Restaurant Review: Cuban Joints
Make way for the El Cubanito burger
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Sept. 30, 2011
Mon.-Fri., 11am-8pm; Sat., 11am-1am; Sun., 11am-6pm
Cuban Sandwich Cafe1804 Briarcliff, 501-6651
Monday-Saturday, 10am-7pm; Sunday, 11am-4pm
Owner Enrique Reyes came to the U.S. from Cuba at the age of 6, and after many years of learning his craft from a Miami uncle, he migrated to Austin. His charming but small bakery-cafe is located on the northeast edge of the Berkman-Briarcliff intersection, right behind Harris Elementary. The bakery case holds a nice selection of crispy treats; a cheese Danish was buttery and flaky, while the pineapple empanada had a flaky, sweet exterior and a rich pineapple filling. There are some nods to the neighborhood on the menu, but the bulk of the menu is based on Cuban sandwiches.
We started with the Cubano ($5.50), a large sandwich on house-made bread, grilled and pressed on the plancha and filled with ham, Swiss cheese, lechón, mayo, mustard, and pickles. This is the classic South Florida mixto treat that could only be better with more lechón added. The real stars of the menu are the pan con lechón (pork sandwich, $4.75) and the amazing El Cubanito burger ($6.50). The sandwich is on traditional Cuban bread, with a thick layer of the cafe's rich, well-seasoned, tender roasted pork – a fantastic sandwich improved only by the addition of garlicky mojo sauce. The Cubanito burger is massive, with burger patty, ham, two cheeses, lechón, and bacon sitting atop the standard vegetables, easily in the Top 10 of Austin burgers.
Reyes runs specials daily, which look very tempting. We saw an arroz mariscos ($9.50), a huge seafood mound on a platter of rice; a fried sea bass filet ($7.50) that covered a huge platter; and arroz con pollo and palomilla (each $7.50). Reyes' great little joint is now on our regular dining list, and as Ricky Ricardo might say, we "have some 'splorin' to do."