Family is everything for Raquel Quadreny and fiancé Lawrence Letrero, the couple behind Bayan Ko in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. Greg pulls up a chair at this 30-seater and digs into the inspiration behind the Cuban Filipino focus.

The menu is perfectly edited: Cuban dishes that Raquel grew up eating alongside specialties from Lawrence’s Filipino heritage. “We’re really representing what we eat every day, what we enjoy eating and who we are,” says Lawrence.

It’s a mash-up that clients have enjoyed eating since Bayan Ko opened in late 2018, to the point of eating them out of menu items on a consistent basis. “People just love to come here,” adds Raquel, “to experience the space and our services and just kind of enjoy.”

There’s a lot to enjoy. But if you’re expecting a fusion on a plate, you’ll be delightfully surprised. Each dish is a spin on a classic, not a mashed-up reinvention. Smoked ham hock croqueta tots are a small-plates take on a Cuban classic. The oxtail kare kare is a hand-me-down recipe from Lawrence’s mother.

“I’m like, I don’t care how much it sells it’s going on [the menu]. But I’m surprised at how many people have really been open to it,” says Lawrence. “I knew the Filipinos would but I don’t know all the foodies would come out.”

Their tiny BYOB under the elevated tracks, or “L”, is a labor of family love from front to back. After a few pop-up shop runs to test their concept, Raquel and Lawrence, went in search of a space to call their own. Once found, they enlisted Lawrence’s father and brother-in-law to help with the buildout. When she wasn’t tricking out the decor, Raquel got to work staffing the front of house while Lawrence did what he does best: cook.

And what about the restaurant’s name? Well, you’ll just have to listen in to find out!

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