Opened in January of 2011, Old Havana Sandwich Shop is a welcome addition to the downtown Durham lunch scene. Colorful paintings by Cuban artists and softly filtering Bolero music bring this bright, breezy space in a renovated historic building to life. The inviting atmosphere is matched by friendly counter service, with Cuban co-owner Roberto Copa Matos, in his trademark straw fedora hat, greeting customers with a soft, smiling, "Welcome to Old Havana."
Having previously tried (and adored) their signature Havana sandwich, I recently returned to Old Havana to try the El Caney. This Cuban-sandwich-with-a-twist starts with a flat, tender-crispy roll made by local Guglhupf bakery. Next come layers of melted cheese, slow-roasted pork, and mashed avocado with garlic and salt, topped off with a schmear of yellow mustard and dash of tangy house-made mojo.
The slow-roasted pork shines, with rice-paper-crisp edges yielding to buttery chunks of juicy meat, made more decadent with fresh, creamy avocado. Savor it plain, or spice it up with a dash of the shop's Papa Bull hot sauce. Oh, and there's lipstick on that pig: Old Havana uses only hormone- and antibiotic-free pork from local, pasture-raised pigs, so your conscience will be as tickled as your taste buds.