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May 31, 2007 06:54 PM

Cuban sandwich? Elena Ruz?

Girlfriend says this is an authentic Cuban sandwich.

I respectfully disagree.

Have found some anecdotal evidence on this board and others of a 1930's speciality sandwich made for a Havana socialite that might have some thin thread of Cuban heritage.

Anyone want to venture an opinion? Please?


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  1. A quick google search shows:

    The Elena Ruz, also sometimes known as a Cuban Turkey Sandwich (not to be confused with the equally tasty Cuban Sandwich),

    This sandwich was named after a patron of a once popular restaurant in Habana called El Carmelo, located in the area of Vedado at Twenty-third and G Streets. People went to this gourmet café for cafés [coffees] and bocaditos [sandwiches].Elena Ruz was likely an American whose last name was Rush, which Cubans would have pronounced as Ruz. She was a frequent customer of El Carmelo between the years 1945 and 1948. She always requested this bocadito, an unusual combination of cream cheese, turkey, and strawberry preserves, which was not on the menu. The staff began calling the sandwich the Elena Ruz.

    You can also toast the bread if you like.

    2 slices white bread, crust removed 1 tablespoon strawberry preserves

    1 tablespoon cream cheese 4 ounces cooked turkey

    On 1 slice of bread, spread the cream cheese, and on the other slice, spread the preserves. Add the turkey and close to make a sandwich. 1 serving

    8 Replies
      1. re: Bob Mervine


        Used to be my go-to sammie at Latin American Cafe on Coral Way VERY late night... post-cocktails-pre-hangover. I think they still make them at the Bayside Marketplace location on Biscayne.

        We make them at home now but "gringo-ize" them sometimes when we sub the strawberry jam with canned cranberry sauce (the one that comes out as a log you slice into perfect rings or the "whole berry" lumpy kind from Ocean Spray...) and Philly Cream Cheese. So good - such a guilty pleasure!

        Which will kill me first - my fondness for Elena Ruz or the El Rey Chivitos on 71st Street, MB?

        I'll let you know...


        1. re: Bob Mervine


          There are several kinds of Cuban sandwiches besides the classic ham/roast pork/Jarlsberg/chicharrones/pickle/mustard. One variation is called a "media noche" (midnight), which is basically the same except they use a sweet bread instead of traditional pan Cubano. There is also the pan con bistec, a marinated steak sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo and potato sticks all pressed down and toasted on the plancha, that magnificent device which elevates Cuban sandwiches to the very pinnacle of sandwichdom, right up there with the bahn mi, the true Italian sub and the oyster po' boy.

        2. re: 2top

          I beg to differ with you. Elena Ruz was a young Cuban socialite and related to Fidel & Raul Castro on their mother's side (Ruz) - Contrary to your opinion, the name is not Ruth pronounced Ruz - it is RUZ and she is still alive living now in Miami.

          1. re: foodiesleuth

            It was not my stated, it was a google search. God bless, Elena RUZ.

            1. re: foodiesleuth

              Actually, I beg to differ with all of you. Robert Creamer, author the definitive Babe Ruth biography, explained in a 1960's interview for the Saturday Evening Post how the Babe went to Cuba to play baseball in the off-season at least twice with his first wife, Helen. Helen, who was of frail health and who rarely went out, asked the head waiter at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, where they were staying, to prepare her sandwich that her grandmother used to make: turkey slices with cream cheese and strawberry jam on toasted white bread. The head waiter obliged the babseball star's wife, and thus the sandwich was named Elena (or Helen) Rus (pronounced "Roos", a literal spelling of how non-English speaking Cubans pronounced "Ruth"). This story was confirmed by that head waiter, whose name was Valsar, and who went to exile in Miami after 1960, and died shortly thereafter.

              If there was an Elena Ruz debutante in the 1930's, the sandwich already exited at that time, and is most certainly not named after a relative of Fidel Castro's mother, whose last name is Ruz, but who entire family migrated to Cuba from Jaffa, Israel when she was a little girl.

              1. re: marco_from_nyc

                Sometime has passed since you wrote the comment, but again, I beg to differ..... My middle name is Ruth. I was born in Cuba. My name was not pronounced Roos by Cubans. '

                There was a REAL Cuban young society/debutante whose name was Elena Ruz Valdez-Faulli. There are still Valdez-Faulli family members in Miami who have a catering business. She was a member of that family. She is supposedly still living either in Miami of Costa Rica - accounts differ (maybe she lives in both) - The Valdez-Faulli family made my wedding cake. She is REAL and the story of the Elena Ruz sandwich being named after her is REAL.

                1. re: foodiesleuth

                  yeah, i never bought the whole Babe Ruth thing either.

          2. Oh MAN that sounds good! :-D

            Is this served in typical Cuban restaurants, or is this more a make at home thing?

