Jibarito Origin: Sandwiched between Chicago’s Humboldt Park and Puerto Rico

Chicago
By Chicago 3 Min Read

CHICAGO (WLS) — It’s as Chicago as deep dish pizza. The Jibarito is a sandwich said to born in the kitchen of the Puerto Rican restaurant in the Windy City.

Borinquen, 3811 N Western Ave, has been in the North Center neighborhood for two decades but this eater got its start in Chicago’s heavily Puerto Rican Humboldt Park. Borinquen is a taste of Puerto Rico, 2,000 miles away from its namesake island.

Gaby Figueroa, Borinquen Co-Owner

“It’s super important to us and it’s super important to keep that legacy alive,” said Gaby Figueroa, Borinquen co-owner.

Co-owners Angel and Gaby Figueroa, father and daughter, now run Borinquen, the home of the Jibarito, after the man they say invented the sandwich, Angel’s brother Pete Figueroa retired and is now dealing with health issues.

“There were so many times when he created the sandwich that people would kind of push for him to trademark it, to put a patent on it and his words were always no, no, I want everybody to make this sandwich, I want this to reach as far as it can,” said Gaby.

Jibarito or Jibarito basically means Puerto Rican “hillbilly” and can be insulting or endearing depending on what it’s referring. But in Chicago it means a plantain or plátano cut in half lengthwise, deep fried, then smashed and deep fried again. Add steak or your choice of meat, tomato, American cheese, lettuce, a swipe of mayonnaise and a healthy dose of garlic and seasoning to top and voila.

“You see the crunch,” explained Angel. “They don’t know about the sandwich and then when they taste it ‘oh,’ you know ‘this is great.’

A delicious and enduring Chicago sandwich that Angel and Gaby said spread across the city and beyond from its humble Humboldt Park beginnings.

“I want it to keep growing,” said Gaby. ‘I want to not just be in the heavily populated Latino communities – I want it to be everywhere.”

A true celebration of Chicago Puerto Ricans that Angel said spans cultures.

“I don’t see Puerto Ricans only, you know? I see white people, I see Black people, I see Asian people,” said Angel. “I say all these people like our food? This is amazing.”

With a taste that tantalizes the Jibarito, Chicago Puerto Rican born and raised, is an authentic way to share a bite of culture.

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