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. 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.

Running the “Philly Special” in our Search for the perfect Cuban sandwich



With apologies to W.C. Fields, it had to be Philadelphia.

Over the last several months, our search for the perfect Cubano saw me and Linds B make our way through a solidly righteous collection of foodie towns from Harrisburg and Reading to Lancaster and Elizabethtown. But when we decided it was high time to get back to it and finish this search, it had to be the biggest town in the commonwealth . . where football and food reign supreme.


If you’re not from the state, you just don’t understand how unfair it is that Philly has been subject to typecasting more often than Will Smith (Shout out to West Philadelphia on that one . .). The real deal truth is that cheesesteaks are nothing more than a starting point. Because this town can hold its own with any city under the flag it made famous when it comes to offering up a wide array of culinary choices.


Our first stop was Reading Terminal Market, where we ran into Joe Nicolosi, the head chef at DiNic’s Roast Pork. This city institution got some much deserved national cred when it was featured on an episode of Man vs. Food with Adam Richman, and shortly after that appearance it won the honor of “Best Sandwich in America”. (If you ain’t seen the MVF clip, you can find it here.) And so we had to go a few rounds with this heavyweight champion sammy: the roast pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. After which I cursed the handsome devil who runs the kitchen for creating such a diabolically delicious piece of love that hurt so good and left us feeling as if maybe . . just maybe, our food run had peaked before the main event.


After a quick Google search, we set our coordinates for Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar. It was a twenty minute walk to Old Town, during which time Linds and me talked about everything but sports. We strolled past Independence Hall, drank in the city sounds and made small talk with a cute little pixie by the name of Iris who dealt up some serious 411 on the ASPCA.

Cuba Libre

Finally . . we found ourselves in the clutches of sweet Libertad, and when we walked inside the place, it felt as if we’d navigated ninety miles worth of ocean trespass and had landed in the heart of old Habana. We were seated next to a staircase whose ascent might have leaned into stars of a long lost time when an island nation was the resort of choice for many Americans. The interior was an argumentative cascade of modern and classical architecture dressed in vibrant island colors.

And then it struck me as to what this little mission of ours had stood for from the get. Our search had been a humbly romantic nod to a time when patience and roots held sway and songs bred revolutions and islands swam on earnest tides. And so we kept to the charter by ordering up a couple of classic mojitos and El Cubano.

The open air setting worked backup to the pulsing beat of Latin classics that bounded off the walls while wicker fans provided a wonderfully percussive remedy for a couple of B-side travelers with the finish line in their sights. And then our server broke it all down with a plateful of artful prowess. Peels of crunchy plantain done up as if by Dali, with our perfect Cuban sammy selection doing the straight up salsa right in our faces.

The Cuba Libre blueprint is an homage to where the Cubano first laid down roots in Ybor City, Florida: Sour orange marinated pork loin, Genoa salami, ham, provolone and Swiss with a yellow mustard-pickle relish. This rich and glorious past was brought to the present and pressed between a couple pieces of locally baked bread in such a way that the late, great Celia Cruz would’ve most certainly approved.

The Verdict

For the record? I’m pretty sad that our search has come to its conclusion because man . . . it was a time. Soooo, Imma take a moment before I give you the mostly predictable results.

Promised “Moment” . . .

Thank you for reading these installments. Really and truly . . thank you! We’ve made some great memories, had some great food and most of all we have enjoyed the feedback we have received on this via Facebook and WordPress, as well as our families and friends. And not to put one of those peeps on the spot, but Dale over at A Dalectable Life is gonna keep this tasty train going. You can check out her first installment here

I guess the only intrigue that remains is whether or not we gave Cuba Libre’s sammy a perfect score so here it is boys and girls . . .

The pork was succulent with tangy notes of decadence thrown in for good measure. The salami was a welcomed bit of spicy throwback to the original standard. The ham was sweet and savory, and the Swiss was a pelt of luscious melt with provolone rocking it in the new old fashioned way.  Even the yellow mustard-relish worked surprisingly well, helping to bring everything together. And when you press all these savory selections into a small boat of bread baked fresh in Philadelphia proper? It would seem a slam dunk certainty that we went all Bo Derek on this puppy.

Alas, we are notoriously tough graders and so we had to deduct for the provolone and the relish since they are newcomers, and thus . . . not original ingredients. But 9.5 out of 10 is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it makes the Cuba Libre version our Search winner.

