Sandwich joint with Cuban flair

As surely as there's a Castro still in power, the island nation's favorite sandwich has never changed. At El Cubanito, a postage-stamp sized sandwich joint on the Western edge of Logan Square, the Cuban rules.

"The Cuban sandwich is bread, ham, cheese, and roast pork; in one side the bread, a little butter, in one side the bread, a little mustard and pickles. Put in the grill; everybody come for Cuban sandwiches," said Laretsa Artega, El Cubanito.

Pressing the sandwich, panini-style, is certainly part of the appeal, but so too is the fact they roast their own pork shoulder everyday, in what is undoubtedly the smallest kitchen anywhere. That roasted pork is combined with buttered bread that also holds together smoked ham, mustard and pickles, plus a little Swiss cheese. Once grilled, the flavors and textures meld beautifully.

"Is important, because is my culture. In Chicago, there are a little people Cuban but everybody from Cuban coming here because everybody, want see Cuban sandwich because it's important original," said Artega.

Another version contains finely-chopped steak instead of pork and ham.. it's got cheese, but also more standard lettuce and tomatoes topped with shoestring potatoes. A rare find is the meatless timba - a Cuban favorite with just two ingredients: Swiss cheese and a fruity guava paste. It's the ultimate Cuban grilled cheese, fueling an American dream.

"When we came to this country four years ago, we got a dream: make our own business and our own restaurant so we are start work very hard to save some money and start to do it and eleven month ago, we got our resource right now," said Alberto Ramos, El Cubanito.

A bracing cafe con leche or espresso goes great with any sandwich.. Ramos says of the half dozen or so options on his menu, the bulk of the orders are easy to predict.

Be forewarned: the lines form early, as many workers drop by to get a sandwich for their lunch hour. And there are only two stools to sit at the counter, so most folks get them to go, or just eat them in their cars.

El Cubanito
2555 N. Pulaski Rd.

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