Get set for a trip south of the border, in the heart of Chicago’s meat market. Just across the road from Grant Achatz’ Next restaurant, La Sirena Clandestina is well and truly on the foodie radar.

The restaurant specialises in South American cuisine, thanks to chef John Manion’s background growing up in Brazil and travelling extensively through the continent. Having enquired of the wait staff at Alinea of other ‘must-do’ experiences, particularly on a Monday where many top places are closed in Chicago, this was high on the list for a light lunch. Apparently it’s a well-loved haunt for the Next and Alinea teams on their days off.

The area is in the stages of being developed. It’s serviced by the Morgan CTA stop – apparently the first new subway station to be built in Chicago for 16 years. The station had closed down through lack of patronage but when the area started being revamped, the transport authority rebuilt it.
The restaurant itself is very cool; pressed ceilings, a long bar, lots of timber finishes and it quickly gets busy on this Monday lunchtime.

After absolutely pigging out at Alinea the night before, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband were hardly in need of sustenance but found the menu sufficiently interesting to jump start their tastebuds back to life.

While Greedy Girl sipped water and gluttonous husband nursed a West Coast IPA from San Diego, we decided to try a sandwich and a Brazilian hot dog.

The sandwich (pictured at the top of this blog), called El lomito, was grilled beef tenderloin, lettuce, tomato and chimichurri mayo with a side of garlicky fries. This was delish. The meat was soft and tender (as you’d hope given the proximity to the meat market) and the chimichurri (a garlic and parsley mayo) went spectacularly well with it.

Gluttonous husband had Cachorro Quente. Under this pile of fries and potato straws was a Brazilian-style hot dog with black beans, malagueta mayo, pickled fresnos (a type of pepper), mustard sauce and ‘secrets’. Malagueta is also a type of pepper, so the dish was quite spicy. Gluttonous husband said it went well with his beer, but it was too spicy for Greedy Girl, who took just a couple of the bites. Having tasted it, we’re none the wiser as to what the ‘secrets’ might be.

Brazilian-style hot dog

Brazilian-style hot dog

We were about to head out into the lunchtime sun when our friendly waitress offered us a treat. These were Argentinian shortbreads that sandwiched a dollop of dulce de leche, made from sweetened, condensed milk. They were a lovely foil for the meat dishes.

Argentinian shortbreads

Argentinian shortbreads

Of course, there’s more than meat on the menu and the bar is open until the wee hours for the nightowls, making La Sirena Clandestina (which means ‘the hidden mermaid’) a fun spot for a large part of the day. It’s been open less than two years but looks to be a hot spot for Chicago food lovers for some time to come.

La Sirena Clandestina

954 W Fulton Market, Chicago

La Sirena Clandestina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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