And it really did have to be Philadelphia. Because there’s a dignity that runs in stride with the brawny scrum of this town that gives it its unique flavor. From the moment you crash its gates, you understand the complicated history that goes into making anything that’s worth it.

So here’s to life, liberty and delicious pursuits.

Our search for the perfect Cuban sammy does the ‘Rumba’


Sup homies! Linds B here. A very close human of mine, Ali Clark, took a lovely little trip to Florida for her graduation! Naturally with her being in a part of the U.S. that Marco and I likely will not travel to (for the Cuban sammy challenge at least), we had to ask her to snag a Cubano while she was down there. And of course, she delivered! Here is her review on her Floridian Cuban experience!

Hello all – I am very new to doing the Lord’s work, so I’ll be trying my best to live up to the Cubano-aficionado’s review standards.

While here in Naples I was told to seek out the best Cuban sandwich around, so I did what any person today would do and googled “best Cuban sandwich in Naples”, bringing me glowing reviews of Rumba Cuban Cafe. This cafe is a family owned business with two locations both with a 4.5 star rating and a slew of reviews, many boasting about THE BEST CUBAN SANDWICH IN NAPLES!!!!! So naturally this was the place to check out.

Rumba’s was only about 2 miles from my Airbnb so I hopped in the car and got the only parking space left in the lot. This place was PACKED. So much so that you couldn’t even go inside, and I got the last table outside (lucky me, right?). Within 5 minutes we had 4 different waitresses ask us what we wanted to drink – I was almost afraid I was going to end up with 4 beers. I was a little afraid at first because their FAMOUS CUBAN SANDWICH wasn’t even on the menu… but luckily it was still something I could order. I didn’t come a whole 2 miles to leave empty handed ya know.


When this experience started to go sour was when the wait for food started to take pretty long, almost 45 minutes. Granted, there were a lot of people there but I was hoping that meant that my Cuban was going to be made with a lil extra love… but I’m not so sure about that.

Now – I’ve probably only ever had one other Cuban in my life so I could be COMPLETELY wrong here – but this was not a good one, despite being told seven times by staff how amazing it was going to be. I’m not sure if they’re trained for this or how every waitress found out I had ordered a Cuban, but every single one of them felt the need to comment on this fantastic journey I was about to embark on. Out comes my sandwich, placed in front of me as if it is a bar of solid gold (I’m really not kidding about that, it felt like I was sinning to even touch it) and it looked pretty mediocre. I’m willing to look past a not so great exterior, because it’s what’s on the inside that counts right?? Well, this was very lackluster in that department as well.


For the first bite I was expecting an even amount of everything since it’s technically the middle of the sandwich, but all I was left with was a mouthful of dry pork. The bread was reminiscent of cardboard left out on a humid day – not much of a crunch, not completely soggy- it was a weird in between. The pork never got juicy even though the whole sandwich was dripping in grease, so no matter how long I chewed, it was still what I imagine the consistency of mulch is. And lastly, the cheese was nowhere near melty enough. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I love more than super melty cheese (well I guess there are a few things but that’s pretty high on the list).

The Verdict

Overall it WAS a Cuban sandwich, it DID have all of the necessary ingredients but it lost points for all of the above issues. Out of 10 this Cuban unfortunately deserved a 4. It lost 1 point each for the bread and excess grease, and 2 points for dry pork and lack of melt.

Hopefully the next round of Cubans blows this one out of the water. Til next time!

Big thank you to Linds B for the intro and to the lovely Ali Clark for being our first ever correspondent here at sorryless! Linds and me gave her this assignment (begged her) at the last minute and she nailed it. After which she went skinny dipping and then had a champagne party to celebrate her college graduation.

Kurt Vonnegut would be proud.

Bending the rules in our search for the perfect Cuban sandwich

Yorgos Cuban SammyMe and Linds B took our traveling show downtown last week, paying a visit to a local landmark. Yorgos has been rocking the corner restaurant thing in the smack dab middle of Lancaster city since 1989.

In spite of this staple status, I had never stepped foot in the doors until now. And it probably wasn’t gonna happen if I hadn’t googled up a last minute change of plans.

Quick shout out to the National Champion Villanova Wildcats! They made it look easy against a couple of basketball powerhouses in Kansas and Michigan, and in so doing made some history. The win makes the City of Brotherly Love a sporting hot spot, with the Eagles and ‘Cats representing. Imma root for the Sixers to keep this streak going because it’s nice to see a hard luck sports town become the place to be.

