Just the word "porchetta" sounds delicious, and the unctuous, delectable roast Italian pork tastes as intriguing as its name. Porchetta's, a lunch diner in my hometown in Pensacola, took a bold gamble naming itself for this succulent pork dish, but its sandwiches do porchetta proud.
The piece de resistance is the 8-ounce porchetta sandwich, pictured above, which my dad ordered on our recent visit. It takes pages from po'boys and French dips but shuns any adornments, and in fact, none are necessary because the pork is so flavorful.
The best thing about Porchetta's is that the restaurant puts its star ingredients on any sandwich in need of pork. My stepmom sampled the banh mi, pictured above, dressed with cilantro and the surprising but yummy addition of kimchi. Despite being one of the messiest banh mi I've ever handled, it totally worked.
I couldn't resist the idea of porchetta on a Cuban, and as I suspected, it was a brilliant idea. This traditional Cuban packed a serious punch, despite its unassuming construction. Along with the rest of the menu, this Porchetta's creation makes a strong argument for global sandwich fusion, done entirely without pretension.
I've become mildly obsessed with Cuban sandwiches, as if it is my duty to find the best one in the Bay Area or beyond. The quest is somewhat quixotic, given that I have never eaten a Cubano from Cuba or even Tampa, FL. While I don't have genuine experience on which to base my comparisons, I know what makes a good sandwich.
My most recent Cuban taste test took place at Parada 22, a charming Puerto Rican place on Haight Street with cheerful teal walls lined with Caribbean curios. Not surprisingly, it serves a fairly traditional Cuban sandwich, with soft roasted pork, gentle ham, swiss, and pickles on a sort of smushed down baguette.
Find out how it compares.
I went all the way to Seattle for a Cuban sandwich, and Paseo was worth the trip. Really, I was there on vacation with friends, but we all agreed the sandwiches were a highlight. The Cuban meat sandwich landed on Esquire's best sandwiches in America list, which I'm slowing eating my way through. Paseo's roadside stand resembles a candy-colored double wide with no sign, but the sandwiches are palatial. Feast your eyes on greatness in the gallery below.
Philadelphia and New Orleans are great sandwich towns, but in terms of rich history and sheer diversity, it's hard to rival New York — in sandwiches, or anything. In NYC, sandwich trends are over before the rest of us have even tasted them, and there's always something new to try.
When New York Magazine's 51 best sandwiches issue arrives in the mail (with 50 more online), I see it as a scouting mission. What trends ruling the New York sandwich scene can we expect to see next? Here are five to watch from NY Mag's latest list.
- Banh mi. I love $3 Vietnamese sandwiches, and in New York, the street food is everywhere and getting a gourmet spin. In addition to traditional standouts, New York rewards the smoked pork shoulder banh mi from the Fatty 'Cue and the Sloppy Bao from Baoguette (pictured), featuring curried ground beef and jalapeño.
- Cross-cultural combos. I've been saying for years that sandwiches are the real melting pot. Like the BBQ banh mi, NYC sandwiches increasingly combine American classics with exotic ingredients. I'm drooling over the Super Heebster from Russ & Daughters — a bagel sandwich with wasabi-infused flying fish roe — and the Mumbai grilled sandwich from Mumbai Xpress.
Three more trends after the jump.
Since it's always difficult for me to decide what sandwich to order, I am a big fan of strategic sharing. I order one sandwich, my companion orders another, and we swap halves. That way, we both get plenty of food — in some cases, an obscene amount — and variety too.
On a recent stop by DeLessio, I didn't want a whole Cuban sandwich, but had I only eaten the turkey and cranberry, I would have been jealous of Andrew's Cuban. This solution satisfied us both, and both sandwiches were scrumptious in their own way. Do you do this?
My hometown isn't the part of Florida known for its Cuban sandwiches. But we have enough Cubans in Pensacola (like, one family) to bring an excellent Cuban restaurant, which happens to be at the airport.
When I arrived way too early for my flight out of town, I got to enjoy an excellent coda to my fried seafood bonanza: a midday Cuban mix. A cubano consists of roasted pork, thinly sliced ham, cheese (usually Swiss), mustard, and pickles, pressed on French-style bread (most authentically, Cuban bread). For all of the history and firsthand deliciousness . . . keep reading.