The Search For The Best Cuban Sandwich Goes North Of The Border

Yes, I know . . the title belt for Primo Cubano was settled in 2018(!) when me and Linds traveled to Cuba Libre Rum Bar and Restaurant in the City of Brotherly Love. You can read all about the victory lap we took that day right here, but ‘lemme ‘splain this addendum to our Cuban constitution, por favor.

If you’ll remember, our verdict for the Cuba Libre checked in at a 9.5 so technically there was a razor thin slice of a savory chance for some ‘mo if a worthy challenger stepped forward. Five years later, a worthy challenger did just that.

Q was my partner in rhyme for this particular excursion and all these lovely captures I include are the result of her shutterbugging skills. The get down began with a brisk walk up Mount Royal to visit the site of the famous cross that the city’s founder, Paul de Chomedey, erected in 1643 as a token of gratitude to the Virgin Mary. Old Paul believed that a higher power had intervened when a massive flood threatened to steal the town away before it really even got started. I might have practiced a tad bit more reverence when looking up at the descendant to that original wooden cross if the weather had gifted us an extra ten degrees or so, but hey, it was still special.

French explorer Jacques Cartier’s mission to find gold in them there hills of southeast Canada may have fallen short of the mark but in hindsight, he did just fine. The city of Montreal is a twin kiss of geographical diversity; it’s an island with a mountain tucked in for good measure. And so we made our way back down that mountain, conducting our own personal tour of St. Joseph’s Oratory along the way, and maybe I’m going to hell for saying this but I was starting to feel the rumblings of a beer run conspiring in my stomach by this point. If this means the fates will one day be fitting my feets for the fiery pits, I’ll make sure to pack inappropriately.

Because of course we had to chase the guilt away with a pub stop, just to cleanse ourselves of all that saintliness. If there is more to this life than deep fried pickles and a healthy pint? Well, maybe you’re just asking for too much.

After that glorious rendezvous, I found the answers to every maple syrup question at Jean-Talon Market before Q reminded me that we had some more churching to do and we best get to stepping. We had a couple hours to play with before our date with the Aura Experience at the Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal, but traffic and parking spots equal much less time than that.

Our bottom of the eighth inning moment happened at La Cecilia, a modest little joint in Little Italy. Imagine a place with none of the trappings of those eateries with the brawny bank accounts that hit you with a surcharge for just walking in the door. It’s places like this that I absolutely love to find. La Cecilia spares the airs while giving you all the things that matter most in a grub hunt: Great food, native tunes and simple banter.

We ordered a couple Cubans and a plate of platanos maduro, because I find that the sweet variation on the tropical fruit jibes best with the savory dealings of this most special sammie. With that sway hitting on all heels, we dug in.

First off, the conversation doesn’t get started if you don’t bring the bread. I have to mention this every single time because bread is the transmission to this muscular meal, without which you’re talking fast food. Water bread is how Jesus takes the wheel in this holiest of sandwich creations but that’s not a set in stone proposition. A soft baguette works plenty fine if you can’t find a bodega, so long as you get to kicking on it before its cloud like chew plummets.

Points got lost for the lack of press, but age has mellowed me to the point where I’m not going to be a dick about it. The bread talked me into charging the culinary crime as a misdemeanor instead of a full fledged felony. Tomatoes and lettuce broke the Cubano rule as well but I couldn’t go mucho meno since it produced plenty of mas. Provolone over swiss lost me but the salami was a chapter saver. No mustard or pickles, well . . not so much. The pork’s succulent clench was steeped in the majesty of a rich history’s worth of brilliant wine. If there was going to be any chance for this head on collision of old and new to win the day, the pork was going to have to be the the rock star of this odd assemblage. It was all of that and then some.Β Perhaps the most complicated entanglement to grade came in the dill citrus mayo sauce that was tucked into our arrangement. As with the lack of a true press job, we had to deduct points.

The Verdict

In dishing up the results of this better num-num than never edition, I gained my inspiration from John Lennon’s five year intermezzo between albums after breaking up with the Beatles: Get back to it when the getting is good. Nonetheless, La Cecilia came up a point short of a tie, weighing in at 9.4. Which means this beautiful excuse for a sammie lost out to Cuba Libre by the slimmest of margins, the same way our Habs had taken one on the chin to the Bruins a week earlier. In both instances, we stuck it out to the end and rooted like hell for an upset, knowing full well that the box-score never tells the whole story. Because there was plenty of winning in the loss.

Seguro que si.


59 thoughts on “The Search For The Best Cuban Sandwich Goes North Of The Border

  1. Dill citrus mayo sounds similar to my attempted recreation of the McDonald’s breakfast bagel sauce. But mine is tangier.

    Serious question cause I don’t generally care for un-deep-fried pickles, but is a cubano really a cubano without them? After watching Chef, I assumed that was a critical layer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was pretty tasty, I’m not gonna lie.

      BIG layer, yes! You need the crunch, and so yanno . . I couldn’t put this sammie in the victory circle.


  2. B

    I love this. A Best Cubano Search AND Touristy post sandwiched together. Makes for a most tasty one, tell you what.

    It’s almost noon and now I have a hankering for this 9.4 graded sammie. Would feel all wrong without you to enjoy it with so I’ll just have to make do with what I have in my fridge.

    But it really was a tasty one, wasn’t it? Can you imagine if there had been a squirt of mustard and a pickle nestled in between it’s folds? I won’t talk about the cheese since we forgot it was even in there until we looked at the photo! Still… I’m thinking it mighta-coulda at least have matched the 9.5… maybe?


    Perfect tune, of course!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it is the company you kept that caused you to overlook two felonies. I don’t blame you, but you gotta keep your eye on the road. I’m glad the sandwich tasted good, and I’m sure the company made it all worthwhile. BTW, that St Ambroise dark looked delicious

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If you are going to hell then I would like a seat at your table. If that’s the kind of tasty food we can expect, I’m in! I must however admit, ashamedly, I’ve never had that Sammy. Oh woe is me, my life is incomplete. Oops! Please don’t hate me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. With all the substitutions that seemed to be going on there, I had to wonder if it was rightfully called a Cuban. But then, I’m no afficianado.

    Lovely to see some of the sights. I don’t recall if I ever made it to Montreal as a kid or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I broke many rules on this trip, and this one comes in at the near tippy top of the list, Eilene. I went with the flavor of that pork, which was off the hook. And the bread, I’m a fool for bread. I could have hot bread and coffee for breakfast every morning.

      What a town!

      Liked by 1 person

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