Miami was excellent, but not from a sandwich standpoint. A variety of social engagements prevented the kind of Diogenes-like search I would have liked, but what I managed to try was disappointing. The sandwichy parts of the weekend went like this:
Sat 5 pm--pick up rental car. Ask for Cubano suggestions. Am steered to Versailles or La Careta on SW 8th.*
Don't find 8th between 7th and 9th, (being raised in Boston has made me singularly inept when confronted with streets with numbers and vectors), but realize I am pointing more or less in the direction of Havana Harry's, a spot mentioned by at least one Chowhounder. I drove by, saw that it had tablecloths, and kept going, ending up with a desultory bakery empanada prior to the cookout in lieu of rehearsal.
For Sunday morning, the Pickler proposed a
dawn 9am 10:45 rendezvous at Versailles. We found it, and while the meal was illuminated by the company of the proprietrix of the House of Lounge and her consort, and the vibe of the place was echt (tiny cups of coffee, gesticulation) the sandwich itself was a disappointment. The Cubano is a grilled sandwich with cold cuts, which creates some special challenges. If you are holding the cold cuts at an appropriate temperature, it is easy for the interior of the sandwich to be cold when the outside is well grilled.
I went outside and made the first of many mistakes. The Pickler had spotted a scruffy local market down the street, and wanted to check it out. I do not recall the vibe, but they were keeping even realer. Even smaller cups of coffee, and a whole roast pork shoulder falling apart behind the counter. This had the appearance of being the sandwich equivalent of the idea we should have rolled with from the beginning. I courageously order another sandwich scant minutes after leaving Versailles. This is the experience I came for. I get the sandwich to go, and try it on the way back to the car. The interior is downright frigid. 68% of the sandwch remains in bag on floor of backseat of rental car.
After dropping the adults off at the pool, I embark on an ill-advised solo tour of South Beach. I'd rather try to find a spot for my Airstream on Boylston St. during the Marathon than park a Mazda on South Beach during the boat show. Nautically inclined, those Floridians. A crawl back down US1 brings me to the ceremony, a Quaker wedding/pig roast, (porcine details to follow) but no closer to Cubano nirvana.
Much much later, I am delighted to find the remainder of the abandoned sandwich, which in the absence of room service, is just the thing to accompany the can of Modelo I pilfered from the reception. The bread is not as crisp, but the temperature has equalized over the course of a long day and night on the floor of the car. I wonder if Trillin, Apple, or Steingarten are ever reduced to eating sandwiches they had abandoned in their rental cars?
The Fessering happens at an institution that barbarically does not observe President's Day, so I'm looking at a relatively early departure from MIA. The flight is at 8:30, and I have a rental to return in an unfamiliar city, so I aim for a 6:30 departure from the hotel, or about 2 1/2 hours after I go to bed. The alarm makes a terrible noise, and I depart. As I pull out of the hotel lot, I notice that it is still dark, and that that the clock on the dash says 5:30. I establish that it is, in fact, an hour earlier than I planned. Naturally, given the extra time, the entire return to the airport is effortless and speedy. I'm at the airport a solid two hours before I have to board. It turns out that Versailles and La Careta have airport outposts. Redemption, surely. A fortuitous added time Cubano from La Careta will surely allow me to snatch sandwich victory from the jaws of defeat in the cold gray light of dawn. Nope. The best of the trip, but not as good at they do it at the Montrose. To review, Massachusetts for Cubanos, and Florida for chowder. Go figure.
*In writing this, I learned that Versailles and La Careta are owned by the same guy, which would seem to take some of the drama out of their rivalry.