I am proud to say that I have a spreadsheet full of restaurants that I want to try around the city. I’m not very proud to admit that have most of the restaurants have been on my list for about two years. As a resident of Lakeview, my go-to places are usually located off of the red or brown line (I call it the frown line due to the significant delays and all-around horribleness).
However, I was feeling adventurous recently and decided to take a trek on the blue line to Nini’s Deli. Nini’s is a small, family-owned and operated quick service restaurant that features Cuban sandwiches with a Lebanese flavor. They have an exciting menu that features various types of sandwiches on freshly grilled french bread, along with plenty of option for the vegetarian and gluten-free crowd. When I first glanced at their menu 18 months ago (true story), I saw plantains and immediately added it to my spreadsheet.
Nini’s Deli did not disappoint. The place has almost five stars on Yelp for a very good reason. The restaurant is located in Noble Square, about a ten minute walk from the Grand Blue Line stop. It was fairly busy at 2:30 pm on a Thursday, full of regulars all chatting with each other and the employees. Speaking of which, the employees were incredibly kind, helpful, and obviously passionate about the food they make. The ambiance was casual, welcoming, and fun. The food? Oh my goodness. I do not even know where to begin.
We ordered the spinach and cheese empanada, sweet plantains, steak slider, ropa vieja sandwich, peanut butter and apple empanada, hibiscus lemonade, and cafe con leche. I wanted to order the entire menu but my wallet told me otherwise.
Both of the empanadas were crispy and fresh out of the fryer. The peanut butter and apple empanada was served with Nini’s homemade guava jelly, which my friend ended up eating with a fork. It was that good. The sweet plantains were served with guava jelly as well.
The steak slider was seriously one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a long time. It was served on a fried plantain “bun” and filled with Cuban steak, a tangy mustard, veggies, and cheese. They also have a vegetarian option that looked equally delicious.
The ropa vieja sandwich was great as well. You can choose between chicken or beef, and it comes with a variety of veggies on a grilled french bread. There is also a gluten-free bread option for any of the sandwiches.
Other sandwich options include the “Kitchen Sink,” which consists of an omelette, Cuban steak, turkey-ham, and American cheese, a falafel sandwich, a Cuban PB & J (guava jelly + peanut butter), and a “Media Noche”, which is turkey ham, plantains, pickles, mustard, and Swiss cheese.
Nini’s has delicious coffee and lemonade options and features different specials each week. If you already live on the blue line, consider yourself lucky. If you do not live on the blue line, bite the bullet and take a trip to the blue line. Nini’s Deli is worth it.
543 N. Noble St.
Chicago, IL 60642