BBC 2024-03-04 10:31:37

Israel-Gaza war: Kamala Harris urges more aid for starving Gazans

US Vice-President Kamala Harris says people in Gaza “are starving” and has urged Israel to “significantly increase the flow of aid” there.

She said “there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks”, which would “get the [Israeli] hostages out”.

Earlier, Israel did not attend truce talks in Egypt, saying Hamas was not giving a list of hostages still alive.

Hamas told the BBC it was unable to do so because of the Israeli bombing.

“Practically it is impossible to know who is still alive,” said Dr Basem Naim, a senior Hamas official.

Hamas’s team and mediators from the US and Qatar are understood to be in Egypt’s capital Cairo for the planned negotiations.

Pressure for a ceasefire deal intensified after Thursday’s incident outside Gaza City in the north of the Palestinian enclave where at least 112 people were killed when crowds rushed an aid convoy and Israeli troops opened fire.

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Speaking at an event in Alabama on Sunday, Ms Harris said: “What we are seeing every day in Gaza is devastating. We have seen reports of families eating leaves or animal feed, women giving birth to malnourished babies with little or no medical care, and children dying from malnutrition and dehydration.

“As I have said many times, too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.”

The vice-president stressed that “our common humanity compels us to act”, reiterating President Joe Biden’s commitment “to urgently get more life-saving assistance to innocent Palestinians in need”.

On Monday Ms Harris is due to have talks in Washington with Benny Gantz, an influential member of Israel’s war cabinet, to discuss a possible ceasefire deal and increased humanitarian aid for Gaza.

Ms Harris said “there is a deal on the table and as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a ceasefire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families, and let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.”

She also said “the Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses.”

She was speaking in Selma, Alabama, at an event marking the 1965 attack by state troopers on civil rights demonstrators, known as Bloody Sunday.

The Israeli military launched a large-scale air and ground campaign to destroy Hamas after its gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel on 7 October and took 253 back to Gaza as hostages.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says at least 30,410 people, including 21,000 children and women, have been killed in Gaza since then, with some 7,000 missing and 71,700 injured.

Dr Basem Naim, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, told the BBC’s Newshour programme on Sunday that the group was unable to provide Israel with a full list of surviving hostages.

“Practically it is impossible to know who is still alive because of the Israeli bombardment and blockage. They are in different areas with different groups.

“We have asked for a ceasefire to collect that data”, he said, adding: “we cannot accept any preconditions”. He was speaking from Istanbul.

The UK, US and their Western partners consider Iranian-backed Hamas to be a terrorist organisation.

“Hamas is a brutal terrorist organisation that has vowed to repeat October 7th again and again until Israel is annihilated. Hamas has shown no regard for innocent life,” Kamala Harris said, insisting that “Hamas cannot control Gaza”.

Trump supporters target black voters with faked AI images

Donald Trump supporters have been creating and sharing AI-generated fake images of black voters to encourage African Americans to vote Republican.

BBC Panorama discovered dozens of deepfakes portraying black people as supporting the former president.

Mr Trump has openly courted black voters, who were key to Joe Biden’s election win in 2020.

But there’s no evidence directly linking these images to Mr Trump’s campaign.

The co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a group which encourages black people to vote, said the manipulated images were pushing a “strategic narrative” designed to show Mr Trump as popular in the black community.

A creator of one of the images told the BBC: “I’m not claiming it’s accurate.”

The fake images of black Trump supporters, generated by artificial intelligence (AI), are one of the emerging disinformation trends ahead of the US presidential election in November.

Unlike in 2016, when there was evidence of foreign influence campaigns, the AI-generated images found by the BBC appear to have been made and shared by US voters themselves.

One of them was Mark Kaye and his team at a conservative radio show in Florida.

They created an image of Mr Trump smiling with his arms around a group of black women at a party and shared it on Facebook, where Mr Kaye has more than one million followers.

At first it looks real, but on closer inspection everyone’s skin is a little too shiny and there are missing fingers on people’s hands – some tell-tale signs of AI-created images.

“I’m not a photojournalist,” Mr Kaye tells me from his radio studio.

“I’m not out there taking pictures of what’s really happening. I’m a storyteller.”

He had posted an article about black voters supporting Mr Trump and attached this image to it, giving the impression that these people all support the former president’s run for the White House.

In the comments on Facebook, several users appeared to believe the AI image was real.

