Serious Sandwiches: Fried Pork Sandwich at Tina's Restaurant
Today's Serious Sandwich post feels like one of those crossover comic books events, like the time Spiderman showed up in Daredevil. I don't normally write about sandwiches from Midtown Manhattan (I leave that stuff for my blog Midtown Lunch), but I had a sandwich for lunch on Monday that to not share with you would be a disservice to Serious Eaters everywhere. I found it while researching a piece for Midtown Lunch at Tina's Restaurant, a fast food Cuban place that I not only had no intention of eating at, but I wouldn't even consider a NYC destination or even the best Cuban food in Midtown. But then I saw it—the fried pork sandwich, with fried plantains (or as I like to call it, the "You top what with what?!?"). After spotting the sandwich on the menu, considering the consequences of my actions (I had plans to eat Cuban food with friends for dinner), I was forced to use the excuse that this wonderful column has afforded me on so many occasions: "I have to order and eat the sandwich. It's for work."
The "Fried Pork" sandwich at Tina's starts with the kind of fried pork you dream of: four large hunks of crispy on the outside, juicy and stringy on the inside carnitas. The fried hunks are individually pressed down into one big layer onto the bottom slice of already flattened French-style bread used in Cuban sandwiches. Then a generous heap of fried sweet plantains (maduros) gets pressed onto the top of layer of the bread and is topped with an onion and lime mixture. The whole thing gets a nice squirt of mayo before being pressed into one of the most gloriously excessive sandwiches I have ever eaten.
Despite being billed as a Cuban restaurant the owners of Tina's are Peruvian, so I'd recommend dipping the thing into the little cups of aji (Peruvian green hot sauce) they give out at the cash register. Fried stuff, on fried stuff sandwiched between two slices of bread. Is there anything better?
A little more about Tina's: Tina's was formerly a branch of Sophie's Cuban, a NYC chain of Cuban restaurants that have been around since 1997. Even though the name has changed, Tina's still serves Sophie's menu—meaning not only is the fried pork sandwich available at the two Tina's locations, it is also available at all of the Sophie's Cuban locations as well.