Jose Gonzalez is bringing Old World Cuba to Chicago. He’s just made a few modern, rum-infused tweaks.

Located in Logan Square, the unassuming façade of Gonzalez’s Paladar Restaurant & Rum Bar blends in with the up-and-coming neighborhood’s hip personality. But venture inside, and it’s easy to see that the eatery is steeped in a rich heritage.

“‘Paladar’ is a noun, it means ‘palate’,” explains Gonzalez, the next generation of restaurateurs in his family’s long lineage. “What I was going for is what’s happening in Cuba right now. People are taking their homes and converting it into restaurants. They’re making their dining rooms into restaurants and they’re called ‘paladares.’ That’s what I was trying to do here. I brought that warmth, feeling, that passion that I saw growing up with my parents cooking.”

Split into a cozy dining room and a contemporary rum bar (featuring 45 types of rum), Paladar is outfitted in family pictures and vintage chandeliers. Expect hearty Havana-inspired dishes like whole red snapper flanked by full-plate portions of traditional Cuban sides: white rice, sweet plantains and black beans.

Chat Chow TV spoke to Gonzalez (over fresh-fruit mojitos, of course) about his 46-year-old, fall-off-the-bone oxtail recipe, what makes Paladar’s black beans deliciously different from the rest and how rum should really be enjoyed (watch the video above for his expert tasting techniques).

Gonzalez hopes his vision has created a comfortable experience. “I want people to feel like they’re walking into my house and they’re sitting in my dining room.”


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