Think you've got tumbao (Puerto Rican slang for rhythm, and lots of it)? Visit Logan Square's
Tumbao Bar & Grill and put your feet to the test. Whether for Latin jazz on Thursdays, old-school house on Fridays or live salsa on Saturdays, your hips never miss a beat at this high-energy Latin spot.
Gentle from the storefront angle, inside, the lounge runs bowling lane-style deep, with vast dance space. A rich wood mantle towers over an immeasurable bar stocked with South American wines and one of the city's finest rum selections, according to co-owner Luis Saldana and his brother Javier. Local artwork hangs on exposed brick. Flat screens play, exposed ventilation streamlines and dark furniture sits high off river stone floors.
Off the beaten path, on a once-pathetic strip of Armitage Avenue, Tumbao helped bring formality back to nightlife. "We wanted to eliminate the stereotypes of Puerto Ricans by giving people an opportunity to enjoy our culture with food, drinks and music," Luis says.
The dress code (no gym shoes or baggy polo shirts/pants) ushers in an attractive crowd of young professionals. Actor Freddy Rodriguez and Grammy-nominee Angel Melendez made some of the venue's high profile guests. Karaoke Wednesdays and domino-night Mondays (with 20-cent wings, 50-cent mini-burgers, $2 beers and $5 mojitos) even out the daily sentiments.
Unlike the positions of its competitors, like Cuatro and Coco, Tumbao's menu plays second fiddle to its entertainment. A revamped menu levels the playing field. Luis swears by the jibaritos and the salmon al Tumbao: honey-glazed grilled salmon served with fresh mango pico and walnuts ($13). His eyes widen when speaking of the seared pork chops and mofongo dishes. The menu carries on with plates to share in the $7 range and grilled specialties like burgers smothered in pico de gallo and mango shrimp skewers dripping in Bacardi sauce.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez
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