Cuban sandwiches, with their triple punch of pork, pickles, and Swiss cheese, aren’t exactly strangers on Indy tables. Bona fide Cuban restaurants have been a bit more rare and fleeting. That’s why Taste of Havana (815 Broad Ripple Ave., 317-559-4369; tasteofhavanaindy.com) on the Broad Ripple strip has received such a warm welcome. There, owner Jorge Chalgub and his daughter Dayana Mireles (who took a year off as an engineering student at IUPUI to help her father run the business) press sandwiches and bake fresh-fruit pastries in the tradition of their island heritage.
Pork wings (miniature roasted pork shanks) are fall-off-the-bone tender, and sweet plantains with golden, crispy edges are some of the best in town, but sandwiches are a must-order. The El Cubano comes in three sizes—and then there’s the CrocTail, a Dagwood-sized monstrosity that weighs in at nearly three pounds—and is best when it has spent some time in the press for the cheese to melt and the authentic Cuban bread to get warm and toasty. For a more-novel but just-as-hearty combination, the Pan con Bistec offers a not-too-thin cut of seared steak with slightly sweet caramelized onions, tomatoes, and mayo, though a garnish of potato sticks gets a bit lost in the mix. Big, flaky pastelitos (pictured)—puff-pastry turnovers—are perfect any time of the day, particularly when filled with tangy guava paste and cream cheese. As with any father and daughter, Chalgub and Mireles can be short with each other when rushing to fill an order, but when they stroll out to meet customers, their mutual warmth and affection permeate what is unmistakably a family enterprise with a reverence for home.
This article appeared in the March 2014 issue.