While the jibarito, a quirky sandwich served on double fried plantains in lieu of bread, at Café Cubano (7426 W North Ave, Elmwood Park) is a Chicago creation, the iconic Cuban sandwich served at the same establishment has its culinary roots in Florida.
The first version of the Cuban sandwich dates back to the 1800’s and Cuban sandwich shops became popular in Florida during the 1940’s. Today, Americans are lucky to to find version of this classic sandwich throughout the country and Oak Park Eats readers can snag one on North Avenue.
Melissa Fernandez, whose parents own Café Cubano, knows her way around a proper Cuban sandwich. The simple entree sandwich features pork marinated in a punchy citrus-garlic marinade known as a mojo (pronounce mo-ho). The marinated meat is then slow roasted until tender. The roasted pork is piled on Cuban bread with sliced ham, yellow mustard, Swiss cheese, and sliced dill pickles.
“Of course you need the roasted pork and you need the ham,” says Fernandez enthusiastically, “but a good Cuban sandwich is all about the bread.”
At Café Cubano, cooks at the restaurant brush the outside of the bread with melted garlic butter and toast the filled sandwich on a plancha; a plancha is a press similar to the ones used to make a pannini, but the griddle isn’t grooved.
“When a Cuban sandwich is pressed on the plancha it makes a perfect hissing noise,” says Fernandez, “and the process locks flavor into every bite!”
The plancha toasts the outside of the bread to crispy perfection while heating the sandwich interior until the Swiss cheese melts. The resulting sandwich is prized for its texture as much as its flavor. At Café Cubano the sandwich is served alongside plantain chips and can be upgraded to include rice and black beans.
Today is National Cuban Sandwich Day! Head on over to Café Cubano to enjoy this classic sandwich to honor the day.