what: Torta Cubana
where: La Estrella, 1921 Airport Blvd., Cayce
At its heart, a torta is any Mexican sandwich served on a very specific oblong roll called bolillo (or sometimes telera, which has a more rounded shape).
Similar to tacos, there is a nearly limitless amount of torta variations. The Cubana may be the biggest hail mary in the world of tortas, featuring just about the whole kitchen packed into one massive pressed sandwich.
The fun thing about Cubanas is there are basically no rules to the sandwich. You could go from one restaurant to the next and have a totally different experience. Guacamole, pineapple, even sliced hot dog — there’s no telling what you might find on your Cubana adventure.
Some people may think the name suggests it is a Cuban sandwich, which is a totally structured recipe featuring ham, roasted pork, pickles, swiss cheese and mustard on Cuban bread. But the only similarity between these sandwiches is in the names.
The Cubana was created at a cantina on a street named Calle Republica de Cuba in Mexico City during the 1950s when a cantina there decided to try and make a torta that fit everything they could find in their kitchen. It immediately caught on in popularity and spread through the city, retaining the name Cubana in honor of the street it originated from.
The Cubana at La Estrella perfectly captures the “kitchen sink” feel of dish. A massive, two-handed affair, the sandwich is layered with ham, lettuce, tomato, chorizo, a fried egg, milanesa (pounded and breaded steak), Oaxaca cheese (similar in texture to a mozzarella), Chihuahua cheese (a soft white cheese), and a good layer of melty yellow cheese. The bread is light, airy and perfectly crisp from being pressed which helps contain the many layers.
The Cubana is messy good time that’s great to wash down with an ice-cold Modelo at a nice weekend beer lunch.