I had a fine Cuban ham & cheese sandwich and a good empanada the first time I visited the Latin Sandwich Cafe at 4009 N. Elston about a year ago. This weekend I went back for a second try. The website says they are under "new management," so I wonder if the place has changed hands?
Anyway, it's a nice concept - sandwiches from Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico all under one roof - and the people who own and run the place are extremely friendly and welcoming. But the items I tried this time were just not satisfying, for a few reasons: heavy as a stone in the stomach, not well-seasoned, too dry. I sampled two Chilean sandwichs - the churrasco Italiano (steak, avocado and tomato) and the pernil con palta. They make the bread for these sandwiches in-house, and it's like large, low-profile biscuits (served hot). Nice texture, but it's heavy and leaden. I wonder whether the loaves are made with vegetable shortening or lard. Either way, the arteries didn't go home happy. The thin strips of steak and pork on each sandwich were more condiment than main event, and the avocado was pounded into a bland paste (not guacamole, just avocado paste). I also tried the tostones, which were pretty, but rather dull-tasting.
The desserts looked very nice indeed. We opted for the braso de reina, a rolled cake filled with a fruit paste and caramel. There were two versions - one plain and one covered in a hard white icing and coconut - it looked delicious but was not quite as tasty as it appeared (dry, refrigerated, heavy). The pastel de mil hojas ("thousand layers cake") also looked very nice but we could not eat another bite after the thousand-pound meal.
I see that several Chowhounds checked out this place last year and liked it fairly well. I wouldn't mind checking out some of the other dishes, especially the other varieties of empanadas and the humitas, and it's nice to know where to find Chilean food in the city.
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