A Tale Told By A Vidiot: The Kool Korners Cuban Sandwich

Site reader and part-time Amateur Gourmet publicisit Vidiot has been hawking me for a while to go to Kool Korners on 14th Street for their Cuban Sandwich. “Go to Kool Korners on 14th street!” he will write. “Eat their cuban sandwich!”

Today, my stomach and brain battled for control of the steering wheel as I figured out my lunch destination.

Stomach: Listen to Vidiot! Let’s eat a cuban!

Brain: But we have work, you scoundrel. A final! In Jewish law!

Stomach: Screw the Jews! The Cubans have better music.

Brain: They do? What about Fiddler on the Roof?

Stomach: Screw Fidddler, they did The Buena Vista Social Club.

Having won his point, Stomach drove us over to Kool Korners which had a deceptive exterior.

IMG_2032

It looked like a run down grocery store. I loved the mystery of it all.

Once inside, I realized what I had stumbled upon: a well-kept Atlanta secret! The place was packed with businessmen, young people, old people, and Sally Struthers all lined up for Cuban sandwiches. I tried to pick a good photo spot to capture it for you but nothing really worked. I’d rather paint the place with words.

The place was deceptively decrepit. Meaning, the walls were dirty, the shelves dusty, the decor similar to that of a run down Shell station. Yet, the people there were vibrant: an old man behind the counter chatted up a customer in Spanish. A woman carried a large pot with a beautifully roasted hunk of meat. Other women manned (or womanned) the cash registers.

When I was up to plate I ordered the classic cuban. I also bought a bag of Guacamole Doritos and an Iced Tea.

I carried my purchases outside where there was one table, already occupied. So I went to my car and ate behind the wheel with the windows open. Here’s what the sandwich looked like:

IMG_2033

Now I’m no Cuban sandwich expert, but is this really a classic cuban? Don’t get me wrong: everything tasted great. The meat was savory, the cheese sweet and perfectly gluey. But the presence of mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion made it taste a little like a Subway hero.

When I was in L.A. this summer, I ate Cuban sandwiches at a place called Cafe Tropical in Silverlake. At first I thought they were terrible. I’m not a ham person. I’m not a cheese person. I sometimes like pieces of pork. I do like pressed bread. In any case, a few visits later I was hooked. But the sandwich really had no accoutrements: there was the ham, the cheese, the pork and the bread.

So maybe L.A. made me a Cuban sandwich snob? If it did, it doesn’t matter because I really enjoyed the Kool Korners version.

What I did not enjoy were these Dorito guacamole chips:

IMG_2034

They tasted like cardboard triangles dusted with chemistry set guacamole. Literally: powdered guacamole is not a good thing.

All in all, I enjoyed my lunch. Thanks Vidiot for the suggestion!

9 comments

  1. See? Toldya so. Glad you enjoyed it!

    (And oy, would it kill you to give me a link? It’s not right you should mention me and not link to my site, nu?)

    (errr, I’m still trying to work this stuff out. Although my friend Ross says that anyone who moves to New York instantly becomes at least a quarter Yiddish.)

  2. Guacamole Doritos = the foulest of all snack chips. I bought a bag in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico during a long, hungry roadtrip, and could not choke down more than one. They taste like guacamole the way grape Now & Laters taste like grapes (which is not at all), only bad.

    fellow J.D. and gourmande — m. ;)

  3. I live in SW Florida were you can get a halfway decent Cuban Sandwich at 7-11 and the sandwich you got doesn’t look like any Cuban sandwich I have had..Did they even bother to press it, cause it is not a Cuban if it is not pressed

  4. Shakes,

    Yes, their Cubans are pressed. In the picture in the article, the top slice certainly does not look like it, but I have never gotten a Cuban from Kool Korners that was that rounded.

    The crust of the bread is quite crusty, but not too hard. In fact, the bread is one of the features that sets the Kool Korners Cubans apart from the other Cubans in town.

    It is thicker than the others, so it isn’t all crumbly or tough. The outside of the bread gets good and toasted so you get the lovely crunchy texture. However, the inside of the bread is still untouch enough that it holds the bread together and maintains the good untoasted bread flavor (and the untoasted bread does tast good).

    Note: Mr. Ramirez is one of the Cubans who fled the country when Castro took over. I don’t know if his region’s style of Cubans are different from other regions’ or if these are just his personal style. Think of it like BBQ in America — there is a wide variety of styles within the sauces and even meats used in different regions, but a BBQ sandwich is still very identifiable.

  5. Growing up in Miami I can tell you what a real classic Cuban is exactly and it is this: Ham, Pork, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and a pickle sliced lengthwise. Then it’s pressed until you really can’t wait any longer and cut diagonally. That’s a Cuban.

    Being my absolute favorite sandwich, I’ve searched long and hard to find a decent Cuban in Atlanta. I found them with salami, I’ve found them with all kinds of inappropriate toppings and I can tell you this: Kool Korners, although NOT a classic Cuban, is hands down the BEST Cuban you will ever eat (in Atlanta). In some ways they are even better, the Mojo dressing for instance.

    They don’t press them as long because hey, they have customers waiting. When I go, I get the “classic” sans tomatoes and with hot peppers. Yum. Just ate two for lunch.

    This being said, I would never argue with the old man about the authenticity of the recipe. I have no doubt about who would win that one…

    – gRm

  6. Ok – this article is 3 yrs old (almost), but I just want to chime in about my fond memories of the cuban sandwiches at Kool Korners (Tech grad 1999). They are not typical in their design, but man oh MAN are they memorable in flavor…and let’s face it, that’s what it’s about. While visiting Miami, I had several “authentic” cubans, and none of them matched Mr. Ramirez’s recipe…in my mind, his sandwich still reigns supreme as a testament to Cuban cooking.

  7. Ok – this article is 3 yrs old (almost), but I just want to chime in about my fond memories of the cuban sandwiches at Kool Korners (Tech grad 1999). They are not typical in their design, but man oh MAN are they memorable in flavor…and let’s face it, that’s what it’s about. While visiting Miami, I had several “authentic” cubans, and none of them matched Mr. Ramirez’s recipe…in my mind, his sandwich still reigns supreme as a testament to Cuban cooking.

  8. I was also born in Miami and am very familiar with traditional Cuban sandwiches. AND I agree 100% with the previous poster (also from Miami) that the Cubans at Kool Korner are BETTER than any I ever had in Miami. Hands down.

    I ate lots of them when I was going to Tech (1999 grad). I live in Colorado now and every once in awhile I think about a Kool Korner Cuban and have to shed a little tear at the fact that I can’t have one on a whim.

  9. I lived in the Atl for 9 years. CAU is my alma mater. I am a native Chicagoan born & raised in the Chi. I live in Brooklyn (Bed Stuy, Do or Die!)since 2003. I have had Cubans in the city, Brooklyn, and the Boogie Down.

    Kool Korners has no comp. I love NYC!!! But Kool Korners is far and beyond the best Sandwich Cubano I have ever had in my life. It was a pound of food pressed perfectly. I liked my sandwich w/ extra mojo,extra jalapeno peppers, extra spicy Classic All the Way!

    By far the best Cuban I have ever had. When I visit the Atl I’m not going just to see my family,Kool Korners is always on the agenda.

    It is the shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

%d bloggers like this: