Libertad, Skokie’s newest restaurant, could easily be at home in downtown Chicago. The Latin eatery offers delicious and beautifully presented food and drinks at reasonable prices.
The restaurant at 7931 Lincoln Ave. is helmed by Las Palmas’ Marcos Rivera and chef Armando Gonzalez of Chicago’s Bin 36 and MK. The spot features a bar with tall seats with multiple wall-mounted wooden wine racks. The dining room is painted with warm hues and decorated with 3D images of faces. The small wooden tables are lit by candles and have a view of the open kitchen.
Reservations are highly recommended as there are only 40 seats. The host who greeted us looked visibly relieved when we said we had called ahead. Though the restaurant wasn’t full when we arrived, it soon filled up when a large group arrived.
Our server showed an excellent knowledge of the food and drink menus. She was able to make detailed recommendations on everything, including the day’s specials. She explained to us that dishes are somewhere between the size of tapas and standard entrees, recommending we share between three and four.
We started by ordering a pair of drinks from the cocktail menu designed by mixologists Adam Seger and Jenny Kessler of Chicago’s Hum Spirits. The berry mole mojito ($9) is the most complex version of the drink I’ve tried, using the Hum hibiscus liqueur, plenty of strawberries and mint and ginger beer. It’s loaded with flavor and made thick by all the fruit and herbs. The roasted pineapple-jalapeno cooler ($9) is also impressive. While I’ve tried several drinks involving hot peppers, this one actually had a kick as the peppers blended perfectly with the rum and ginger beer. The drink is topped with a slice of roasted pineapple, which is a tasty treat.
We went entirely with a list of our server’s favorite dishes. The pan-seared Alaskan salmon ($12), the night’s special, was our favorite. It was a great deal for the price, with two filets of salmon glazed with a blend of agave and chili pepper, which made the crispy top a delicious blend of sweet and spicy. The fish is topped with pink chunks of pomelo, a sweeter version of grapefruit, and served atop a bed of baby bok choy, sweet corn and mushrooms.
The risotto ($8) is also a large plate of great food. The thick and creamy dish features a blend of chunks of lightly cooked sweet potatoes, thin asparagus, wild mushrooms and tender baby carrots. The blend is topped with thick slices of manchego cheese that melt into the rice.
The flautas ($7) were a bit disappointing compared to the complexity of the other dishes. The shells are very crispy, but the chicken inside and watercress, cheese and salsa toppings were on the bland side.
For dessert, we had been considering the crème brulee ($7) and layered carrot cake ($7), but decided to go with our server’s favorite – the chocolate cake ($7). We were very happy with the desert, which turned out to be a small bittersweet cake topped with a scoop of Libertad’s excellent homemade mint ice cream.
Libertad, which opened about three weeks ago, brings an unrepresented type of cuisine to Skokie. It offers great meals that are not too pricey to limit customers and is an excellent addition to the area’s dining scene.