“I’m not claiming it is accurate. I’m not saying, ‘Hey, look, Donald Trump was at this party with all of these African American voters. Look how much they love him!'” he said.

“If anybody’s voting one way or another because of one photo they see on a Facebook page, that’s a problem with that person, not with the post itself.”

Another widely viewed AI image the BBC investigation found shows Mr Trump posing with black voters on a front porch. It had originally been posted by a satirical account that generates images of the former president, but only gained widespread attention when it was reposted with a new caption falsely claiming that he had stopped his motorcade to meet these people.

We tracked down the person behind the account called Shaggy, who is a committed Trump supporter living in Michigan.

“[My posts] have attracted thousands of wonderful kind-hearted Christian followers,” he said in messages sent to the BBC on social media.

When I tried to question him on the AI-generated image he blocked me. His post has had over 1.3 million views, according to the social media site X. Some users called it out, but others seemed to have believed the image was real.

I did not find similarly manipulated images of Joe Biden with voters from a particular demographic. The AI images of the president tend to feature him alone or with other world leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin or former US President Barack Obama.

Some are created by critics, others by supporters.

In January, the Democratic candidate was himself a victim of an AI-generated impersonation.

An automated audio call, purportedly voiced by the president, urged voters to skip the New Hampshire primary where he was running. A Democratic Party supporter has admitted responsibility, saying he wanted to draw attention to the potential for the technology to be abused.

Cliff Albright, the co-founder of campaign group Black Voters Matter, said there appeared to be a resurgence of disinformation tactics targeting the black community, as in the 2020 election.

“There have been documented attempts to target disinformation to black communities again, especially younger black voters,” he said.

I show him the AI-generated pictures in his office in Atlanta, Georgia – a key election battleground state where convincing even a small slice of the overall black vote to switch from Mr Biden to Mr Trump could prove decisive.

A recent New York Times and Sienna College poll found that in six key swing states 71% of black voters would back Mr Biden in 2024, a steep drop from the 92% nationally that helped him win the White House at the last election.

Mr Albright said the fake images were consistent with a “very strategic narrative” pushed by conservatives – from the Trump campaign down to influencers online – designed to win over black voters. They are particularly targeting young black men, who are thought to be more open to voting for Mr Trump than black women.

On Monday, MAGA Inc, the main political action committee backing Trump, is due to launch an advertising campaign targeting black voters in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

It is aimed at voters like Douglas, a taxi driver in Atlanta.

Panorama – Trump: The Sequel?

Justin Webb and Marianna Spring travel from the frozen plains of Iowa to the swing state of Georgia to explore Donald Trump’s enduring appeal and look ahead to an unprecedented American election year.

Watch on BBC One at 20:00 on Monday 4 March (20:30 in Wales and Northern Ireland) – and later on iPlayer.

Douglas said he was mainly worried about the economy and immigration – issues which he felt Trump was more focused on. He said Democratic messaging about Trump’s threat to democracy would not motivate him to vote, because he was already disillusioned with the electoral process.

The US economy is generally doing well, but some voters – like Douglas – don’t feel better off because they’ve also been through a cost of living crisis.

What did he think of the AI-generated image of Trump sitting on a front porch with black voters? When I first showed it to him, he believed it was real. He said it bolstered his view, shared by some other black people he knows, that Trump is supportive of the community.

Then, I revealed it was a fake.

“Well, that’s the thing about social media. It’s so easy to fool people,” he said.

Disinformation tactics in the US presidential elections have evolved since 2016, when Donald Trump won. Back then, there were documented attempts by hostile foreign powers, such as Russia, to use networks of inauthentic accounts to try to sow division and plant particular ideas.

In 2020, the focus was on home-grown disinformation – particularly false narratives that the presidential election was stolen, which were shared widely by US-based social media users and endorsed by Mr Trump and other Republican politicians.

In 2024, experts warn of a dangerous combination of the two.

Ben Nimmo, who until last month was responsible for countering foreign influence operations at Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, said the confusion created by fakes like these also opens new opportunities for foreign governments who may seek to manipulate elections.

“Anybody who has a substantial audience in 2024 needs to start thinking, how do I vet anything which gets sent to me? How do I make sure that I don’t unwittingly become part of some kind of foreign influence operation?” he said.

