Classic Cubano Photo by Rachel Weatherly
A classic sandwich can be a wonderful thing. Sure, you may know all the ingredients, but some you'll remember as pure ambrosia, while others may linger in your memory as a cautionary tale of how something good can go so wrong.
Take the Cuban sandwich: simple ham and cheese with contrasting sweetness and tanginess from slices of pickle and a little mustard. Pressed flat with a plancha (a traditional cast-iron griddle) to melt the cheese and crisp the Cuban bread, it's one of those sandwiches that I crave and will drive out of my way to get.
Kenn-Tico's version didn't stop my craving for the real thing. The heating was uneven, the bread was stale, and the meat tasted like packaged cold cuts from the grocery. The pickle seemed to be missing, and the "touch of mustard" was more like a drive-by. The sandwich wasn't inedible, just disappointing and poorly executed. The fries, though, were inedible. Pale white and limp, they seemed to have spent too much time in the freezer. Similarly, the Croquetas, billed as breaded fried ham, were more like hard bread nuggets stuffed with molten deviled ham.
On the other hand, the Pan con Bistec, a Cuban steak sandwich, was quite tasty. A bit like a Philly, it was tender with a really enjoyable range of flavors that came from marinating in Kenn-Tico's mojo criollo, a traditional Cuban citrus garlic sauce. And sure, the meat was sprinkled with shoestring potatoes, an odd choice, but it somehow worked, though the bread, again, was stale.
Another bright spot was the limeade — freshly squeezed, not overly sweet, the perfect refresher. And, if you want something a little stronger, they make some excellent mojitos.
Kenn-Tico has some good, authentic Cuban flavors. If I happened to be nearby, it would be on my list of places to eat every now and then. Would I go out of my way to eat there? Probably not.
Kenn-Tico Cuban Bar & Grill
204 E. Grace St., 225-9216
Prices: Sandwiches $5 to $8, entree $9.50 to $14.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday