Flatiron Lunch: Bongo Bros Cuban Brings the Pork to Flatiron
It’s been years since the Cubano sandwich hit the lunching scene. The double dose of pork on a pressed sandwich hit all the right pleasure points in the lunching public. Sophie’s and Tina’s rode the call for more porky goodness and the underlying desire for Latin food to a pair of empires that seems to stretch to everywhere there’s an office building in this town. Maybe that’s why, until recently, Cuban food seemed to be entirely left out of the food truck craze… that is until now.
The Bongo Bros. popped up on my radar after Goats posted about the truck in the forums back in May. They typically set up shop on 20th and 5th avenue, 24th and Broadway or somewhere in the general vicinity, yet I could never manage to catch up with them. I finally got a chance to try them out this week. Check it out after the jump.
The truck has a relatively small menu, with five sandwiches($7) a hot dog ($5), three platters ($9) based on the same ingredients in the sandwiches and a handful of sides and snacks. The prices are all a buck or two more than you’d pay at the other Cuban spots around town, so I was a little hesitant, but I decided to go for it.
On my first visit, I had to try the Cuban, the standard benchmark as far as I’m concerned. I wasn’t sure about the size when i first took it out of the bag, but that turned out to be the shape. It’s flat and wide, using bread that’s more rectangular than cylindrical.
The bread wasn’t pancake thin, and it held up even after pressing. More importantly is that it’s stuffed to capacity with shredded roast pork, ham, pickles, cheese and mustard.
The pork was plentiful and, though it lacked the citrusy tang of my favorite Cuban roast pork, it was quite good. A tight cluster of thin slices of ham fits snugly against the pork and softly melted gruyere spills out over the size. The cheese is slightly sharp, adding a bit more flavor to the whole experience.
If I had any complaints about the price difference compared to other lunch spots, they evaporated after the first bite. My only issue with the sandwich at all was that the pickle wasn’t at all crisp and was all the more soggy for being slathered in a little too much mustard. But that’s nothing that would stop me from returning, obviously.
On visit number two, I’d planned to try out the ropa vieja, possibly as a topping for the hot dog. When i got there though, they had run out. Still, I really needed to know what could make a hot dog worth $5, so i ordered it with the pork on top instead.
It wasn’t like any hot dog I’ve had before. First and foremost, the bun was a thick, chewy baguette and the dog itself was a footlong that was doused in more mustard and a bit of ketchup and then topped with a pile of the same roast pork that’s on the Cubano. It was much more filling than I expected. I absolutely want to give this a try with the ropa vieja next time.
I washed it down with a can of IronBeer. Described as a Cuban cream soda, it’s sweet without being overly so and worked pretty well to follow up lunch.
Without knowing what to expect from a single $5 hot dog, I ordered a side empanada ($3) just in case. The fried pastry was blistered and crispy on the outside with a crust that’s chewy instead of crumbly. Inside, the ground beef filling was salty and sweet, but could have used a bit of spice, to round it all out.
I really enjoyed it, but a bit of hot sauce would have improved it greatly to me.
With the mercury bouncing around 90 degrees, I didn’t have it in me to sit outside eating a platter of stewed meat with rice and beans, so I stuck with more handheld fare. Once the heat breaks, I’ll definitely sample some of those dishes as well.
The Bongo Bros. have gotten better in recent weeks about broadcasting locations around the Flatiron area and I’d definitely recommend keeping up with them via Twitter. What they lack menu-wise in comparison with the steam table joints is made up for with a higher quality of ingredients and bigger servings. Definitely worth a visit.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- The sandwiches are packed tight with meat and cheese.
- Very good bread used.
- Look at that hot dog!
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I can get a cheaper Cubano at a dozen places.
- They don’t always update their location early enough