Battle Of The FiDi Pernil: Sophie’s Cuban Vs. Lane Cafe

A couple of weeks ago while alerting you all that Sophie’s Cuban was now selling its legendary green sauce I realized something shameful: I have never eaten at Sophie’s. Sure, I’ve had roast pork from other downtown spots like the West Side Coffee Shop on the fringe of Tribeca, and at the Roxy, but Sophie’s eluded me. I’d also been meaning to try the pernil at Lane Cafe that I stumbled upon a while back. And so on two different artery-clogging days I got pernil plates from each place to see which one was better. That’s right, it’s a roast pork battle the likes of which the Financial District has never seen.

Sophie’s Cuban

I got my pernil from the Fulton St. location between Nassau & Broadway that’s sandwiched between a Popeye’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. This place was busy and they pretty much try to herd you through the line as quickly as possible.

I got my pernil with black beans and yellow rice ($9) along with two tubs of that magical green sauce that I was excited to try and headed outside to escape the chaos. I tried it first without the sauce and the pork was good, but when I dumped some on it elevated it to some food stratosphere that I’m still thinking about. So yes, you lunch’ers were right to get excited about Sophie’s selling jars of the stuff (they also have it at the Fulton location).

The black beans and rice were also great. I know that sounds like a no-brainer but there are more ways than one to screw up black beans and rice and I’ve had a couple of different versions. And it was probably for the best that they don’t give you an entire container of rice like at West Side. So Sophie’s had a strong lead.

Lane Cafe

This generic-looking deli on Maiden Lane (at Nassau) doesn’t really advertise that it sells pernil, but it’s a poorly-kept secret among many downtown lunch’ers. I laid eyes on the hunk of pork when I went there for a steak sandwich and had been planning on going back to get it.

If you get the pernil platter ($8.95) here it doesn’t automatically come with rice and beans, but I asked for the yellow rice I saw on the steam table and the guys working the counter asked if I wanted beans with it. Why yes, yes I did.

The pork was $1 cheaper here and you get less of it. It was also drier than the Sophie’s version and I was wishing for some sauce to put on it. The rice was still a little crunchy but I kind of liked the vegetables thrown in it, and the pinto beans were just OK but it could be that I’m partial to a nice soupy black bean.

The verdict

I’d like to say this was a close race, but the winner hands down was Sophie’s. There wasn’t much to nitpick about with the roast pork meal I got from there, other than the nearly $10 price tag. And now I fully understand why some of you have nearly resorted to stealing bottles of green sauce off the tables at Sophie’s.

Lane Cafe & Deli, 75 Maiden Lane (nr. William), (212) 943-0009

Sophie’s Cuban, (Multiple Locations)


1 Comment

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.