Mr Nimmo said that social media users and platforms are increasingly able to identify fake automated accounts, so as it gets harder to build an audience in this way “operations try to co-opt real people” to increase the reach of divisive or misleading information.

“The best bet they have is to try and land [their content] through an influencer. That’s anyone who has a big audience on social media,” he said.

Mr Nimmo said he was concerned in 2024 that these people, who may be willing to spread misinformation to their ready-made audiences, could become “unwitting vectors” for foreign influence operations.

These operations could share content with users – either covertly or overtly – and encourage them to post it themselves, so it appears to have come from a real US voter, he said.

All of the major social media companies have policies in place to tackle potential influence operations, and several – like Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram – have introduced new measures to deal with AI-generated content during elections.

Leading politicians from around the world have also highlighted the risks of AI-generated content this year.

Narratives about the 2020 election being stolen – which were shared without any evidence – spread online with simple posts, memes and algorithms, not AI-generated images or video, and still resulted in the US Capitol riot on 6 January.

This time around, there is a whole new range of tools available to political partisans and provocateurs which could inflame tensions once again.

Nikki Haley beats Donald Trump in Washington DC for first primary victory

Nikki Haley has defeated Donald Trump in the Republican primary in Washington DC.

This is her first victory over the former president in the 2024 campaign to become the Republican presidential candidate.

She lost in South Carolina, her home state. But she is the first woman to win a Republican primary in US history.

Mr Trump however has a huge lead over Ms Haley and is likely to face Joe Biden in the November election.

The BBC’s US partner CBS reports that Ms Haley will receive all 19 Republican delegates who were up for grabs in Washington DC, giving her 43 delegates nationwide – well behind Mr Trump’s 247.

Ms Haley, a former US ambassador to the UN, won 62.9% of the vote, to Mr Trump’s 33.2%.

It is seen as a largely symbolic win, as the capital is a heavily Democrat-leaning jurisdiction, with only about 23,000 registered Republicans in the city.

Local party officials said 2,035 Republicans participated in the primary, the Washington Post reported.

Ms Haley’s campaign national spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said: “It’s not surprising that Republicans closest to Washington dysfunction are rejecting Donald Trump and all his chaos”.

The Trump Campaign, however, was quick to dismiss Ms Haley’s win, calling her the “Queen of the Swamp”.

“While Nikki has been soundly rejected throughout the rest of America, she was just crowned Queen of the Swamp by the lobbyists and DC insiders that want to protect the failed status quo. The swamp has claimed their queen,” Trump Campaign press secretary, Karoline Leavitt, said.

Mr Trump has dominated every state primary or caucus so far in the Republican campaign, and is poised to win more delegates this week, on Super Tuesday, when voters in 15 states and one US territory will nominate their candidate. It is the biggest day of nominating contests, with 874 Republican delegates’ support at stake.

Ms Haley has vowed to stay in the race until at least 5 March, when thousands of people will cast their votes on Super Tuesday.

More on the US election

  • Explained: A simple guide to the US 2024 election
  • Analysis: Where Biden v Trump will be won and lost
  • Policies: What a Trump second term would look like
  • Economy: Voters feel better – will that help Biden?
  • Recap: The Trump life story to date

What we owe the humble lentil

Farmed at the same time as wheat and barley, the lentil’s effect on human society has been less celebrated. Why?

Archaeologists digging at an ancient, abandoned settlement at Gurga Chiya in Iraqi Kurdistan had a simple way to tell what was mud wall and what was the interior of a room. The dirt that had filled the settlement’s chambers in the thousands of years since its abandonment was packed – simply packed – with lentils. 

“The lower 30cm (12in) of the room fill is black with lentils; large parts are pretty much 100% lentil,” wrote archaeologist Mary Shepperson in a 2017 piece for The Guardian about the excavation in Iraqi Kurdistan. And this is far from the only lentil cache to be found by archaeologists in the Middle East. In 1983, at a site in Israel dated to around 10,000 years ago, more than a million lentils were uncovered.

Wheat and barley get a lot of play as some of the first plants domesticated at the beginning of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent region. But the lentil was there, too. How long has this humble legume been with us, and when and why was it tamed?

