Disclosure: The Local Tourist’s experience was provided, but all opinions are our own.
Chefs Jorge Manzano and Jorge Pizana began cooking together decades ago in Mexico and spent years working in Latin restaurants across the city of Chicago, including popular tapas restaurants Emilio’s and Café Ba Ba Reeba. In 2013, they joined forces to open Tacos Tequila which has become one of of Avondale’s most popular Mexican food spots.
Earlier in 2019, they decided to expand beyond Mexican cuisine into flavors and specialties of other Latin countries, opening La Nacional. Late in the summer, however, veteran restauranteur Dudley Nieto visited the restaurant and immediately had some brilliant ideas for Manzano and Pizana.
Nieto has in impressive resume as both executive chef and consulting chef working with successful projects including Adobo Grill, Mezcalina, Artango Bar and Steakhouse, Bario, Barbako, Rojo Gusano, Octavio and Ele Jeffe.
Working together, the trio of inventive chefs began to expand the menu with additions like Peruvian ceviches, ropa vieja from Cuba, croquetas from Spain, Argentine churrasco and empanadas and more. After 2-months of tweaking, recipe development and taste testing, the 3 expanded and revamped the original La Nacional menu, re-christening the restaurant as La Celia Latin Kitchen.
Located at 2890 North Milwaukee Avenue, La Celia Latin Kitchen now serves up a fantastic menu of Latin flavors. At the moment, the restaurant is BYOB which in my estimation adds a huge extra star to any review. Although I love a good cocktail menu and often geek out over a fantastic wine list, it’s occasionally nice to be able to just bring along your own beverage and then use your budget to splurge on extra menu items.
I was recently invited to bring a friend and sample the menu at La Celia Latin Kitchen, bringing along a nice bottle of California Pinot Noir (a nice pairing with most of the items we sampled). The interior of the restaurant is bright and colorful with spectacular murals – a beautiful splash of color that was well-needed on a cold, gray evening.
During the meal, we had a chance to sample the following:
- Seasonal Guacamole (chunky avocado, pico de gallo, jicama, mango) – Freshly made guacamole served with warm, house-made chips.
- Tamal de Mango (creamy goat cheese, chipotle, pico-mango sauce) – This simple preparation was a delightful surprise. The appetizer had two tamales filled with slightly savory goat cheese and chunks of fresh mango – a great combination of both flavor and texture.
- Aguachiles Con Camaron Ceviche (shrimp, cilantro-lime , serrano broth, cucumber, avocado) – No Latin restaurant is complete, in my opinion, without some good ceviche preparations. This was a standout – ample portions of shrimp mixed with fresh ingredients. If you have read my other reviews, you will know that I am heat-averse in food, and I have to admit that this one was just one step over the line for me. If, however, you are a fan of hot/spicy Latin food then absolutely order this one. Otherwise, opt for one of the other ceviche options on the menu.
- Langostinos (garlicky butter sauce, yuca) – Wow! The garlic/butter sauce was probably one of the best things I have tasted in a long time. The yuca provides a nice compliment to the langostinos, and with the ample sauce you can dredge the yuca (which can be rather bland) in the sauce. This is a messy entrée, but one that is well worth the mess – just ask for an extra napkin.
- Churrasco (grilled skirt steak, yuca fries, garlicky white rice & chimichurri) – The skirt steak was perfectly seared and cooked precisely medium rare as we requested. The house-made chimuchurri was superb. Overall, this was one of the best steaks I have sampled recently.
- Flan de Coco – Of course, save room for dessert! I love a good flan, and this was spot on – firm and not too sweet with a toasty caramel sauce.
In a city filled with both Mexican and other Latin-inspired restaurants, it is lovely to find one with such reasonable price points and such superior food. The location also leads me to recommend them. La Celia Latin Kitchen is located at 2890 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago. If you are a public transportation fan, the restaurant is essentially equidistant from the Logan Square and Belmont stops on the CTA Blue Line. On my recent visit, I noticed that street parking seems plentiful in that area, so driving is also an easy option.
For more information or reservations, call 773-360-7536. Get more information on the La Celia website, and you can also follow their social media conversations on Instagram and Facebook. The restaurant is currently BYOB, serving dinner Tuesday – Sunday beginning at 5 p.m. They are closed on Mondays.