Menu Mining: Café Tropical’s Medianoche Sandwich

Ah, Key West, home of so many delicious foods. And so much rum….

Oh yeah. Los Angeles. Yes.

We may not be splashing distance from Cuba, but thank goodness we have people who used to be.

Seen that deep purple building on the corner of Sunset and Reservoir (where you turn to get to Silver Lake Blvd.)? That’s Café Tropical, and in addition to having a truly surprising array of pastries, they serve what are arguably the best Cuban sandwiches west of Miami.

Sure, you can order the Cuban Mix, and it’s done up right, but I’ve always considered those to be … well, just a sandwich.

OR –

You can order up the incomparable Midnight (we professionals say Medianoche) and get something really worth eating. I recommend you ask for it “all the way,” which is how they say “everything on it” in Key West. Now you look like a real bigshot.

Ingredients: roasted pork, ham, cheese, some slices of pickle, on a special sweet bread. The sandwich is heat-pressed but it ain’t no Panini.

Aaaarch, my eyes roll up in my head just thinking about it.

Bonus: Prices are Dirt Cheap. Medianoche is $6.50 and it comes with free wifi.

Café Tropical

2900 W Sunset Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90026

Open every day from 6am – 10pm

(yeah, go get your Con Leche on before work)

Am I cheating by including this link to Yelp? Maybe. But I’m putting it at the end, and only because I couldn’t find a website for them.

Menu Mining: Potato Balls and Rellenitos at Porto’s

Potato Balls & Rellenitos

I was first introduced to Porto’s Bakery & Café through co-workers who occasionally brought pastries from the Glendale storefront to work. They were different and delicious, unlike any other sweets I’d had before. It wasn’t until the second location opened in Burbank in January of 2006 that I actually went into a Porto’s and discovered what a wide and varied menu they offer. In addition to the popular tres leches cake, cheese rolls, and guava strudel, you can indulge in a number of sandwiches and salads.

While I’m quite fond of the steak torta, I usually gravitate toward the café’s “house specialties,” especially the potato balls and rellenitos. The potato ball, or papa rellena, is mashed potato filled with seasoned ground beef that is lightly breaded and fried. The meat reminds me of sloppy joe meat. It’s comfort food you can hold in your hand. They are so good that I didn’t mind eating them when it was over 100 degrees.

Black Beans & Ground Beef Inside

The rellenito pairs nicely with the savory potato ball. It is sweet plantain filled with black beans and coated in sugar. The flavors work so well together. While not technically a “meal,” you can make one out of these. They are dense and filling and oh so scrumptious. Also, a potato ball or rellenito will set you back only 90 cents. A true bargain.

The family-run Cuban bakery and café currently has two locations, one at 315 North Brand Blvd. in Glendale and the other at 3614 W. Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank. A third location in Downey is slated to open sometime this year. The establishments are quite popular, especially on weekends, so be prepared to stand in line while waiting to place your order. The staff at the Burbank location are fast and very friendly and the food is worth the wait.