            12 Replies
            1. re: Covert Ops

              You can certainly make it at home but the roast pork, known as Lechon (or Pernil in Puerto Rican parlance) is the most essential ingredient and requires the most time to make -- it requires that the pork is marinated and then slow cooked, so generally it is made from BBQ pork leftovers at home whereas in a sandwich shop, the Lechon is roasted and sliced specifically for sandwiches. I made a Cuban Sandwich for lunch today using leftover pork shoulder from Momofuku Ssam bar. I documented the procedure on my web site if anyone is interested.

              1. re: OffTheBroiler

                Thanks, OTB, but I was asking if the Elena Ruz was served in restaurants. . .I'm not that big of a pork fan, but turkey w/cream cheese and jelly sounds intriguing...

                1. re: Covert Ops

                  In Miami, you'll see it on the menu of almost any Cuban restaurant, especially the little breakfast/lunch places (cafeterias), along with the pan con bistec, media noche, sandwiche Cubano, sandwiche desayuno (breakfast sandwich, usually ham/egg/potato/cheese), etc. Many places have a stand-out sandwich, but most will try and accommodate a special request. The best sandwich places also bake their own bread, like the Capri Restaurant on Southern Blvd. in West Palm. Since I'm not in South Florida at the moment, I'm experiencing a powerful mixture of hunger and nostalgia every time I look at this thread.

                  1. re: Covert Ops

                    I remember seeing it on the menus of most sandwich places when I lived in Miami - and when people ordered party platters of bocaditos ( little sandwiches) there were usually some there also. I was alway a big cream cheese and jelly fan as a kid, so the addition of turkey never seemed strange.Years ago the Miami Herald had an article about the girl who it was named for. She said she still ate

                    1. re: Covert Ops

                      Yes, you can find it on menus in restaurants in Miami.

                  2. re: Covert Ops

                    The most famous Cuban sandwich shop in Miami, by the way, is the Latin American Cafeteria.on Southwest 72nd street. While it is not the oldest, it makes what many Cubans consider to be the best in the entire city, with the most amount of meat and the best ingredients. I've attached a photo of it here, but it's also chronicled on my blog. Consider it the Katz Pastrami Sandwich of Cubanos, it could be shared by two people.

                    1. re: OffTheBroiler

                      There's another famous place in Hialeah right around the corner from the main entrance to the old horse track. It's in the shadow of the metro rail. I forget the name, but the sandwiches are stupendous, at least two feet long and enough to stuff four people. There are two shops at the southwest corner of NW27th Ave. and 441 that serve an awesome pan con bistec, not especially large, but delicious for about 4.00.

                      1. re: OffTheBroiler

                        Molina's in Hialeah is legendary for their pan con bistec. The best Elena Ruz in the whole city is at Chico's in Hialeah. It's a Hialeah staple, as it's open 24 hours and has only been closed for two major hurricanes in all of its existence.

                        1. re: Covert Ops

                          Pan con bistek at Latin American is great - they add a slice of grilled ham, no mayo that I could detect.
                          However, the steak sandwich at Lila's was alway my favorite - it was just a piece of palomilla steak, and their awesome fries on pressed cuban bread.

                          1. re: eimac

                            I havent had the Pan Con Bistek there, or at Lila's, but I had the one at El Rey De Las Fritas. Oh man. (see attached).

                            I would KILL for a Rey De Las Fritas anywhere in the NY/NJ metro area.

                          2. re: Covert Ops

                            I make them at home with leftover grilled porkloin (marinated and basted in mojo, lime and papaya), smoked ham, sopressata, Jarlsberg cheese, garlic pickle slices an Pommerey mustard on a baguette. I wrap it in foil and mash it between two large griddles, flipping it over every few minutes. I like mine nice and toasty.

                          3. Yes, your girlfriend is correct. It did originate in Cuba. The restaurant was El Carmelo and as far as the reply you received below....I beg to disagree with the poster signed 2top on May 31. - Elena Ruz was a young Cuban socialite and related to Fidel & Raul Castro on their mother's side (Ruz) - Contrary to his opinion, the name is not Ruth or Rush pronounced Ruz - it is RUZ and she is still alive living now in Miami.

                            1. Yes, your girlfriend is correct. It did originate in Cuba. The restaurant was El Carmelo and as far as the reply you received below....I beg to disagree with the poster signed 2top on May 31. - Elena Ruz was a young Cuban socialite and related to Fidel & Raul Castro on their mother's side (Ruz) - Contrary to his opinion, the name is not Ruth or Rush pronounced Ruz - it is RUZ and she is still alive living now in Miami.

                              1. For the record, my girlfriend has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be corrrect and I, the knowledgeable one, has been proven an idiot.
                                She is right and I am wrong.

                                I beg her forebearance in future matters of food.

                                Thanks to the board for your kind and informed support.