Friday, February 20, 2015

In Praise of the Ham Sandwich: The Cuban Kitchen & Coffee



EDIT: This place has gone through more changes than Bowie, and I don't mean that in a good Bowie way. I have no idea what it's like now that it's (insert current name here).

There's a restaurant/sports bar in Capo Beach, CA called The Surfin' Cowboy. Aside from the goofy name and some fake cacti outside decorated with christmas lights it's a perfectly ordinary sports bar featuring, arguably, better-than-average grub. The thing is, I shouldn't know what it's like on the inside. Sports bars give me hives, but when I saw a sign announcing that The Cuban Kitchen & Coffee was open inside The Surfin' Cowboy, well, let's just say that I heard the call of the ham sandwich.

Fortunately, I'd beat the lunch rush and there wasn't a game of any sort on the kazillion big screen TVs. The staff were friendly and efficient. The interior was more subdued and woody than most restaurant/sports bars. Let's just say that no hives manifested.

What's in a ham sandwich? From post-Christmas ham sandwiches past, to one version of those wonderful Vietnamese Bánh mí sandwiches, to the noble Cuban pressed sandwich, I have long enjoyed a ham sandwich in all of its forms. I'm not alone. The ham sandwich, from its 18th Century British beginnings to Eliza Leslie's American cookbook in the 19th Century, to today, stands as a classic of the sandwich-eating world.

Born, debatably, to feed the workers in the cigar factories of 1800's Cuba, the pressed Cuban sandwich is a beautiful thing. Featuring buttered Cuban bread, yellow mustard, glazed ham, sliced roast pork, and thinly sliced dill pickles pressed into a manageable mouthful, it's one of the best things to happen to the sandwich since Hillel the Elder slapped some nuts and apples between two matzohs in the 1st Century B.C.

How was the sandwich, you ask? You'd have to be trying to screw up a ham sandwich. It was delicious. I'm looking forward to trying the rest of The Cuban Kitchen's menu, particularly the oxtail stew, but I'll be sure to visit when there's not a game on.

The Surfin' Cowboy/The Cuban Kitchen & Coffee
34235 Doheny Park Road
Capistrano Beach, CA 92624