Yorgos is a Mediterranean eatery dressed in a pub; and it’s small enough that Clark Kent would probably dash inside for a quick wardrobe change. I was instantly in like with the place as a result, because it was giving me a chill Martini bar vibe. My preferred dining experience requires ambient lighting, leather cushioned booths that pinch the walls, a lively bar crowd, music spilling out in symmetrical accompaniment with restaurant chatter and of course . . good eats. Home? Meet run.

So we dug into this buzz whilst ordering up a first round of friendly beverages- Linds going with a mixed rum drink while I cozied up to a frosty Sam Adams Lager. We talked up mental health, food, tats and the peeps we know and love and even the ones we’re not so crazy about.

Our entry level choice was tacos since the lovely waitress let us know it was dollar taco night . . and she got no further than that before we’d placed an order for a half dozen of the little buggers in a soft taco formation. They were delectably tasty company, and they were not lonely for very long before the main event hit the table.

Vera Farmiga The Departed
The Cuban traditional they serve up at Yorgos is sexy. Like . . if this thing was a person, it would be Vera Farmiga in The Departed, seeing as how I consider it her tastiest performance. And the hell with the Academy for not having a Tastiest Actress category!

The blueprint is true to the original- pork, ham, Swiss-cheese, pickles and mustard. The bread is where they went all curve ball on us. It wasn’t pressed. And as per our rule book, any Cubano which is not pressed to specs will not be considered for Best of Show. We aren’t much for the rules, excepting for this one. Because really . . it’s all about priorities.

Before I throw it back to the judges, I wanted to let you know The Twinkies Post is coming up this week. It will feature the Easter night dessert treats that me and my daughter cooked up. And umm . . . if you’re into heart healthy foods, the Twinkies post ain’t gonna appeal . . so just scroll down till you get to the music video.

The Verdict

Here then, is the Linds B recap as per her Facebook post . . .

Hittin’ y’all with that fresh Cuban post, because Marc and I are doing the Lord’s work here. Once again, completely unexpected and fresh from the sweet, sweet pits of Google; we’ve come across the current leader across the board with a hearty 9/10! To our complete surprise, Yorgos hit us with their Cuban panini and damn were we blown away! With every flavor present in every single bite! Why not 10/10 you ask? Well, as we’ve covered in the past, we’re hard graders! In spite of the bread being an absolutely delicious addition, it wasn’t the pressed bread that brings that 100% accuracy! However, amazingly delicious! Definitely go and give it a taste! 

This is how irony meets destiny, because this leader in the clubhouse might never have gained such an edge if they had played by the Cuban Sandwich Rules and pressed this puppy. The bread was that good, and like Linds B put it . . everything else about the sammy was winning. Big.
Kids, let this be a lesson to you that coloring outside the lines has its advantages. Just remember to bring the passion, the flavor and most importantly, the soul. And the right amount of mustard wouldn’t hurt.


Pulling a fast one in our search for the perfect Cuban sammy


Bobby Flay ain’t gonna be down with this latest episode of our search for the quintessential Cubano. Neither is Rick Bayless, Giada, Cat, Guy, Rachael, Rocco or Jamie. And most certainly not Dead Fidel, who haunts my crib every time I bastardize a mojito by switching out rum with bourbon. Soooo, it’s a good thing none of these peeps read the blog.

Linds B likes to think we’re doing “the Lord’s work,” in our sublime and tasty search for the definitive Cuban sammy . . . and who am I to argue with such a devout perspective as this? So with that being said, we ventured into the desperate places for this expedition, as the erstwhile apostles that we are. No hipster cafes or grunge bars, no five star grilles or ethnic landmarks . . . not this go round. Nah, we decided to go all CliffsNotes, by doubling down on the dubious enterprise of a fast food version of a sacred standard. We chose the Cowboy hat . . the House of Meats . . the big A . . yeah, that place. Arby’s.

Now, before you summon your best Tony Montana four lettered variations and shake your head in disgust, lemme ‘splain.


Sure, a ton of fast food establishments have run out their takes to the Cuban sandwich, and yes . . most everyone of them has failed horribly. But Arby’s is a favorite place, even if we don’t frequent it out of respect to our major arteries. Arby’s has all the requisites to which we look for in our search: Flavor, meats and curly fries. Hey, we don’t ask for much, but when we do . . it best include curly fries.

McDonald’s came up with its own version, which along with McSpaghetti, McLobster,  McVegan and McDLT rates as the worst idea since Liza Minelli married that Liberace groupie. Hooters introduced a Cuban sandwich, and the only reason it took so long for the patrons to figure out it wasn’t very good is because, well . . it’s Hooters. And let’s not forget Subway, who rolled out a Cuban sandwich for a limited time that wasn’t nearly limited enough.

Fast Food For Thought Intermezzo: 

Linds B introduced me to a fast food hack that changes everything. For fifty one years of my life, I’ve been using those paper condiment cups wrong! Mind . . . officially blown. But don’t take my word for it, check out the new way of doing business on a wholesale level. The truth IS out there . . .

So the list of fast food fiascos- as per the Cuban sammy- is extensive. But it wasn’t about to deter me and Linds B, so when a mutual friend let us know about the Arby’s offering, we replied in unison “On it!”. After which we did our best Ricky Ricardo and got to stepping.

The blueprint for the Arbys Cubano follows the standard application to a tee. Pork, ham, swiss, pickles and mustard. And lemme just say, ample amounts of pork and ham. I mean . . did you get a load of that pic? It looks like a ham jail break, which is never a bad thing.

The Verdict

We didn’t carry great expectations into this particular expedition. We just wanted a meat stuffed vessel that was going to immobilize us, after which we could chase regret and anguish with curly fries and fountain drinks. Thank you Arby’s because you came through! As for a report card? The pork and ham were tasty, the Swiss was just kinda hanging out (no melt to it), and the pickles were in the witness protection program on most bites. The mustard, or whatever in the hell it really was, worked well to bring the whole thing together. The bread wasn’t pressed, because it’s Arby’s.

We scored it a 4.75 out of 10, with a curve of one point added for being the one fast food version that didn’t completely bastardize the iconic sandwich. Plus, the curly fries . . those buggers always merit good food faith.

All things considered, we enjoyed the experience. This break from tradition has only served to strengthen our appreciation for the real thing. It was the culinary equivalent of having an affair, after which you confess everything and vow to make things better than ever with your significant other. And we vow to never let our roving eyes tempt us into a fast food Cubanito fling again.

Unless Jimmy Johns comes calling . . .





Our search for the Perfect Cuban Sandwich takes the long way home


Persistence is the antidote to mortality.

I realize that’s a fairly dubious way to begin a food post, but hear me out por favor. Because me and Linds B learned the importance of persistence this week whilst firing up the Cuban Sammy search once again after a brief winter hiatus. We made way for the land of milk and cocoa- Hershey, Pennsylvania- to check out Philip Arthur’s. The quaint little cafe is a short stroll from Hershey Park, and it offers up a Cuban panini we decided to take for a ride.

We grabbed the lowdown on this rendition from the website and despite the fact they make their version on panini bread, we gave it our seal of approval. Flexibility has been the name of our game from the get, because playing by the rules is all well and good but tasty is always better.

The problem with this particular sandwich was simple. We never got to partake since Phillip Arthur’s was closed for renovations and Google didn’t happen to mention that little detail. So there we were, freezing our asses off as we trudged back to my car and deliberated our next move. All hope seemed lost . . .

Hey kids, here’s the dope about that hiatus I spoke of earlier: Unlike 1600 Pennsylvania, we want to be totally transparent as per all house business. These posts documenting our search for the Holy Grill of sacred tasty have not been brought to you in “real time”. Not exactly. There was some lag time, seeing as how we began posting our Cuban sammy adventures last fall on Facebook, and it was so much fun that we decided to make it a regular segment here at Sorryless. I’m happy to report that we are all caught up, and readying ourselves for the stretch run in our search. I realize this revelation is not scandalous or controversial, and for that we offer our sincere apologies.

With Phillip Arthur’s having harshed our mellow sufficiently, we made haste for an alternate locale where we could redirect our Cuban sammy adventures. Problem was, we didn’t have a backup plan so Linds took to Googling area joints in the hopes we could pin something down. We drove through Hershey and into Elizabethtown with no luck. Same thing with Mt Joy and Landisville. Nada Colada.

I hit the highway as we tossed around options and just when I was about to wave the white flag in surrender (Yep, TGI Fridays), Linds saved the day.

“I think I have something . . .” She said hopefully.

“Hit me with it,” I replied.

“Oh my fucking God, you’re not going to believe this!” She laughed. “There’s a place and it’s three minutes from my house . . .”

As expeditions go, I’m no Christopher Columbus. But hey, Christopher Columbus wasn’t really Christopher Columbus so there’s that.

