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Breaking Down Vancouver’s Best Cubano Sandwich

STACKED is a Scout column that aims to dig down into the delicious details of Vancouver’s better sandwiches and burgers. From banh mi and burgers to sliders and reubens, the goal is to craft and catalog an ever-growing an archive of awesome that visitors and locals alike can reference when at their very hungriest. Dig in!

The best thing about the Cubano at the recently retooled Havana on Commercial Drive isn’t so much what’s between the bread but rather the bread itself. Let’s break the thing down…

1. The bread is a Cuban-style roll that I’m told is made in house. When buttered and pressed on the plancha it crisps up perfectly while flattening beautifully. It makes all the difference in the world, elevating the thing above every other Cubano I’ve ever tried in Vancouver.

2. Honey ham. I’m guessing they chose the sweeter deli cut because they’re doing porchetta instead of mojo-marinating their roast pork (see 4). Different cities in Florida – where the Cubano was born – use different cuts. For example, Miami does glazed ham and Tampa does salami. My point: this layer of the sandwich is open to debate, within reason. (Don’t get any ideas, turkey!)

3. Swiss cheese. A gooey, mostly textural element that helps all the ingredients stick together while imparting an almost imperceptible nutty taste. No other cheese is acceptable in an authentic Cubano.

4. Porchetta. The traditional recipe calls for roasted pork, so this is in the ballpark even if the original (with herb and citrus-treated pork shoulder) is a little different. As I mentioned in my note on the honey ham (see 2), this might be a sweetness trade-off. It works.

5. Yellow mustard. My preference is for more generous spread of the stuff on both sides, but this will do.

6. Pickles. Their crunch isn’t as impactful as the bread’s, but the flavour is there and so is the acid, which amps the whole thing up.

Conclusion: I think they’ve pretty much nailed it. Again, this is the best Cubano I’ve had locally. The only issue I have with it is the size. It is a working class belly-filler and booze-soaker by tradition, and if they’re going for authenticity here (they absolutely are) then it needs to be bigger. As it stands now it’s only about 80% of the sandwich it could and should be. I get that food costs might come into play as an excuse, but as a customer I don’t give a shit. Charge me more than $14 if you have to. Just get me that missing 20%!

Neighbourhood: Commercial Drive
1212 Commercial Dr.

There are 2 comments

  1. You obviously haven’t had the City’s best Cubano at The Gourmet Deli at the Royal Center food court.

  2. Check out Varadero Cafe, also on The Drive (a couple doors down from Bandidas). Best authentic Cuban food I’ve had in the city. If you haven’t been, you’re missing out.

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