Our episode on Cuban Sandwiches are a classic case of the kind of effort we typically put in to putting a show together. It was some time in mid-2016 when we first discussed doing a show on the Cuban. They are incredibly popular, they are delicious and because there are so many, the greatest ones are hard to find.
Once we decided to go for it, I started making the rounds. If I saw a Cuban on a menu, I ordered it. Even if I took 3 bites and took the rest home, I sampled a lot of them. As I mentioned in the show, I likely dabbled in 10-12 Cuban sandwiches over the course of a year or so. I had 4 I was ready to run with until I came across a very special offering from Cuban Gypsy Pantry in Charleston. That guy immediately jumped into the mix. So here they are in the order they appeared, and the bonus selection we promised you on the show. And there was no mayo in sight.
*Fork and Dagger
I’ve known Brian Torres for years. A very talented guy who had been wanting to open a sandwich shop since practically the day I met him. He and his business partner Sky Hoyt finally captured their lightning in a bottle when the opened Fork and Dagger at 609 Abercorn in Savannah’s Historic District. She offers the Southern influences on the menu, he brings Puerto Rican heritage via New York City. Together they offer an eclectic mix of both cusines and one fabulous Cubano.
Not only is chef Will Vivas’ food amazing, but his story is inspiring as well as a tribute to perseverance and hard work. At the age of 22 he owned a restaurant on the Jersey Shore. Good enough to get 3 stars from the New York Times. In 2010 he lost it all. Moved to Washington DC, met his wife, she moved them to Charleston where he drove for Uber for a year before getting “back in the game” in the kitchen. They did it with a Food Truck. Within a year he had a brick and mortar location. In a city like Charleston where there is practically no bad food, that is lightning speed. One visit to this spot and you will see why. The Cuban sandwich made with his specialty shelby sauce is unreal. If you visit, you must must must have the Lomo Saltado. An unforgettable mix of amazing.
Savannah’s Cuban restaurant offers a great Cuban sandwich. Owner Juan Rodriguez is from Venezuela, but he knows how to deliver great flavors from all over the world. The Cuban at Rancho is straight forward, along the lines of the one at Fork and Dagger. No fancy spins or interpretations. The slow roasted pork is very good as well.
Cotton and Rye is one of Savannah’s better eateries. I visited for dinner last year not even knowing they had a Cuban on their menu. Turned out it was a special, so I ordered it. I figured it would be good, but I had no idea it would be as perfect as it was. It is a bastardization of a classic Cuban, but the flavor profile is on point. Chef Brandon Whitestone subs grilled Taylor Pork Roll for ham. He describes it as kind of a mild salami, which is very fair. Brandon’s roasted pork is as good as any I have ever had. I suppose 8 years in some great kitchens in Miami rubbed off on him. From my seat, this is Savannah’s best Cuban.
Once again a version of a Cuban you have never seen before. The description sounded interesting with pork belly, ham and crushed plantain chips, so I took a shot. It is really all of the flavors you need from an authentic Cuban, just different. A better word to describe would be softer. There’s no crunch of Cuban bread and this one isn’t as heavy as the others.
We first featured Hola! on our “I’m not Mexican” episode of Eat It and Like It a few years ago. Chris Garcia and Marisol Triana are a Miami couple who moved north for a change of pace. They decided to open up a tiny coffee shop with some pastries and sandwiches. It was an instant hit. Tiny indoor space, additional seating outside, it is one of my personal favorites in the region. Great day trip from Savannah area, only 90 or so minutes South, first exit when you cross into Florida. The Cuban is outstanding and worth your time.
As we mentioned in our TV show, I ate a dozen, maybe more Cubans for this show. A lot of them just missed the mark. Some were excellent, but a bit pricey. A couple were simple interpretations for under $11. I refuse to call the Cuban at The 5 Spot “low budget” because that will imply is it sub par. Not true. Smallish sandwich, but made well. I tried it because I had to, but I didn’t have to love it. I very much did. As will you.