There is a full service Cuban restaurant in Birmingham. I repeat, there is a full service Cuban restaurant in Birmingham.
How did I miss this??!
For the past 2 years, people have been telling me I should check out Kool Korner Sandwiches. There was just one problem-I hate sandwiches. For about 5 years, when I was a teenager, my doctors thought I had a gluten allergy. This was before the days of relatively good gluten-free products at regular grocery stores. As a result, I didn’t eat sandwiches for many years, and never really cared about them once I began eating gluten again. (Pizza is another story, as you may know from my recent posts about Post Office Pies and Reyes Pizza.) So when people told me that Kool Korner has a great Cuban sandwich, that wasn’t compelling enough to draw me to the restaurant.
However, one of my awesome foodie friends who accompanied me to the now temporarily closed Miami Cafe had their Cuban sandwich and, along with her hubby, was in search of another. So, off to Kool Korner we went. It is located in Vestavia, across the highway from the movie theater, in – you guessed it – a strip mall.
Once inside, I realized what I had been missing. This is not a sandwich shop. They have sandwiches including a Cuban sandwich but also have other Cuban food including soup, tamales, empanadas (which were sold out), and their Saturday nite special-meat, yucca, plantains, and rice.
Since there were 3 of us, we basically ordered the whole menu, minus the empanadas, and still only spent $10/person: Sorry for forgetting to photograph the menu-next time!
First, the Galacian Stew, a traditional Cuban white beans and pork stew. I neither like white beans nor pork, but this was fantastic-great ratio of ingredients and extremely flavorful:
Then, the much anticipated Cuban Sandwich:
Great mixing of salty and meaty flavors. Let’s look under the hood on this one. Ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on delicious Cuban bread.
Then, the tamales. On the outside they look like your usual tamales:
But on the inside, I’ve actually never had one quite like this before: pieces of pork throughout.
Much more subtle than the usual tamale, but rich and delicious. Especially with some hot sauce.
Now for the Saturday nite special. The meat was tender and flavorful, plantains were sweet, and the yucca was yucca-starchy and buttery. Absolutely wonderful.
This was served with beans. Although usually I want nothing to do with beans, these were richly flavored and more like soup than straight up beans. Wonderful in combination with the rice, meat, and plantains:
Sitting by the register was a box of guava and cream cheese pastries, made that day. We had to try them. Check this out:
Now in cross-section:
A light, flaky, delicious fruity croissant.
By the way, have you noticed that everything is served on paper plates and in styrofoam? This isn’t a fancy place-the food is the main attraction.