DOWNERS GROVE – As the winter months near, some may find themselves needing a bit of spice and citrus in their lives. To quell that desire, locals need only to stop by Caribbean Corner in downtown Downers Grove for its array of all-spiced sandwiches, sides and more.
The bright and friendly spot offers a variety of different Caribbean-style dishes, complete with everything from steak, chorizo-ham croquettes and marinated chicken, as well as a number of empanadas.
Both times I ate at Caribbean Corner, I grabbed a sandwich – not just because the basic excellence of all sandwiches, but because the first one was so enjoyable I thought it would be a waste not to get another.
My first stop was in the late lunch hour, so it was fairly empty. I got prompt, attentive service and a slew of recommendations before deciding on giving the jibarito sandwich a shot.
Some may already be familiar with the Puerto Rican-inspired sandwich, which is more about the style than a descriptor of fillings, and in this one star are the fried green plantains that are used instead of bread. I had long been interested in it, but never pulled the trigger, worried about lack of structural integrity and greasiness.
The Caribbean Corner version of the sandwich easily addressed both possible problems. The plantain was well fried, with a good crunch that still pulled cleanly as I bit into it.
Inside, the marinated steak and smoky chipotle sauce combined for a solid amount of savory flavor with a good chew for texture.
As part of a lunch special, I also sampled the Caribbean Corner's maduros, or sweet fried yellow plantains. They, too, were very well cooked, each incredibly tender and perfectly caramelized and with no seasoning to let the flavor of the fruit shine. It also came with a drink, which I decided was well worth the extra $1 for a mango Jarritos, a favorite Mexican soft drink that I rarely need an excuse to drink.
For my second sandwich visit, I went with the classic Cuban sandwich, complete with slow roasted pork, ham, swiss, pickles and a mojo sauce in place of the more traditional yellow mustard, all on pressed bread.
It similarly displayed the quality flavor on display in its sister sandwich, with every component complementing each other well. I did miss the mustard, but the sauce was enjoyable and added enough that I didn't mind.
I also grabbed a pair of empanadas, a chicken and a spinach and gouda, for my second meal, though I certainly didn't need them to be satiated. Despite how full I was, both were solid additions to the meal, as well-fried as the jibarito and with good flavor.
Both visits were well-priced, with friendly and prompt service. Though it's not the fastest lunch or dinner out there, it's worth the few minutes of waiting knowing each dish is made fresh and with care. It also features several vegetarian dishes to please many palates. For those in the area looking for a different bite to eat, Caribbean Corner is an excellent option.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.
Address: 970 Warren Ave., Downers Grove
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday
More info: caribbean-corner.com