You never know when you'll stumble upon culinary bliss. There I was, at a modest Latin eatery in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, when I wrapped my mouth around one of the best Cubanos I've enjoyed in a good, long while.
Even before picking up the sandwich, I spotted the signs of excellence: the right bread, a proper press and grill, an oozing of melted cheese, and mustard. Sliced in half, the sandwich revealed its contents like the geologic strata of Cuban culinary history. Sliced ham, chunky roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard — all packed into a crusty, chewy, sturdy package. In the mouth, well, it was excelente.
That sandwich ($6) can be found at El Buen Gusto, which opened about four months ago. Lilly Marchena, la dueña (owner), runs the bright, welcoming eatery with her brother and other family members. She is from the Dominican Republic, but the eatery serves a broad mix of Latin-American dishes.
The lineup features homespun rice-and-bean plates topped with roast pork, stewed chicken, baked chicken, or fried pork chops. Seafood dishes like shrimp in garlic sauce are available. The roast pork ($8.50) arrives with numerous pieces of pork brittle — cracklings of roasted pig skin — along with a mound of white rice and a bowl of stewed beans. Or you might get lucky and show up on a day when stewed goat or oxtail are on hand.
On Saturdays, El Buen Gusto ("the good taste") serves a Latin soup/stew called sancocho ($5) — a robust chicken broth fortified with whatever's on hand. Mine had big pieces of stewed beef, tender plantains, and bright herbs. Sometimes Marchena whips up a batch of mondongo, a beef tripe soup.
El Buen Gusto sits just down the street from Johnny's Bar on Fulton, at 3292 Fulton. It is open every day but Monday. Call them at 216-651-9304.
Give to Get: Now through October 7, Paladar is inviting guests to donate $25 or more to partner charities in return for a $25 Paladar gift card. Give to the Gathering Place, MedWish International, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, or Geauga Humane Society's Rescue Village, and you will be rewarded with good, free Latin grub. Diners can donate to all four charities and earn up to $100 in Paladar gift cards.
"It's really important to us to support the community that supports us," says Paladar GM Sean Latona. "This is a fun way to highlight a handful of great organizations and help them boost their donations."
Paladar is at 28601 Chagrin Blvd., in Woodmere. Read the fine print at paladarlatinkitchen.com/donations.