Each week in our new Off Duty series, we'll talk to some of our favorite chefs and industry folk around the country to find out their secret late-night spots where they like to grab a bite and a pint when their kitchens are finally closed. Next up: Bill Kim, the Chicago-based chef/owner of inventive Asian comfort food meccas Urbanbelly, Belly Shack and, most recently, bellyQ.
What's your favorite joint to grab a bite when you can finally get out of the kitchen?
I like a lot of the Latin places that are open later. My wife is Puerto Rican and there's a Puerto Rican restaurant called La Bomba that we like. They have these plantain tamales that I just love and adore. They come wrapped in banana leaf and they stew it in a pork broth and you get some Puerto Rican rice and to me, that's a complete meal. And it's dirt cheap -- it's less than $10.Their [other specialties] are roasted pork and plantain tostones. They also have these empanadas and bacalao, which is this salt cod fritter and is delicious.
What's the vibe like?
It's probably about 40 seats but one of the things you have to know about a Puerto Rican restaurant is that if there's not seven different Puerto Rican flags, it's not a Puerto Rican restaurant. They're very proud [of their heritage]. There are hand-painted murals of different parts of Puerto Rico and I think on each table, there's a map of Puerto Rico.
How long have you been going there and how did you first discover it?
[I discovered it] seven years ago when I met my wife. She took me there. I remember being like, "You know what? I don't know what I'm eating so you can order."
Now [my wife and I] try to go during down times when no one is there. People are always super friendly. You wouldn't know it, but it's our halfway point between our two restaurants so if she's working at one restaurant and I'm working at the other, it's a rendezvous place for us to let our guards down and enjoy each other's company. It's our date place.
La Bomba, 3221 West Armitage Avenue Chicago, IL
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