Babaloos Cuban Cafe vs. Havana Cafe
Created by immigrant laborers at the turn of the 20th century, the Cuban Sandwich is a tasty alternative to Plain Jane ham and cheese. Some versions have salami, some have lettuce and tomato, but the basics are the same: pork, spiced ham, cheese and pickles on toasted bread. We headed to two authentic Cuban cafes in SoPo/Ahwatukee to test out their versions of this popular 'wich.
In one corner: Babaloos Cuban Cafe
1241 E. Chandler Blvd. in South Phoenix
We passed by the shopping plaza that houses Babaloos three times before finally spotting the restaurant tucked in the far corner. Not the best location. Babaloos uses their end unit location to their advantage though, sporting a lovely corner patio that backs up to a swath of natural desert.
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into an actual Cuban cafe. Vintage travel posters on the yellow walls are a little kitschy, but it works. The place was dimly lit, with just enough light for us to see the Emparedado Cubano (aka The Famous Cuban Sandwich) arrive on our table.
Yes, Havana also dubs their version The Famous Cuban Sandwich, although here it's less of a title than a reference to the popularity of the dish. Their sandwich was on a thinner, wider slab of crusty bread, served hot with a side of fries. French fries. Sigh. The fries were fine, but we should've subbed an order of Yuca Frites instead.
After our previous brush with mojo we were a little worried, but Havana's version is far less potent. The sandwich had just a faint spicy-sour undertone. The meat was tender and flavorful and the cheese was perfectly melted; a gooey, creamy glue that held the sandwich together. The only thing we would've changed was the pickle, which while clearly homemade was soggy and limp. Otherwise, this was a great sandwich.
The Verdict: Havana Cafe