I put together a Cuban recently when my pal invited me over so I could rescue a pork loin from the frozen tundra of his freezer and make something of it. As you can see, I went crazy with the pork- I reckon I put a pound and a half of pork in each sammy. But that’s only because I don’t believe in wasting food and it just killed me to think that he was probably going to make hash with the rest of it.


Mad Chef Craft Brewing may be the new kid in town, but it’s catching up right quick. As per yours truly, it had two things working against it. For one, it’s one of those seat yourself joints where you place your order at the counter and then await your grub. I can never get comfortable in this kind of place. For another thing, it’s a craft brewery and I’m not the biggest fan of the Baskin Robbins Effect that has permeated the adult beverage scene.

But . . . beggars ain’t much for choosing, and besides, this place had a hum to it. We hit the counter and I asked the lovely young lady for two of her finest Cuban selections plus a recommendation from the beverage chalkboard. I ended up going with the Porter Rico- a brown beer with smooth tones and silky depth. I was digging the caramel swirls and chocolate dip of this malted roast . . so maybe there’s hope for me yet as far as this whole craft beer thing goes.

The plan was to partake of the sammys and then move elsewhere for a couple rounds of friendlies. Mad Chef was all about business, and man! Do they know their business when it comes to flavor. Less than ten minutes after placing our sandwich orders, our sammys were sitting on the table in a most delectable come hither pose. The blueprint was traditional goodness: slow roasted pork loin, ham, Swiss, pickles and mustard. The precious cargo was pressed to perfection on panini bread. How these mad scientists were able to construct this beautiful beast in such short order and make us feel like we were kicking back on South Beach with the real deal? Cosmically brilliant is what it was.

The Verdict


Needless to say we were exhausted after our long way home trek to the latest sandwich grab, so we moved our business over to J.B. Dawson’s for a couple adult beverages. We had to map out our plans for the next adventure, whilst making certain we didn’t become overly reliant on Google for the win. So I went with the Cereal Killer- a White Russian topped with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I’m never going back to whole milk for this favorite cereal of mine, which means that my mornings just got a whole lot more interesting.


Linds went with a grownup drink called “You’re My Boy Blue”-  an electric lemonade rave party with vodka and curacao. Every sip is a spring time preview, every warm rush a summer’s dream. It’s how you go when you want to chase the blustery reign of winter into its corner for a time.

So that’s a take on our imperfect search for the Perfect Cuban sandwich. We hope you enjoyed it and that your food is tasty and your company sublime. And when the road starts feeling too long, just keep your eyes on the prize and be sure to verify your Google search.

Just saying.



Our Search for the Perfect Cuban Sandwich gets political . . .ish


In the latest chapter of our search for the perfect Cuban sandwich, me and Linds decided to put former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill’s contention that all politics is local to the test. So for those of you who don’t have the stomach for political discussions, by all means keep reading. Because our politics is tasty and we don’t shut down when chowing down is so much more constructive.

Lancaster, Pa has some seriously good eats. But don’t take my word for it, ask Alton Brown. The Food Network host who has an honorary doctorate in the field of tasty science is a frequent visitor to our town’s dining establishments because he knows a good thing when he tastes it. His scientific filibusters inspired us to stay local for this entry.

The town- dubbed Lancashire whilst under English rule- is a cobblestoned walk through our nation’s history. Notable residents include President James Buchanan, inventor Robert Fulton and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. The Continental Congress set up shop in Lancaster after the British invaded Philadelphia, and the town actually served as the nation’s capitol for a single day. George Washington slept here, Ben Franklin drank here, Thomas Paine wrote here and John Adams formulated his vision of America’s future while doing all of the above.

Lancaster Central Market

Lancaster is home to Lancaster Central Market– established in 1730, it is the oldest farmers market in the United States. I’ve caught revolutionary fever a time or two on Market mornings, after which I load up on supplies for my Cubano and get to stepping on the home made remedy. It’s the only time Fidel Castro can be mentioned in democratic company.

551 West is the kind of place that makes Tuesday nights feel like prime real estate. You walk in the door to a chatty buzz, moody lighting and a wraparound bar that drinks you in before you can return the favor. There’s a sublime resonance to joints such as this one, where you can learn a neighborhood inside a single visit.

We behaved very much like politicians negotiating back room deals with porcine intentions- a rolling boil of loud, obnoxious swear words whose profits increased with each new round of friendly beverages. In order to circumvent the acid bath of our adult beverages, we started off the festivities with some artichoke and spinach dip, because we are professionals at this sort of thing. The tortilla chips were warm and crunchy and the dip was creamy goodness with a savory finish. As far as first amendments go, you can’t do much better than friendly drinks and tasty bites.

