Newcomers dropping in for Chilean sandwiches and cuisine must wonder, with a Polynesian presentation accented with seashell chandeliers and faux palms, if Chile lies in the middle of some ocean versus the coast of southern South America. However, with the Easter Island statues insignia, the beachy decor begins making sense – the indigenous inhabitants of the island refer to the Chilean territory as Rapa-Nui, hence the restaurant’s name.
A smiling host hovering behind a Tiki hut greets between blending mangos and kiwis for the many fresh-squeezed juices that sell. Fishnets drape plastered walls while toy fish, wiggling through them, add color. The unique makeup, uncommon in Chicago, resembles any number of seafood eateries prominent on most South Beach strips. Only here, a projector tunes to TV Chile, romanticizing viewers with clips of colonial-era cathedrals, plazas and narrow streets lined with royal palms.
Situated at a high traffic, six-corner intersection just blocks from the Blue Line on the Northwest Side, the place brings in mostly takeout orders and a heavy lunch crowd during the day. A recession-friendly lunch special helps – choices include a chicken breast, sirloin steak or pork chop with white rice and black beans, $4.50.
Evening business lightens, except for a few couples and a pair of Chilean girlfriends in for an empanada or two before dinner. Rapa-Nui is known as “la casa de las empanadas,” or the house of empanadas. Stuffing includes anything from fish to ricotta cheese, $2.15-$3.99. Additional Chilean treasures worth trying include the Hiorana salad made with imported clams, mussels and shrimps before the Pastel de Choclo: Chilean corn pie with fried onions, ground beef, raisins, olives and chicken, $12.45. Celebratory affairs deserve a tabletop Chilean-style grill, $29.90.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez
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