LATIN HEAT

FROM WORLD-PRE­MIERE THE­ATER TO PALATEPLEASING RESTAU­RANTS, THIS SEA­SON IN CHICAGO HAS A DIS­TINCTLY LATIN FLAIR.

Michigan Avenue - - CONTENTS - BY THOMAS CON­NOR

From world-pre­miere the­ater to palate-pleas­ing restau­rants, this sea­son in Chicago has a dis­tinctly Latin flair.

Latin cul­ture is ev­ery­where you look in Chicago right now, from in­cred­i­ble restau­rants and ex­tra­or­di­nary mu­se­ums to cul­tural events on stage and screen. Here, six ways to im­merse your­self in the city’s rich Latino scene this spring.

What makes a com­mu­nity? Churches, schools, shops—and back in the day, night­clubs. Es­pe­cially in im­mi­grant en­claves, where the sounds of home never sounded sweeter.

La Ha­vana Madrid, which once stood at Bel­mont and Sh­effield, was one such spot. Play­wright San­dra Delgado and Teatro Vista cel­e­brate the mu­sic and mean­ing of the pop­u­lar club in a lively world-pre­miere evo­ca­tion at Step­pen­wolf Theatre (April 14 through May 21, 1650 N. Hal­sted St., 312-335-1650; step­pen­wolf.org).

The Os­cars tele­cast may be the film buff’s win­ter high, but come spring, se­ri­ous cineastes make sure they’ve got the Latino Film Fes­ti­val on their sched­ules. Now in its 33rd year, this cel­e­bra­tion of movie magic fea­tures dozens of pic­tures, in­clud­ing the prison drama Per­ros, star­ring John Leguizamo, and Ari Manuel Cruz’s Be­fore the Rooster Crows, the story of a Puerto Ri­can girl’s thwarted dreams (April 20 through May 4, AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illi­nois St., 312-431-1330; chicago lati­nofilm­fes­ti­val.org).

With a sub­stan­tial per­ma­nent col­lec­tion and a dy­namic pro­gram of spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tions—many of which have trav­eled across the coun­try and from south

of the bor­der—the Na­tional Mu­seum of Mex­i­can Art is the pre­mier Mex­i­can cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tion in the na­tion. As it cel­e­brates its 30th an­niver­sary, this Pilsen-based in­sti­tu­tion show­cases a host of lo­cal artists with Me­mo­ria Pre­sente: An Artis­tic Jour­ney (March 25 through Au­gust 13, 1852 W. 19th St., 312738-1503; na­tional­mu­se­u­mof mex­i­ca­nart.org). The works on view, notes vis­ual arts di­rec­tor and chief cu­ra­tor Cesáreo Moreno, range from “fun and de­light­ful ob­ser­va­tions of our city to com­pelling po­lit­i­cal com­ments and a de­sire for change in so­ci­ety. Some art­works will sur­prise the viewer, some will de­light—there’s much to en­joy.”

Food trends come and go, but the pop­u­lar­ity of Latin cui­sine never wanes—and new places keep our taste buds pop­ping. Ful­ton Mar­ket spot Ronero (738 W. Ran­dolph St., 312-600-6105; rone­rochicago .com) com­bines an im­pres­sive rum pro­gram and a menu that runs from small plates (em­panadas, cro­quettes, meat­balls) to se­ri­ously share­able dishes like a whole fried red snap­per and a 32-ounce pork shoul­der. Spun around a mas­sive oval bar, with a brightly kalei­do­scopic floor, the new Dineamic Group ef­fort Bar­rio (65 W. Kinzie St.; bar­riochicago.com) screams “fi­esta.” Top Chef con­tes­tant Kat­suji Tan­abe helms the kitchen, where his Mex­i­can­japanese her­itage is seen in dishes like grilled diver scal­lops with poblano-uni relish. And in Logan Square, Quiote (2456 N. Cal­i­for­nia Ave., 312-878-8571; quiotechicago.com) opens early, serv­ing cof­fee and con­chas, those spi­ral­ing, rise-and-shine break­fast buns that are a Mex­i­can sta­ple. By lunchtime, the place is an all­out ta­que­ria, and come evening, a full din­ner menu kicks in. Top­ping it off is the sexy, sub­ter­ranean mez­cal bar, where bev­er­age di­rec­tor Bobby Baker has cre­ated a com­pelling menu of agave-driven cock­tails.

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