Pollo Cubano, pineapple salsa, maduros, pickled onions, elotes, guacamole, Caribbean curry, and plantains at Ajo
Clockwise from top right: Pollo Cubano, pineapple salsa, maduros, pickled onions, elotes, guacamole, Caribbean curry, and plantains at Ajo Photo: Jeff Marini


752 W. 33rd St., Bridgeport, 312-763-2530 (offers carryout and delivery)

The take:Pan-Caribbean dishes, Chipotle-style
Why go:Can’t decide between Puerto Rican, Cuban, and other Caribbean flavors? Cram them all into one rice bowl at this fast-casual spot from the owners of Nana. Build your own ($8.50 to $13) with ingredients like habichuelas, mojo steak, and pineapple vinegar, or order a bowl off the menu. The pollo Cubano ($11.50) comes with grilled mojo chicken, black beans, plantains, and mango salsa, all drizzled with garlicky aji verde sauce.
Must try:The turmeric-spiked Caribbean curry ($8.50), loaded with potatoes, carrots, and other veggies, plus mango salsa, green papaya slaw, crisp chickpeas, and aji verde

Nariba Shepherd Pop-Ups

Check her Instagram page (@rebaru) for date announcements.

The take:Cheffy versions of Trinidadian favorites
Why go:Nariba Shepherd, the former executive chef at the Heritage in Forest Park, mines her Trinidadian childhood for a few pop-ups this spring, including a May 24 prix fixe dinner at Sol Cafe (1615 Howard St., Evanston), where she’ll be making dishes like braised collard greens with cou-cou, a cornmeal okra pie, as well as a chocolate chip fruitcake with rum whipped cream, a dessert based on her grandmother’s recipe.
Must try:The pholourie, fried dough balls served with mango chutney and tamarind sauce. It’s a favorite Trinidadian street food and a play on doubles, a classic chickpea sandwich.

J. Spice

Politan Row, 111 N. Aberdeen St., West Loop (offers delivery)

The take:Jamaican with a Southern twist
Why go:Chefs Jamy Franklin and Taj Savage mash up their respective Jamaican and Nigerian-Southern backgrounds at their food stall. The result? Jerk pulled pork sandwiches ($9.25) balanced with pineapple and onions, smoked jerk brisket sandwiches ($12.50) with aïoli, and egg rolls stuffed with jerk chicken, Swiss cheese, and cabbage ($3.25). Get a bottle of Ting, a Jamaican grapefruit soda, to quell the heat.
Must try:The flaky, spicy Jamaican meat patties ($4), which are made in-house and stuffed with curried ground beef, onion, garlic, and Scotch bonnet peppers

Cubano Bros.

571 Landmeier Rd., Elk Grove Village, 847-378-8865 (offers carryout and delivery); Chicago French Market, 131 N. Clinton St., West Loop

The take:Cuban sandwiches, retooled for breakfast
Why go:The Fernandez brothers have bread dough shipped from Miami so they can bake their Cuban-style loaves in-house. That super-fresh bread makes all the difference for their sandwiches, which include breakfast variations on Cuban classics, like egg and cheese with ham and lechon ($6.99). Want to really indulge? Order the fried ham and cheese croquettes, pressed between bread ($6.49).
Must try:The café con leche ($3.95): two shots of Cuban espresso with steamed milk and sugar. It’s so sweet and delicious it’s practically dessert.