Humans have been cultivating lentils for at least 10,000 years (Credit: Getty Images)

Civilisations began to farm lentils at about the same time as wheat and barley, says Hugo R Oliveira, a geneticist who studies the diminutive pulse at the Universidade do Algarve in Portugal. They are part of a pattern around the world where people first turned to agriculture, rather than hunting and gathering. “In all of them, there’s always a cereal and there’s always a legume,” Oliveira says. He numbers them off: In Mesoamerica, maize and beans; in West Africa, sorghum and cowpeas; in East Asia, rice and soybeans. And in the Middle East? Wheat, barley and lentils.

That’s likely because the cereals and grains pack a carb-heavy punch for quick energy, Oliveira says, while the legumes give protein – protein is behind around 25% of lentils’ calories. You can build a complex society on that pairing, and many times over the course of human history, people have. In the ancient Middle East, lentils were one of the main sources of protein, far more important in most people’s diets than meat or animal products.

“That is still relevant for today’s world,” said Oliveira. “In the developed world, we tend to think the main source of protein is meat. But in low and middle-income countries, the main source of protein is still plant-based.” The Ancient Egyptians were likely the same; the pyramids were built by people who were fuelled by lentils, peas and chickpeas.

The DNA information they’ve generated may help researchers identify the genetic underpinnings of traits like resistance to extreme heat and diseases

Curious about the process that took the lentil from wild plant to the foundation stone of civilisation, Oliveira and his colleagues sequenced the DNA of domesticated lentils held in gene banks, as well as numerous wild relatives. They found that today’s crop is the descendant of a single wild species, Lens orientalis, and domestication was centred in the Fertile Crescent, though the data doesn’t allow us to pinpoint exactly where lentils were first grown as a crop.

What’s more, the DNA information they’ve generated may help researchers identify the genetic underpinnings of traits like resistance to extreme heat and diseases.

Plant breeders are increasingly turning to the wild relatives of crops for abilities like these. Recently, potato breeders in Peru released a variety of spud armed with genes from wild potatoes that enable it to resist late blight, a devastating disease. In Morocco, a drought-tolerant wheat that’s also the result of cross breeding has also just become available, and not a moment too soon: six years of drought have brought the country’s reservoirs to critically low levels.

As people are urged to replace meat in their diets with plant-based foods as a way to reduce their climate impact – the UK’s Climate Change Committee argues for a 20% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030 – lentils have the potential to once again take centre stage.

In countries such as India, lentils are an important source of protein; 25% of the pulse’s calories come from protein (Credit: Getty Images)

The Dutch governmental agency CBI has noted that lentil production increased significantly in Europe between 2017 and 2021, though demand was still so high that imports were needed to fill the gap. There are even now farmers working on growing lentils in Britain. They haven’t been grown commercially in Britain in the past in part because they can be labour intensive to harvest.

But as the world’s climate grows increasingly erratic, farmers and breeders will be faced with challenges they’ve never seen before. “With climate change happening as fast as it is,” says Oliveira, “we are going to have to speed up plant breeding.”

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He hopes that the traits of lentils’ wild relatives, such as resistance to disease and the ability to survive tough environmental conditions, can be bred into domesticated varieties. “[Lentils] are quite sturdy. You can find them in Scandinavia, and in oases in Yemen,” he says. “It’s very unexplored [the potential of this crop]. There’s a lot of biodiversity that has not been tapped.”

Perhaps we will once again fill our more than our cupboards with the little legumes, and in thousands of years archaeologists will be once again be astounded by the bounty preserved on our shelves.

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Chicago’s best sandwiches from hot beef to subs

The Sandwich King of Chicago, Jeff Mauro, shares his picks for his favourite sandwiches, from hot Italian beef at Village Tap to the Chicago Puerto Rican Original at La Bomba.

Chicago’s culture is deeply embedded in its working-class, immigrant history – including that of its food. While the city’s culinary scene offers plenty of fine dining options, food preferences lean toward hearty, practical and just plain good. A stroll down Chicago’s streets reveals too many sandwich joints to count; tucked into buildings on every corner of the 77 community areas that make up the city, the third largest in the US.

As Chicago’s Sandwich King Jeff Mauro describes it, “Chicago has a no-nonsense palate – we don’t need our food highfalutin and fancy. It is a combination of necessity – hardworking people who build and maintain the city who need something quick, quality and handheld – coupled with the sheer number of immigrants over the generations who bring their cuisine to the city.”

