Food Around Kansas City

Best of “Cuban Sandwiches”

Written By: Mary Bloch - Jul• 20•17

I promised my friend and fellow KCUR Food Critic Jenny Vergara that I would school her on where to find the best Cubano sandwiches in Kansas City, and it’s time I delivered.

First, a quick primer on how to make a Cubano, or Cuban sandwich. The authentic soft rolls that are traditionally used can be hard to find in Kansas City, but it’s easy to substitute crusty rolls or ciabatta. A Mexican bakery would probably have something satisfactory as well.  The key is for the bread to have a fairly thin profile because the sandwich, once composed, needs to be pressed and griddled.

In Kansas City, leftover pulled pork usually gets slathered in barbecue sauce, but this is a great alternative and needs few other ingredients. In addition to the pork you'll need to gather sliced ham, swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard, and you are ready to build your masterpiece. Spread both sides of the roll with mustard, then lay cheese on both sides as well…the cheese is the glue that holds the sandwich together. Add thinly sliced pickles, pork and ham, and you’re ready to cook it up. A panini press is the easiest way to go, though a griddle or cast iron pan will also do the trick…as long as you make sure to press the bread down. A foiled wrapped brick works beautifully:)

I typically tweak the authentic recipe a bit, substituting honey or dijon mustard, and adding candied or pickled jalapenos for an extra kick.

If you don’t want to make your own, here’s my list of the best around town, in no particular order. They may not be completely traditional, but that doesn't make them any less delicious!

  1. Pigwich.  Alex Pope's stationary food truck has a small menu, but every sandwich is killer. This Cuban is a two-handed effort, but I love alternating bites with the homemade chips that you can add to your order. The Cuban is a  Monday special, so don't expect to stop by on any other day and be able to order it.
  2. Happy Gillis. As is the case with every dish that comes out of this kitchen, Josh Eans knows what’s he’s doing. His Cuban sandwich is not for wimpy eaters; if you’re not starving either order the ½ sandwich and salad combo or revel in the leftovers.

  3. Succotash. Owner Beth Barden uses the same awesome pulled pork in my favorite brunch dish, the pork hash with black beans, that she uses to make her Cubans. Another one of those monster sandwiches that you should just eat half of, but I dare you to stop.
  4. Plaintain District. Follow this food truck on social media so you can experience Rachel Kennedy's Cubano at lunchtime. It has a thinner profile than some, more authentic in size perhaps, but with a special sauce that sets it apart from the rest of the pack.

  5. The Sundry. The ham and pork are roasted in house, and follows the traditional format for this iconic sandwich. Unfortunately, I can't find the picture I took of this one, so a return trip is in my near future.
  6. I suspect once I try the El Jefe from Bay Boy Sandwiches, its version of a Cubano, I'll be able to add it to this list. I've had their riff on a Reuben which, like the El Jefe, doesn't use the traditional bread…the Dutch Baby rolls are a worthy substitute.

Let me know if there are others around town that should be on this list!

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