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There are few dishes that more lovingly embrace our swine brethren than the Cuban sandwich.
Think, for a moment, about the amazing versatility of the pig. We know, in our heads, that pulled pork, pork chops, ham, pork rinds and bacon all come from the same animal. But do we know it in our hearts? They’re all so varied and wonderful.
The Cuban reunites two of my favorite swine products, pulled pork and ham, with a glue of melted cheese, mustard and tangy dill pickle, all between crispy press-fried bread.
You know what, I’m going to say it: I think it’s downright un-American not to love a Cuban. Here are a few of my favorites from across the metro:
Zarate’s Latin & Mexican Grill
706 S. Broadway Ave., Edmond
The Mexican food at Zarate’s is just fine. But it’s there for your parents and other people who have trouble understanding that Mexico doesn’t somehow include the whole of Central and South America. People in the know go for the Venezuelan, Peruvian and Jamaican food. Or, in my case, for the Cuban sandwich ($8.99) which is full of tender pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles in a press-grilled hoagie roll. There’s nothing quite so lovely as biting through crispy bread for a rewarding mouthful of ingredients that are melded together into utter flavor perfection. And don’t sleep on the creamy black beans or the lovely, crispy tostones that come on the side.
427 NW 23rd St., OKC
The Cubano ($7.50-$18) at Scottie’s has a problem: it’s surrounded by so many other amazing sandwiches that it can get lost in the shuffle. But if you’re hungry for super porky goodness, it’s tough to beat. Scottie’s is a scratch kitchen, which means they make the bread (yum) and mojo pork that they pile on with ham, Swiss, pickles and yellow mustard. At any other restaurant, I’d order this and only this, but Scottie’s also has bonkers-good pastrami, French dip and more, so it’s got plenty of competition.
3009 Paseo, OKC
I am really blown away by how well Picasso handles meat, considering their focus on vegan and vegetarian dishes. But the Pressed Cuban ($12) is packed to the brim with pulled pork, sliced ham, Swiss, mustard and a pickle. I thought the only think it needed was more pickle, which I ordered on the side. The pickle and mustard are the perfect counter balance to the fattiness and heaviness of the pork. Could they make a vegan version of this? Maybe. Picasso loves their jackfruit pulled pork and I bet it could make a pretty tasty meatless Cuban. (P.S. Spend the extra $1 to upgrade your side to Parmesan risotto. So worth it.)
2909 Paseo, OKC
Much like Scottie’s Deli, Paseo Grill’s sandwich game is STRONG, so The Cuban ($11) has to fend off challengers like the beef stroganoff sandwich and Croque Madame. To make that battle a little easier, Paseo Grill ups their Cuban game by using Black Forest ham and roasted pork loin, swapping in smoked gouda for Swiss and adding in spicy salami for boost of peppery flavor. All these sandwiches come with fries, but I suggest you find a little extra scratch and upgrade to the fried green beans.
Packard’s New American Kitchen
201 NW 10th St., OKC
A traditional Cuban is wonderful, but the great thing about cooking is that you can get crazy and do something different and if it works, hurray!, you’ve got a new menu item. So the Cowboy Cuban ($12) at Packard’s eschews ham for roast beef, gets rid of the spicy brown mustard for a Creole honey mustard, pulls the Swiss for provolone and puts it all in a pressed-grilled sourdough baguette. Yes. Yes, please.
Back Door BBQ
315 NW 23rd St., OKC
The good people at Back Door BBQ know their way around smoked meats, which bodes very well for their version of the sandwich—the Q Ban ($9.50). Pulled pork is a given, of course, but Back Door also smokes their own ham. Add in housemade pickles, Swiss cheese and a mustard-based BBQ mayo (it’s a lot, but it’s wonderful) on a ciabatta bun and you’ve got a sandwich that’s tough to put down.
6213 NW 39th Expressway, Bethany
MOB Grill makes burgers. Very good burgers, as it happens, but you might not think of them as a purveyor of sandwiches. But! The Cohiba ($?) cannot be denied. First they get baguettes from La Baguette and toast in yellow mustard toasted. They double up on cheese with Swiss and Havarti, add in dill pickles and use hickory-smoked ham and spiced pulled pork that spends 12 hours soaking in pecan and mesquite wood. If you want to listen to the wise guys at MOB, they suggest adding grilled onions and jalapenos (and a fried egg, even). However you get it, you’re gonna love it. Capice?
The Oklahoma Pork Council represents the interests all of pork producers throughout the state, promoting pork and pork products, funding research and educating consumers and producers about the pork industry. Learn more about the OPC, find recipes and more at OKPork.org.