50 Burgers, 50 Days: Cuban Sandwich Cafe

A burger a day all around Austin, plus and answer to the pressing question: Fries or rings?
Day 48: Cuban Sandwich Cafe
1804 Briarcliff Blvd. 501-6651, Facebook page here.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.27.11 
The burger: For the Cubano-curious who can’t quite make the 90-mile leap from Key West to Fidel’s island, a burger called El Cubanito ($6.50) pulls together some of that sandwich’s key elements — ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles — and puts them in familiar surroundings: beef patty, sesame-seed bun, shredded lettuce, American cheese, bacon. The result is a soft protein powerhouse where everybody pulls together, each according to its gifts. A Marxburger, a Che’sBurger. Like any society of equals, El Cubanito could benefit from an element or two willing to speak out, to excel. But being another face in the crowd isn’t such a bad thing here. Want a stronger sense of how good the roast pork is? Order a pan con lechon sandwich on a ciabatta-style loaf with onions ($5.50).
I have my friend, culinary explorer and Austin Chronicle food writer Mick Vann to thank for sending me here. A lunch with Mick means learning to ask for oily, garlic-breath mojo sauce for your pork and a side of scorching green salsa for everything else. Ask him about his days as the chef at Clarksville Cafe and sit back for a who’s-who timeline of Austin food and pop culture.
Fries or rings? French fries, decent as they are, are the least of this cafe’s citizens, tilting as they must against more adventurous sides like fried yuca or black-and-white mounds of rice and beans or these shiny amber jewels: fried plantains ($2.50). A bowl of these — like bananas with less sweetness and more savory twang — and a milky-sweet cafe con leche ($2) make for a gentle wake-up for the labors that await after lunch.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)