For Mauro, the sandwich is also a comfort that everyone can understand. “As a kid, it’s one of your first foods, carried in a brown bag lunch, your first connection to becoming independent and socialising at the lunch table. You develop an affection for it you don’t get with other foods. And it can be eaten every single day – how many foods do you see like that?”

Part of the Chicago sandwich craze rests on a condiment specific to this city – giardiniera. A medley of pickled vegetables, it has risen to the zeitgeist with the popularity of Hulu’s The Bear. But native Chicagoans have been using giardiniera in their dishes since the late 19th Century when Italian immigrants introduced it to the city. Mauro described it as “an explosion of flavour, heat and texture” that “adds more peppers, more colour, more crunch”.

Here are Mauro’s picks for the best sandwiches in Chicago, beginning with the most famous sandwich to come out of this city – the Chicago Italian beef.

In a city known for its Italian beef sandwiches, Chef Mauro heads to Village Tap on Roscoe Street (Credit: Jeff Hoffman)

1. Best Italian beef: Village Tap 

“What pizza is to New York, Italian beef is to Chicago,” said Mauro. This sandwich has a storied history dating back to the early 1900s when Italian immigrants added a spicy broth to tough meat and tenderised it through a slow roasting process. They then threw it on bread for a heartier, more filling meal.

Village Tap, Mauro’s choice for the best Italian beef in the city, is comparatively new to the city. Begun in 1990 as a craft beer taproom, it expanded with a beer garden surrounded by walls trailing in ivy and a fireplace where diners gather during cold Chicago winters. Despite the popularity of its beer and its atmosphere, it’s the Italian beef that has gotten Mauro’s attention. “This neighbourhood watering hole in Roscoe Village has excellent bar food and serves USDA Prime Italian beef that sells out constantly,” he said.  

Website: 2055 W Roscoe St, Chicago, IL, 60618
Phone: (773) 883-0817
Instagram: @villagetapchicago

Chef Mauro’s favourite burger in Chicago is found at The Loyalist; a West Loop eater tucked beneath the Michelin-starred restaurant, Smyth (Credit: Huge Galdones)

2. Best burger: The Loyalist           

The Loyalist – a garden-level casual eatery in the West Loop – is found below Smyth, a street-level Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant, but is worth a visit all on its own. While the Loyalist bills itself a “neighbourhood restaurant and bar”, the burgers here receive as much attention as the elaborate seafood offerings at Smyth.

It’s Mauro’s go to burger choice for the “best beef, best bun, best onions, best cheese, best ratio, in the coolest setting and with unbelievable menu items to go with that burger”. Designed after French brasseries, The Loyalist’s menu includes the French smash patty comprised of chuck (shoulder roast), short rib and bacon topped with escargot butter, cornichon and mornay sauce. The Loyalist OG Cheeseburger is served with pickled and charred onion on a sesame seed bun. And, according to Mauro, no burger is complete without fries – or frites, in this case.                       

Website: 177 North Ada Street, Chicago, 60607
Phone: (773) 913-3773
Instagram: @theloyalistchicago

Gene & Jude’s hot dog stand has been serving up one of Chicago’s finest hot dogs since 1945 (Credit: Nick Holmes)

3. Best sausage: Gene & Jude’s

Stopping at Gene & Jude’s is like taking a (very delicious) bite of Chicago history. It all began in 1945 when Gene Mormino bought a less than impressive hot dog at a Cub’s game at Wrigley Field. Convinced he could do better he opened a roadside stand just a year later. Instant success brought a move to River Grove, where for years, the lack of signage prompted the locals to dub the restaurant River Road Hot Dogs. But it’s always been Gene & Jude’s, and in Mauro’s mind, it’s always been the best.

“I grew up frequenting this hot dog stand as a kid,” he said. “My old man Gus would bring us there to dine al fresco on top of the trunk of his Oldsmobile, to keep the smell out of the car! He would lay out his mustard-stained towel to protect the diamond coat enamel from the grease – salty, hand-cut fries; sport peppers (hot chilli peppers) and onions and condiments – that top this snappy Chicago classic dog.”

The restaurant’s motto? No seats. No ketchup. No pretence. No nonsense.

