Thursday, August 16, 2012
The Cuban sandwich - although it's more fun to call it a "Cubano" - has been around a long time, probably hundreds of years: roast pork and sliced ham are slapped together with Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. And then, in the step that takes it from merely good to fantastic, the ingredients are placed on Cuban bread - an airy, white baguette - and pressed. The cheese melts, the bread crisps up, and the whole thing becomes a brick of sandwich perfection.
In some places, salami is added to the sandwich as well. I'm sure it's delicious that way, but I've never had one and don't feel bad about that. In the middle of the last decade I used to frequent a place in Montrose, not far from Zeke's and La Cabanita - called Havana Beach Cafe. They had a pig roast for fifteen bucks every Tuesday and the place was decorated in the kind of lush fake plants and black-and-white photos of Havana that evoked wonderful sensations, but in truth the food was never any better than average and I was not surprised when it closed. Since those days, I can count on one hand the number of Cuban sandwiches I have eaten.
A little while ago - perhaps the hottest day I have yet experienced in New York - I got a craving for a Cuban sandwich, so we walked the mile and a half to Cubana Cafe, a restaurant I had passed by a few times in the last four months.
It wasn't as good as I remembered it being. Aint't that always the case? But it wasn't bad by any means.
After eating half the sandwich I thought: You know, I could stop right now and in a few minutes I will feel full, and then I can eat the rest of this later.
But then another thought came to mind: F**k it, I'm eating the whole thing.
And I was glad I did.
I liked Cubana Cafe. It's possible that, like Havana Beach Cafe, I'm giving it a little too much credit just because I want to like the place. The service was pretty bad - our waiter was much more interested with hanging out on the sidewalk and greeting the people he knew who walked by than serving his actual customers - and the atmosphere that could be seen by some as "fun" could also be viewed as messy and careless. But I have no regrets about coming here. The prices were reasonable and the food good. I wouldn't mind returning, but first I have to try a lot more Cuban places in New York.
Posted by JustinM at 10:00 AM