Dear Mr. Gold:

Where can I get a great Cuban sandwich in L.A.?

Mitch, Los Angeles

Dear Mitch:

The Cuban sandwich is one of the most astonishing concoctions on Earth, a split length of buttered Cuban bread, stuffed with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese and a pickle chip, then toasted in a sandwich press until the filling has steamed, the pickle has warmed, the flavors have melded and the outermost crust of the bread has annealed into something crisp and shiny and thin as a dime. A fine Cuban sandwich surpasses the sum of its ingredients — I maintain that it has to be made with a damp, mediocre baguette, which may be the only bread capable of becoming crisp without drying out too much. The meat ought to be given a small chance to brown.

The version at Café Atlantic in Old Town Pasadena is very delicious, almost dainty, but I fear it may be a bit too uptown for my taste. Give me the Cuban at Café Tropical, which, when the right guy is behind the counter, is pressed flat as tostones, a little soft though cracklingly crisp, moistened with a squirt of a mysterious but garlicky substance from a squeeze bottle. The meat is griddled and brown, not just steamed by the warmth of the sandwich, but ready to dissolve into sweet juice. 2900 Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 661-8391.

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