Tuesday, March 15, 2011

El Siboney

5800 Overseas Hwy
Marathon, FL 33050
(305) 743-9090

The Key's are obviously known for their seafood. That is without question. But on my recent voyage to the promised land, where the beer flows like water and the fish travel in schools by the million, I had a chance to embrace some delicious Cuban food to go along with the obligatory snapper, spiny lobster and stone crabs I had been feasting on. I hit the Marathon outpost of El Siboney, the original is located in Key West.

The first thing to note about El Siboney is the prices. They are outrageously affordable. Like any good Cuban place, you will get started on some bread. It comes out hot, with a light, fluffy interior, similar to a large Italian roll you would get at the local grocery store up here in Philly. Not the gourmet Sarcone's or similar offerings, but the cheap Shop Rite or Super Fresh style bread that you can also buy pre-buttered. Shutter. However, this bread is flat, fluffy, and delicious. It's the same bread you will see featured in my forth coming Cuban mix sandwich. Before we cross that bridge, however, we need to talk plantains. Fried ones. Mariquitas con Mojo. Fried plantain strips, that are thin and addictively crispy, not to mention incredibly fun to eat, as they twist up when you add them to the hot oil. But the sauce is where its at. A simple mixture of olive oil, lime juice, garlic, and onion transforms into a tart, strikingly flavor-packed accompaniment. Simple perfection. A must try. At $3.25, they are not too hard on the wallet, either.

They had a special of the day, beef stew, that I guess was supposed to only be available at lunch. As it was an early dinner, they graciously offered us a portion, and maintained the whopping $7.25 price tag. Served with some fried sweet plantains, yellow rice and black beans, this was a hell of a deal. The beef stew had a hearty, homey flavor that could have passed for an American version of the same meal, save for a nutmeg or cinnamon type flavor that coaxed my taste buds back to the island. The plantains were delicious, sweet, tender and had the creamy texture I love from these overripe Cuban staples. The rice and beans were okay, but lacked some of the flavors that their comrades (too soon?) boasted.

I also had to order the mixed Cuban sandwich, as I am quite partial to a good sandwich, and it had been a while since I had one that I truly enjoyed (besides when I break out my own sandwich press and go to town). El Siboney did not disappoint. Everything that makes a Cuban great was in there. Tender pork, salty ham, swiss cheese, and pickles. They even used regular old yellow mustard, which I usually hate, but it has its place in limited applications (see Cuban Sandwich). The best part of the whole sandwich? The bread. This is the real deal Cuban bread, buttered and pressed into a thin package that delivered everything a Cuban should. As you can see, I am surely hooked on the bread. Light, crusty and flaky, it held together perfectly, and kept all of the ingredients from sliding out the back.

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