Ben Franklin Quote

Ordering became a subject of some debate. I suggested that perhaps we should order different plates and then halve things, in the event this Cubano didn’t rock our casbah. But Linds was having none of it.

“Uh, we’re all in on this . . . we’re committed!” Linds proclaimed.

Far be it from me to disagree with such fine logic as this, especially after a few laps with Guinness. I’m pretty sure if Ben Franklin were still around, he would have done his best electric side in the affirmative.

The main event always feels like Christmas morning as we anticipate the unwrapping of our presents. Even though we know what we’re getting in theory, the practice to this particular sandwich’s construction can be quite unpredictable. And so it went with the 551’s version of the classic.

The blueprint went like this: Capicola, salami, pork and Swiss. The come together ingredients consisted of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mayo and mustard. It was served up on a well pressed hoagie with a side of french fries.

Now, the salami I get. It jibes with the history of the Cuban sammy, where salami was an erstwhile part of the creation until it moved state side. The capicola was another story. Pronounced gabagool by those of us who grew up in an Italian neighborhood, it is arguably the most sumptuous pork creation. Thing is, it doesn’t belong in a Cuban sandwich because really, you can’t have two kings in this court. I didn’t frown on the lettuce and tomato since I dig the color and crunch it lends. And the mustard/mayo blend was plenty fine. The hoagie was reminiscent of Philadelphia’s own (even though it wasn’t), and it was pressed. I am the biggest stickler when it comes to the pressing business of a Cuban sammy.

The Verdict

Linds and me were able to forge a consensus on the sammy vote without the need for a shut down, because unlike politics we ain’t got time for such nonsense. Not when the drinks are friendly and the company is hilarious. Our vote was unanimous . . . a 5.5 out of 10, The reason? We couldn’t figure out where the pork got to, which sounds pretty dang political, I admit.

I’d like to think our founding fathers would have been proud of our patriotic prowess. After all, they were all about life, liberty and the pursuit of frosty drinks. I mean . . happiness.

Same difference.





A Cuban gets wrapped in Folklore

Folklore Cuban

In our search for the perfect Cuban sandwich, me and Linds visited the quaint college hamlet of Elizabethtown recently to throw down on a Frankenstein interpretation of the gold standard. If the town sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of the 2005 movie of the same name, starring the ageless Susan Sarandon. Welp, this is a different town. Hollie Baylor doesn’t live here. So it’s a good thing the food along the main drag has plenty of ‘mo.

Folklore Coffee & Co has a whole lot of that ‘mo I’m speaking of. These kids specialize in deliciously funky creations. This wasn’t my first visit to the place, so I have decided to gift you with a top five list of my favorite Folklore sandwiches. Their Cuban sammy isn’t on the list because, well . . . that would be anticlimactic now, wouldn’t it?

5- Bagel Sandwich with Lox, Onions and Capers– Breakfast rule number one for me? If lox is on the menu, it’s gonna be in ‘me belly soon after. And if you’re asking whether a kitschy little cafe in E-Town, Pennsylvania can deliver on the lox and bagels front? Nailed IT!!

4- Davey Crockett- I would have been perfectly content with turkey, bacon and cheddar with lettuce and tomatoes on wheat. But nooooo . . . they had to go adding some avocado and pepper mayo. And I had to force myself to take human bites.

3- Miss Annie Oakley- I dig cream cheese on my egg sammy, lots. Throw in some bacon and slap that puppy on a cinnamon raisin bagel, and I’m more in love than Dorothy Boyd in that hello scene from Jerry McGuire. 

2- Finn McCool- Roast beef married red onion while having a side thing with roasted red peppers. The feta cheese and dijon intervened and pumpernickel made sure they stayed together forever. Yes, there’s a lot of sexual innuendo in that review. They don’t call it food porn for nothing.

1- Isaac Newton- If not for gravity, this sandwich wouldn’t exist. That is some scary shit to ponder. Folklore was somehow able to make bologna cool again . . for the first time. The sammy consists of bologna, cream cheese, fig jam, roasted red peppers and spinach on a ciabatta roll. They made this fifty one year old chap look behave like this . . .

