said, just KNOW that the folks running Cilantro Latin Grill nearly killed us.
For real! We'd been looking forward to its opening since October, which came and went without event. As did November and December. Since both Buds live in close proximity to the eatery, we grew giddy with anticipation as we watched the space formerly home to the Salsa Cafe transition into what is now Cilantro.
When they finally opened their doors earlier this month, not even a polar vortex could stop the Buds from getting there. And guess what?
It is amazing (just as we suspected) - well worth the wait!
The Latin grill, located at 56 Carmel Rd., Wheeling, is a quick serve restaurant modeled after a chain Latin restaurant. The Buds took time to appreciate the young and fresh feel of the place before stepping up to place their orders. The bar style seating and connected tables and benches are conducive to making new friends with other diners.
The menu at Cilantro is refreshingly simple: burritos, arepas, bowls and salads. Patrons choose between Guadalajara Steak, Jerk Chicken, Chipotle & Lime Puerco, Ground Chorizo, Cilantro Shrimp and Grilled Vegetables as the main component of their dish. Rice, beans, veggies, cheeses, salsas and a whole bevy of goodies can then be added to customize the meal.
Bud Em decided to try the arepas (corn cakes the size of sliders - a Venezuelan take on the taco shell). Since there are two to an order she got one filled with chorizo and topped with a little corn salsa and queso and one with jerk chicken topped with grilled onions and peppers and a little Spanish rice on the side. Her little Bud tagged along and ordered a salad of lettuce and spinach topped with Cilantro Shrimp, corn salsa a splash of lime and cilantro vinaigrette. An order of chips with queso and a pair of sodas from the Coco-Cola Freestyle machine - which offers a whopping 126 drink flavors - rounded out the meal.
The arepas were wonderful! The corn cakes were warm and scrumptious, and the meats were cooked and seasoned perfectly. The jerk chicken was tender and moist and the chorizo had just the right amount of kick. Bud Em also snatched one of the Cilantro Shrimp from little Bud's salad. Fantastic! The little Bud was also a huge fan of the chips and queso, the latter of which was thick and creamy - not watery as some restaurant's queso tends to be. Needless to say, Bud Em and Co. with most certainly become Cilantro regulars.
Bud Shaunna wanted to try the arepas as well, so she ordered one stuffed with cilantro shrimp and the other with the grilled veggies. She also opted for a side of cilantro rice. Bud Hubby joined the group and ordered a burrito stuffed with jerk chicken, grilled veggies and queso. He also picked up an order of chips and queso, but Bud Shaunna, a lover of all things avocado, wanted to try Cilantro's specialty guacamole - guasacaca. A little chimichuri sauce makes this a guac with a kick.
The burrito was nearly as big as the plate and packed with plenty of everything - Bud Hubby noted that he really liked the flavor of the chicken. The tortilla chips were flavored with a lime salt, making them very tasty on their own, but even better with salsa or queso. Bud Hubby pretty much demolished the queso, leaving very little to share with Bud S.
That was quite alright with her, however, because the real star of Bud S.'s show was the guasacaca. She could have eaten that stuff by the BUCKET. Not kidding. One of the friendly workers stopped out to see how everything was, and when Bud S. professed her love for the guasacaca, he jokingly said he thought he had a bucket in the back. DON'T TEMPT BUD S. Besides, then how would everyone else get to try it? Admittedly, Bud S. has already stopped back at Cilantro just to get chips and guasacaca.
The trendy, modern look and unique flavors of Cilantro were a winner with the Buds, and we're betting you'll love it too. See you there!
The Buds can be reached at tastebuds@timesleader online.com