When my husband, Andy, came home a few months ago and announced that he had eaten the best sandwich of his life, I had two immediate (and almost simultaneous) responses. The first was “What do you mean my sandwich isn’t the best you’ve ever had?” quickly followed by, “When are you taking me to this place?!”
Of course Andy had not been to a high-end restaurant with linen napkins and silverware; he had inadvertently stumbled upon a hoppin’ lunch spot around the corner from his office called Tina’s Cuban in midtown Manhattan. Andy invites me to come to lunch the following week so that I too can try this ‘best ever’ sandwich. I eagerly anticipate our lunch date with Tina.
From the outside, Tina’s doesn’t look like much – but one foot in the door and I’m already salivating. I can just tell. When it comes to Cuban food, Tina knows what’s up.
This is not place to come and relax (though there is a restaurant area with seating in the back). I feel like I’m back in my elementary school cafeteria: grab a tray, hustle along. The food is in steaming serving dishes behind glass. The people serving it wear hair nets and plastic gloves. As I peruse the food, Andy orders for us: two fried pork sandwiches.
I watch the man quickly assembling our sandwiches – he has done this ten thousand times. Probably more. Sliced, hot bun, cubes of crispy, melt-in-your-mouth, slow-cooked pork which break apart like flakey salmon when he gently mashes them with the back of a fork into the bun. Then he adds a layer of sweet, fried plantains, followed by a generous helping of a creamy habanero mayonnaise. In one quick motion he slices the sandwich in half, wraps it in silver paper and practically tosses them to us as he grabs for the next bun. I’ve not taken one bite and I’m ready to agree with Andy.
Sandwiches in hand, we head out the front door and try to find a place to sit and eat. Andy suggests a place by his office. At this point, I’m speed walking and trying not to embarrass myself by breaking into full on run.
The sandwich exceeds my expectations. What’s the saying? “A symphony in my mouth.” If I were on the Food Network’s show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Sandwiches.” I’d say Tina’s Fried Pork Sandwich. And if you ever get to New York City, head over to Tina’s and see if you can resist the urge to tear that paper off the sandwich and starting eating before you’ve even paid.
I would never even attempt to match the greatness that is Tina’s Cuban, but here’s a delicious and doable take we came up with.
Well I can’t speak for Tina’s sandwiches, but I can vouch for this one. The flavors are bright and engaging, and I love how quickly the pork cooks. I’m one of those people who sneaks chips in my tuna sandwich. This recipe gives me permission!
Kathy - Panini Happy says
I’ve been working on a list of the best sandwiches in America – I’ll make sure Tina’s gets on it! Just read through the recipe, the flavors sound scrumptious. I love a good Cubano too!
Before you fry the pork, is it raw or cooked from a deli?
With Spring so close…I have been on a sandwich kick…this fits the bill nicely. 🙂
We’re going into NYC next week and I told Steve we’re having lunch at Tina’s one day for sure!