As for the Cuban sammy that Folklore deals up, let’s just say it doesn’t resemble the original. At all. For one thing, they forego the water bread in favor of a wheat wrap. And they add roast beef to the tilt. I’m guessing they were out of peanut butter and jelly when they were cooking this idea up in the lab. I kid because I am a traditionalist when it comes to the standard, and as such, I am envious of those food visionaries who would think to deconstruct and reconstruct this way, while brick-housing the flavah punch. 

We celebrate food because it possesses the ability to make us feel like little kids, where all the world is a science experiment and anything is possible. Folklore knows its science well, doling up crazy, tasty lessons that leave you feeling nourished in every single good way.

Musical Interlude:

While writing this post, I’m getting down to some Celia Cruz. I read somewhere that CC was the Hispanic Shakespeare, and I love that comparison very much indeed. Because with all this talk of science and flavah, here was a woman who merged the two with an improvisational rhythm all her own.


The Verdict

Okay, Imma cut to the quick here. The Folklore ain’t winning best Cuban sammy because they forego water bread in favor of a wheat wrap…and they add roast beef to the tilt. It’s sacrilege, but we ain’t gonna be the Pope about it. We simply decided that we were gonna have to deduct a few points . . as we scarfed it down. We took 2.5 points off the score . . . yup, because of the bread. Still, this was a very pleasant surprise. And so what if Fidel would thumb his nose at this? He’s dead. 

But Wait Theres More

I loves me some bonus round when it comes to my food, and you can thank Linds B for this one. She just got back from visiting Big Sister Jae© in Portland, Oregon. Before venturing off to the great northwest, she was given an assignment: Find a Cuban sammy in Portlandia and give us a review. Well, she hit a home run . . as per usual.

West coast Cubans, ya’ll! Stopped at a lovely little food stand called Que Bolá. The bread was pressed and absolutely delicious! Once again coming across the not-so-tragic issue of pork that was too tasty. Down side of this beauty; severe lack of pickles and mustard. I only came to realize that both ingredients were in fact there when taking my last few bites. As delicious as the sandwich was, I’m scoring this one with a 5 1/2 out of 10. 👍

Linds Cuban Sammy

Linds B is one tough grader. Which is why she loves playing bad cop to my good cop, even though I’m really the bad cop. Anyways, that’s a wrap on our Cuban sammy adventures for this time. Of course the pun was intended.

Peace, love and Cuban sammys . . .


‘Capitolizing’ on the art of the toast in our search for the Perfect Cuban Sandwich

FB_IMG_1513384567795Our Cuban Sandwich adventures recently took us to Harrisburg, Pa. Located along the banks of the Susquehanna River, the state capitol is home to a bevy of five star restaurants that cater to the pols and professionals who do business in this bustling little town.  If you’re a history buff, Harrisburg has got the scratch for your itch. After the Revolutionary War, it was on the short list of cities that were considered for the nation’s capital. Thanks to a stalemate between a couple of state senators, it never came to pass. I’m pretty thankful about this, considering what a shit show local traffic is now. Plunk the White House down on 3rd Street and every peep within a 75 mile radius would need a helicopter to get around.

They say the journey is the thing, and lemme tell you . . they ain’t kidding. Our car ride into the ‘Burg was the kind of big fun that only a road trip can provide. We shared darkly ministered observations on life, love and all the stupid shit in between. We tallied the annoyances of our week, tossed around ideas for the next Cuban sammy destination and figured out how to achieve world peace, (It involves copious amounts of hallucinogens.). For good measure, we tossed in the Pulp Fiction soundtrack which is a road trip must have for its versatility- it can serve as an interactive rhapsody and a funky accompaniment that will not intrude on solid conversation.

Los Tres Cubanos is the perfect Caribbean getaway, seeing as how you’ll save tons on airfare, sunscreen and lawyers . . . in the event of an international incident. It’s a corner joint in the most literally beautiful sense of the word. The walls are dressed in brightly colored art pieces that marry a small island’s vivid imagery to the funky soul of its people, music and revolutionary past. Everything about the place is a preach on minimalism- from the cleverly small space that feels less like a restaurant and more like home to the menu, which is buttoned up and all business in its brevity. I like that.

Best friends

After a round of drinks that served as the opening of business, we ordered La Cubanita. The dish consists of a Cuban sammy, maduros (sweet plantains) and black bean soup. The thing about Cuban cuisine? It’s where comfort and soul food meet, combining the staples of rich and hearty meals with recipes handed down from generation to generation, each dish brimming with great flavors and well worn stories. After paying some divine attention to the second round of drinks, I slam dunked a couple maduros into my black bean soup before we decided to toast our Cubanos and ride.

