Pop quiz: What’s brown and stuffed and smoking all over? If you answered a Cuban cigar, then you lose. Forget the cigars. Cuban-pressed sandwiches from the Texas Cuban are where it’s at. But before diving into sandwiches so good they should be illegal, try a real cigar-shaped treat: Cuban Croquettas. These deep-fried cylinders are filled with shredded pork tenderloin and ham in a garlicky pesto-like sauce. Or, if you want even more carbs with your crust, try the excellent Papa Rellena. A hefty serving of tomatoey beef picadillo studded with green olives, enveloped by a layer of silky mashed potatoes, and deep-fried into a perfect round, the appetizer reminded me of shepherd’s pie on a nicotine high. Now, about the main course. Remember the smashed turkey sandwiches on white that you used to pull out of your brown bag in the cafeteria, hoping no one would notice your shame? Those are a thing of the past. Feast on the Media Noche, a monster of a meal, with tender, chopped pork tenderloin, sliced ham, provolone and Swiss cheeses, pickles, and mayonnaise hot-pressed on garlic Cuban egg bread. The tenderloin was as decadent as barbecue beef brisket, but the crusty bright-yellow bread stole the show. If you’re pulling out all the stops, order the eponymous offering, the Texas Cuban, which is so massive it feeds two. Alas, I sidled up to these sammies on Thanksgiving weekend and so could only stomach the half version of the Cuban, succinctly called El Cubano. Still quite sizable, it’s similar to the Media Noche but is served on thick-cut, toasty garlic bread. Also tasty was the South Austin Veggie Soul, a hot-pressed vegetarian sandwich with organic zucchini, squash, mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers, provolone cheese, and plenty of mayonnaise. As good as these were, I’m not sure anything could beat the thick, house-made mariquitas—deep-fried, slightly sweet plantain “chips” peppered with sea salt and served on the side of the entrées. They could compete with neighbor Gourdough’s starchy treats any day. Of course, there’s only one problem with eating all of that rich, bready food while basking in the sun: Afterward you may find that you yourself are the one who’s tanned, stuffed, and in need of a fine Cuban cigar. Posted by Megan Giller
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