Bobby Flay ain’t gonna be down with this latest episode of our search for the quintessential Cubano. Neither is Rick Bayless, Giada, Cat, Guy, Rachael, Rocco or Jamie. And most certainly not Dead Fidel, who haunts my crib every time I bastardize a mojito by switching out rum with bourbon. Soooo, it’s a good thing none of these peeps read the blog.
Linds B likes to think we’re doing “the Lord’s work,” in our sublime and tasty search for the definitive Cuban sammy . . . and who am I to argue with such a devout perspective as this? So with that being said, we ventured into the desperate places for this expedition, as the erstwhile apostles that we are. No hipster cafes or grunge bars, no five star grilles or ethnic landmarks . . . not this go round. Nah, we decided to go all CliffsNotes, by doubling down on the dubious enterprise of a fast food version of a sacred standard. We chose the Cowboy hat . . the House of Meats . . the big A . . yeah, that place. Arby’s.
Now, before you summon your best Tony Montana four lettered variations and shake your head in disgust, lemme ‘splain.
Sure, a ton of fast food establishments have run out their takes to the Cuban sandwich, and yes . . most everyone of them has failed horribly. But Arby’s is a favorite place, even if we don’t frequent it out of respect to our major arteries. Arby’s has all the requisites to which we look for in our search: Flavor, meats and curly fries. Hey, we don’t ask for much, but when we do . . it best include curly fries.
McDonald’s came up with its own version, which along with McSpaghetti, McLobster, McVegan and McDLT rates as the worst idea since Liza Minelli married that Liberace groupie. Hooters introduced a Cuban sandwich, and the only reason it took so long for the patrons to figure out it wasn’t very good is because, well . . it’s Hooters. And let’s not forget Subway, who rolled out a Cuban sandwich for a limited time that wasn’t nearly limited enough.
Fast Food For Thought Intermezzo:
Linds B introduced me to a fast food hack that changes everything. For fifty one years of my life, I’ve been using those paper condiment cups wrong! Mind . . . officially blown. But don’t take my word for it, check out the new way of doing business on a wholesale level. The truth IS out there . . .
So the list of fast food fiascos- as per the Cuban sammy- is extensive. But it wasn’t about to deter me and Linds B, so when a mutual friend let us know about the Arby’s offering, we replied in unison “On it!”. After which we did our best Ricky Ricardo and got to stepping.
The blueprint for the Arbys Cubano follows the standard application to a tee. Pork, ham, swiss, pickles and mustard. And lemme just say, ample amounts of pork and ham. I mean . . did you get a load of that pic? It looks like a ham jail break, which is never a bad thing.
We didn’t carry great expectations into this particular expedition. We just wanted a meat stuffed vessel that was going to immobilize us, after which we could chase regret and anguish with curly fries and fountain drinks. Thank you Arby’s because you came through! As for a report card? The pork and ham were tasty, the Swiss was just kinda hanging out (no melt to it), and the pickles were in the witness protection program on most bites. The mustard, or whatever in the hell it really was, worked well to bring the whole thing together. The bread wasn’t pressed, because it’s Arby’s.
We scored it a 4.75 out of 10, with a curve of one point added for being the one fast food version that didn’t completely bastardize the iconic sandwich. Plus, the curly fries . . those buggers always merit good food faith.
All things considered, we enjoyed the experience. This break from tradition has only served to strengthen our appreciation for the real thing. It was the culinary equivalent of having an affair, after which you confess everything and vow to make things better than ever with your significant other. And we vow to never let our roving eyes tempt us into a fast food Cubanito fling again.
Unless Jimmy Johns comes calling . . .