That’s when Cuba met libre as far as our taste buds were concerned. The essentials- ham, pork, pickles, Swiss and mustard- mingled in a salsa dance that had us toasting our second round of adult beverages whilst our third round hit the table. It took a few bites before our deliberations became more exacting, and a tad less forgiving. The point deductions were beginning to take shape as we crunched out our research results and bent our elbows with the latest round of frosty friendlies. This is hard work, yanno?

The Verdict

We had a huge problem with the bread. And if you’ve ever had a Cubano, you know full well that the bread serves as the shepherd to its tasty flock of flavors. The bread must be a solid pair of shoulders, able to sustain the demanding lean of its savory compadres. This bread? Ain’t that.

While I have the red pen out, I have to say the Swiss was playing a different tune as well. It wasn’t content on being a creamy role player whose melt divined a warm and soothing hug. The overplayed hand mitigated the succulent pork, decadently sweet ham and spicy, crunchy pickle; not to mention the mustard applique that was done up just right. Taken as a whole, it’s a delicious dig that rated 7 out of 10. And no, that wasn’t the several rounds of adult beverages talking . . . hey, we’re professionals.


BONUS TIME!- The flan and the espresso were absolutely spot on. I mean, they were so good that if you promised us we could partake of this sweet and sinful conclusion every night for the rest of our lives but we had to live under a communist regime . . it just might be worth it. I’m hoping this totally harmless statement doesn’t get us red flagged by the Department of Homeland Security, but in the event it does, I have one request of my homies . . .

Send lawyers, guns and money.

Finding the power of the press in our search for the Perfect Cuban Sammy

7477_1506724717947The Cuban sandwich is a testament to culinary integration, patience and abiding love. It’s quintessential element is the coalescing of big personality ingredients into one delicious mambo in your mouth.

The exact birth date of the Cuban sandwich is impossible to pin down. Stories date as far back as the mid to late 1800’s, in the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba where workers would partake during their breaks. It arrived on our shores during the Cuban revolution. A Cuban population that was able to get out from under Fidel’s ruthless thumb found work in the fields of the Sunshine State and a lunchtime favorite was born.

The original Cuban sammy was made with roasted pork, ham, salami, swiss cheese and pickles on Cuban bread. Upon its arrival in Miami, the salami was removed but the history was just beginning. The present day blueprint calls for pork, ham, swiss and pickles on Cuban bread (think Italian or French bread . . with a Spanish accent).

From there to here, this simple sandwich has undergone more reconstructions than Uma Thurman’s beautiful face. The marielitos who fled Havana in 1980 brought fusion, while America’s sandwich scientists brought sacrilege. The myriad takes on the original have ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.

A couple months back, me and Linds decided to put together an Adventure Playlist: Pick a food and then search for its best example. We decided to start things off with the Cuban sandwich.

Our search for the “perfect Cuban sandwich” comes with myriad considerations and assorted complications. Namely, we live in fucking Lancaster County, Pennsylvania! That aside, we have been quite successful in our scavenger hunt thus far, uncovering hidden gems with ups, hipster cafes with crazy combinations  and corner bars whose soulful renditions brought us to tears (okay, maybe it was the drinks that did that). They’ve all had one thing in common. They were goooood.

Mi Caldero Restaurante in York, Pennsylvania became our first stop. We came up with this location by conducting a google search as follows . . Places in York, Pa where you’re unlikely to be mugged . . . Thank God for technology, yanno?

One bite told the tale. The pork was succulent . . (that’s a big deal). Unfortunately for this particular sandwich, the pork was too good. It actually stole the show. It was the culinary equivalent of Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. Delicious and sexy and infinitely better than the rest of an otherwise solid cast. The sandwich paid close attention to detail: Its mustard/mayo’ish creaminess was a yummy salve, the pickles provided punch with every crunch and the ham was buttery and sweet. AND . . it was pressed with the abiding love of a chef who totally gets that the press is the thing. 

On a scale of 1-10, we graded Mi Caldero’s Cuban sandwich a 6. Perhaps we were a bit harsh, but hey, this is important work!

This is the first of a series of posts on the Cuban sandwich. We’ll report from the front lines about once a week until we find our winner. In the interim, if you have a take on the Cuban sandwich that you would like to share with us, please do! You can contact us at or you can just leave your recipe in the comment tab. Who knows? We might even try yours out.

Viva the flavah . . .