UPTOWN — A Puerto Rican restaurant is opening in Uptown early next year after getting its start from a ghost kitchen during the pandemic.
Marina’s Bistro will open in early January at 4554 N. Magnolia Ave., taking over the former Uptown Dry Cleaners spot in the Magnolia Plaza. The restaurant will serve modern takes on Puerto Rican cuisine and have a rum bar.
It is the first brick-and-mortar location for Marina’s, which debuted last year as Marina’s Cafe from an Avondale ghost kitchen.
A ghost kitchen is an industrial food prep space that allows businesses to open for delivery and takeout instead of having a traditional restaurant. It became an increasingly popular option for businesses during the pandemic, when indoor dining bans were in effect.
Owner Eric Roldan decided to launch his restaurant from a ghost kitchen to begin building a customer base while he looked for a permanent North Side location after pandemic restrictions were lifted, he previously said.
Roldan found that spot in Uptown, where he hopes Marina’s Bistro will stand out with its unique menu offerings.
“We feel like we have found the perfect location in Uptown,” Roldan said in a statement. “It’s a diverse community currently lacking in Puerto Rican cuisine. As one of the only Puerto Rican restaurants in the area, we’re excited to bring our flavors and style to the neighborhood.”
Roldan started Marina’s with Hector LaPorte, whom he is related to by marriage. Both are from the Humboldt Park area, Chicago’s Puerto Rican enclave.
With Marina’s, the duo wanted to open a spot that paid homage to their culture and the family members who taught them how to cook. Marina’s is named for Roldan’s mother, who died of cancer when he was 10 years old. LaPorte is not a partner in the brick-and-mortar venue, a spokesperson confirmed.
Recipes used at the restaurant date to the 1920s, but Roldan has added a modern twist and presentation.
Marina’s will serve traditional Puerto Rican foods, including mofongo, which is deep-fried plantains mashed with pork crackling and garlic and served with choice of meat or vegetables; and lechon asado, slow-roasted pork cooked in a marinade known as mojo.
It will also have a vegetarian menu, including a jibarito served with a plant-based meat alternative and fried plantains stuffed with marinated portabella mushrooms.
“There’s a certain stereotype that Puerto Rican food is fattening, Puerto Rican is fried. We want to change people’s concept of what Puerto Rican food is. It’s not just your stereotype,” Roldan previously said.
Marina’s will open for dinner service to start before expanding into brunch offerings.
It will be open for takeout and dine-in, with a dining room that will feature a mural of the owner’s late mother and business namesake.
Marina’s Bistro joins other local restaurants to open brick-and-mortar locations after launching in a ghost kitchen: Uptown’s Milly’s Pizza in a Pan, Don Pablo’s Kitchen and Bake Shop and Edgewater’s Sfera.
For more about Marina’s Bistro, click here.
Additional reporting by Mina Bloom.