Senor Pan takes Cubano sandwich seriously

September 30, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Most restaurants have lulls between lunch and dinner. But at Senor Pan, a blink-and-you-miss-it Cuban restaurant in the Kelvyn Park neighborhood, customers come and go throughout the day; most of them get one thing: the Cubano sandwich.

"When you walk into a Cuban place the first thing that comes to mind is the Cubano sandwich," said owner Faisal Hamud. "I always say that there's nothing that describes the Cuban culture more than the Cuban sandwich."

They begin with good bread, of course. These crusty loaves come from Biondillo Bakery in Austin. Split down the middle, each side gets its own flavoring: on the left, garlicky mayo; on the right, melted butter. Then come two different types of lightly-smoked, thinly-sliced ham, followed by a squeeze of mustard, then a few rectangular slices of Swiss cheese. A couple of pickles are added for crunch, then the key to the Cubano - marinated and roasted pork that is sliced by hand and eventually stacked up over the other ingredients already on each half.

Both those halves are placed - face-up - into a panini press, drizzled with a bit of butter, then heated on both sides. After a minute or two, the top is then placed over the bottom, and once again, after a drizzle of melted butter, the sandwich is pressed yet again, ensuring a crisp exterior crunch and keeping everything between the slices warm and soft. You can order the sandwich plain or "super," which just means they'll add a few thinly-sliced plantain chips, called mariquitas. What you'll soon discover - as you sip on your Cafe Cubano and nibble on your pasteles, filled with guava - is that you've stumbled onto one of the city's true Cuban gems.. where they're awfully proud of their sandwiches.

"We put a lot of passion in our sandwiches, and yes, ours is the best," Hamud said.

There is a full menu of Cuban specialties at Senor Pan, so there's a lot more than just sandwiches.. But clearly, the Cubano should not be missed.

Senor Pan
4612 W. Fullerton Ave.

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