In early 2013, Mimi Gross told her husband she wanted Cuban food.
That man was Hans Seitz, owner of the downtown barbecue spot Sparky's along with Kevin Kehoe, who was testing ham recipes and fortuitously had Dijon mustard, pickles, Swiss cheese, and some bread on hand.
Thus Sparky's Cuban Ex-Patriot sandwich ($9.95) was born.
"We're an American restaurant, so we couldn't call it a Cuban, but it's pretty close," Seitz says.
The salty, juicy ham is the centerpiece of the whole thing. The restaurant uses picnic hams that are salted and cured overnight. The low shoulder cut that includes some of the hog leg is then bathed in mojo made of sour orange juice, garlic, and sazón completa. Next, it's smoked for up to eight hours, sliced, and layered onto a soft white bun that's pressed to a smoky crunch.
The result is a Cuban that's far juicier and more assertive than those to which you may have become accustomed. The slow-smoked pork offers the distinct smell of char, while the meat sheds its liquid throughout the meal. The result is a bit of a mess, but it's well worth it.
Sparky's is among a panoply of Miami restaurants successfully taking the beloved cubano to new heights. It's happening at Alberto Cabrera's Little Bread as well as Miami Smokers' new deli on NW 27th Avenue. Calle Ocho watering hole Ball & Chain is rolling up the iconic combination of pork, cheese, and mustard in an egg roll.
"We didn't think we'd sell very many of them, but they're flying," Kehoe says.
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