Last week, on my way back from Farm Burger, I did some drive by snacking at The Crazy Cuban in Midtown. In an attempt to fill the Grand Canyon-esc void left by the departure of Kool Korners, The Crazy Cuban has taken up residence just down the street from that shuttered Atlanta institution. The restaurant itself is a small shop with stand at counters and walk up ordering. Owned and operated by Aldo Ramirez and his wife, they make no bones about their little restaurant being an homage to KK. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then The Crazy Cuban would like nothing more than to be the Joseph Grimaldi of our city’s Cuban restaurants.
Inside the bright blue brick building, orange walls with a few sepia toned images give way to a hanging flag from the restaurant’s country of inspiration. The cloth itself is partially obscured by the clean cut deli counter where the sandwich slinging occurs. The blue counter is actually the first thing your eye is drawn to, as it matches the hue and tone of the exterior. There is nothing really to love or hate about the decor. All in, it’s simple and easy to get used to.
Aldo and his wife have been in Atlanta for roughly 15-years, and though I’m not sure if they have any experience in the restaurant business, they seem to have established a pretty solid system for getting things out the door. A good number of sandwiches are pre-built in preparation for a lunchtime rush. Then, when a customer requests some grub, a sandwich is yanked from the stack and pressed to order. Meanwhile, someone is there on the backend making more sandwiches for the queue. If assumption weren’t the mother of all fuck ups, I’d say that the woman behind the counter was Mrs. Ramirez. Regardless, she seemed to get a little flustered in the midst of the rush. Though far from rude, don’t be surprised if you walk out with no new best friend.
The list of available selections is short but sweet: there is a vegetarian option, but save that, everything is basically a derivative of your basic Cuban. Three of the sandwiches (Cuban, Media Noche, and Mojo Pork) all include sliced ham and sliced mojo pork. Then there is a ham/cheese and turkey/cheese for those trying to be at least quasi choleric conscious. All the sandwiches will run just shy of six bucks ($5.75) and are joined on the menu by a few options in the way of plantain chips ($1). Add in a bottled drink (standard coke products as well as some Latin inspirations), and your combo will come to $8.41 with tax, tag, and title.
According to the horses mouth, Crazy C has secured the same purveyor of bread and mojo pork that used to provide the ingredients for the crack-like goodness of Kool K’s. I’m not so sure that’s true … and while the ingredients are good … even if it is the same supplier, the food isn’t quite there. Unwrapping the torpedo sized subwich revealed two buttery slabs of grain caressing a massive mixture of meats and veggies. One thing was readily apparent, for better or worse, these were not anything like Kool Korners. For one, KK’s were almost razor thin.
If nothing else, these sandwiches are a good value. Each sandwich was bursting at the seams, doing its best to hold together as you chomped down. The bread was flaky and full of butter, and while not worth the trip from Miami (where it comes purportedly comes from), it’s worth a smile. Fresh veggies and an abundance of ham dominated the bites. The pork was in there, but not pronounced enough in flavor (or quantity) to really drive home the concept of a Cuban sandwich. The mustard sort of hid in the background, leaving the ingredients alone to satisfy my appetite. So though my tummy was full, my craving remained. There was no kick or punch to the sandwich to really inspire.
In between bites of sandwich, we each had the opportunity to sample a different varietal of plantain chip. Be it sweet, salty, or spicy, all of them kick just right. They chips are context appropriate and pretty tasty (albeit completely unhealthy). In lieu of Atlanta’s favorite beverage, I took it upon myself to sample the kid friendly sangria. It was remarkably familiar, and for a bottled product … is definitely worth the try.
In retrospect, I’d love to see a reduction in the amount of “stuff” … even if the price doesn’t go down. All of the sandwiches that we had were heavy on the ham, not so much on the pork. A kick to the pork marinade and a better balancing of ingredients would go a long way. I was full half-way through (Don’t hate me Sparkplug!).
The Crazy Cuban needs to move away from the Kool Korners obsession and try to be themselves. They just aren’t in the ballpark with the derivative, even if it stands up just fine on its own. As it does stand, The Crazy Cuban offers fairly priced, good quality grub. Though it doesn’t get me all giddy and jig like, I am glad to see someone step into the area with a competently delivered Cuban.