Is a Cuban a Cuban if you douse it with chipotle mayo, stuff it with tilapia, zucchini pickles, or a hamburger patty? The restaurants featured here think so, or at least they bill their sandwiches as Cubans, those pork-filled puckery grilled cheese sandwiches that have been popping up on menus everywhere.
Today: I feature Cubans on the menu at Doyle’s Public House (my favorite sandwich for this report), Pacific Grill, Asado, the Ram and Sidebar Bistro. Click “more” to read about the sandwiches.
Yesterday: I bit into Cubans at Chambers Bay Grill, Blazing Onion, Powerhouse Brewery, and Panera. Read it here.
Doyle’s Public House
Where: 208 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253-272-7468 or www.doylespublichouse.com
Of all the restaurants sampled for this report, Doyle’s Cubano ($9) sandwich offered what I consider a near-perfect trifecta of porky flavor, rich texture and pickle-powered pucker. The ciabatta-style roll, licked by the grill, offered sturdy softness that held up to the last bite and was just the right ratio of bread to fillings. Medium-sliced ham butted against melted gruyere cheese that was crispy around the edges from a tour on the grill. Chipotle mayo lacked the necessary mustardy flavor, but puckery redemption came in the form of pickle chips layered three deep, adding a piquant snap to the sandwich. The bottom layer of juicy pulled pork added serious moisture and flavor. It might not be traditional because of the added smear of chipotle mayo, but this is one tasty sandwich.
Where: 1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253-627-3535, pacificgrilltacoma.com
The Juny’s Cuban ($11.95) was built on bread that was panini-grilled until shattery crisp, but puffy soft on the inside. Salty ham was deliciously chewy next to juicy pulled pork with a slight Asian flavor twist. Pucker comes in the form of thinly sliced house-made pickled zucchini with a bright, sweet and sour flavor. Gruyere cheese glued the flavors together with a touch of nuttiness. I wanted more mustardy pucker; the scant smear of French Dijon didn’t hold enough.
Where: 2810 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-272-7770, asadotacoma.com
Is a Cuban a Cuban if it’s made with fish? I think that’s a stretch. While the Cuban Fish sandwich (listed on only the lunch menu, $13.75), was tasty, it lacked the decadence of ham and roasted pork. The sandwich here was built on a chewy, sturdy roll stuffed with a tilapia filet wearing a crisp jacket of breading. Roasted yellow pepper aioli added to the luscious texture, as did a healthy portion of Swiss cheese, but this sandwich lacked the porky decadence of a Cuban. It also lacked pucker in the form of mustard, but the house pickles, tinged with rosemary, offered some sour bite.
Where: Various locations in Tacoma, Puyallup, Lakewood and Lacey. Visit www.theram.com for addresses.
The Ram’s Ricardo Burger ($12.99) is the beefy big brother to the standard Cuban sandwich. The burger started with a soft, squishy long roll with a thick, meaty, juicy burger patty topped with melted Swiss. (Note: my burger came with significant pink without my asking; if that makes you squeamish, you may want to specify your preference when you order.) Chewy, salty ham was layered on top of the burger, and a pile of shredded pork topped the ham. Crunchy horseradish dill pickle chips hit my nose before my mouth. Dijon mayo added a layer of creamy decadence.
Where: 1101 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, 253-572-7227.
The Sidebar’s Cuban ($9.95) stayed fairly pure to the original Cuban flavors. Crusty bread was grill-pressed, with layers of thin Black Forest ham topped with pork shoulder infused with cumin and garlic. Kosher dill pickle slices and yellow mustard gave just the right amount of a zingy finish. The bread was thin and nicely grilled, but it was too far on the wrong side of crisp. I wore too many crumbs back to the office and worried about scraping the roof of my mouth as I chewed. While this sandwich was tasty, it needed more moisture.