Website: 2720 N. River Road, River Grove, IL
Phone: (708) 452-7634
Instagram: @geneandjudeschicago

3LP in Chicago’s South Wabash area serves Chinese American cuisine, and one of Chef Mauro’s favourite unique chicken sandwiches (Credit: Andy Aguirre)

4. Best unique sandwich: 3LP

New to the Chicago scene in 2020, 3LP (formerly known as 3 Little Pigs Chi) serves Chinese American cuisine that head chef and owner Henry Cai calls “untraditionally authentic”. Visitors will find dishes like Mongolian beef and fried rice, but it’s the sandwich that Mauro sees as the true star.           

“Go for the Honey G Chicago Hot Chicken Sandwich,” he said. “It’s topped with a cooling and crisp iceberg slaw and Chinese mustard aioli. The chicken breast is marinated for eight hours and then fried the next day, and it’s the crispiest, juiciest piece of fried chicken dunked into a vat of pepper relish right before serving.”

Website: 1150 S. Wabash, Chicago 60605 (and other locations)
Phone: (312) 300-9866
Instagram: @3littlepigschi

Mauro loves the vegetarian sandwich at Conte di Savoia deli in Chicago’s vibrant Little Italy neighbourhood (Credit: Alamy Stock Photos)

5. Best vegetarian: Conte Di Savoia       

Black and white chequered floors topped with black bistro tables, a cornucopia of Italian fine wines displayed on shelves and in open drawers, and a deli counter where visitors can pick up a packed picnic – the scene screams “Italian-American deli”.Chicago’s Little Italy is a magnet for University of Illinois students, corporate executives, museum patrons and youth soccer players, and when they’re hungry, they go to Conte Di Savoia

The build-your-own sandwich here fits a variety of tastes. “What I love about sandwiches is that they’re very personal,” said Mauro. “Everywhere you go, the sandwich experience is different, customised. And if you create it yourself, you believe that what you customised is the only way to do it. It creates a connection between you and that piece of food, and that connection is dynamic as your tastes develop and change.”

Mauro likes the vegetarian option. “This three-generations-old Italian deli makes its own mozzarella and its own sun-dried tomatoes, which makes this light and bright sandwich like consuming a gooey bite of sunshine with each bite,” Mauro said.

Website: 1438 W. Taylor St., Chicago 60607
Phone: (312) 666-3471
Instagram: @contedisavoia

Tempesta Market sandwich shop on Grand Avenue displays its ethically-sourced meats and cheeses like art (Credit: Tim McCoy)

6. Best sub: Tempesta Market

In a nod to the Windy City, Tempesta Market chose a name originating from strong wind gusts and storms that are characteristic of the lakeside city. An indoor mural depicts a woman with long, dark locks, a breath of wind blowing from her lips. Cold counters showcase deli meats, charcuterie and gelato, and gourmet pantry items line the shelves. Down the hall, various meats hang like artwork in a display case, and rightly so – all of it originates from heritage breed animals raised with grass-fed diets on Midwest family farms; no growth hormones or antibiotics.

“Tempesta serves quite possibly one of my favourite sandwiches on the planet, The Dante” said Mauro of the shop’s spicy, meaty sub offering. “It has the best-cured meats on the best bread topped with the best spread. It’s made with Tempesta’s very own n’duja (a spicy, spreadable cured sausage from Italy’s Calabrian region).” He added: “And get one of their South Johnny pork sandwiches on the side… trust me.”

Website: 1372 W. Grand Ave., Chicago
Phone: (312) 929-2551
Instagram: @tempestamarket

La Bomba Puerto Rican restaurant on West Armitage Avenue is Chef Mauro’s pick for their El Jibarito sandwich, made with fried plantains and steak (Credit: Getty Images)

7. Best for Latin flair: La Bomba

“If you think about it, every country in the world has a version of a sandwich,” said Mauro. The sandwich’s universality is one of the things that drew him to sandwich culture in the first place – just the sheer number and variety that can be created using ingredients from all over the world. In Chicago’s Logan Square, head to La Bomba, a place patrons appreciate for its warm, welcoming Puerto Rican flair that treats every customer like family.

It is well-named – loud, festive music fills a room framed by an island mural and colourful art. Menu items include ham and cheese, blood sausage and breaded steak sandwiches. Mauro goes for the El Jibarito. “This Chicago Puerto Rican original must be eaten to be believed,” he said. “I love the steak version on the golden-fried, flattened tostones (fried plantains), with American cheese and garlicky mayo. It’s an amazing sandwich birthed right here in Chicago not too long ago.” 

Website: 3221 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, 60647
Phone: (773) 394-0106

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