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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 opinion.....as 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.


                                1. As Bob's girlfriend, I'd like to say, "Ha, ha, ha, ha. I'm right, you're wrong" And if anyone hasn't tried an Elena Ruz, you really should. They are fabulous!

                                  23 Replies
                                  1. re: Sally E

                                    Here in Tampa never heard of such a thing--- It sure sounds gringo, so the Helen Ruth story sounds right. Sounds like tea parlor food to me, just cut the crust off the sandwich.

                                    1. re: andy huse

                                      White bread, turkey and jam, does sound a bit gringo to me also.
                                      I wonder how many restaurants in the 30's in Havana would have turkey on the menu or on hand in a regular basis.

                                      I wonder if Cuban's, even socialites, would go for this.
                                      We are not big on savory and sweet things at the same time (stuck together on the same dish), not counting such things as bistek and platanos maduros.

                                      Bread and cream chesse, OK
                                      Bread and jam, OK
                                      Bread chesse and jam, OK
                                      Bread, chesse, jam and turkey ?

                                      Just wondering.

                                      1. re: TampaPete

                                        Turkey, ham, swiss cheese, mustard, and usually some kind of fruit preserve, either on the sandwich or served alongside it for dipping. I'm sure many readers have noticed how much this resembles a Monte Cristo sandwich. It's almost as if some Yankee had come along, recognized a winner when he saw it, took the recipe home to the U.S., and deep-fried it (because everything tastes better fried).

                                        1. re: gfr1111

                                          I suspect the Monte Cristo has its origins with the Croque Monsieur rather than the Elena Ruz.

                                          1. re: Frodnesor

                                            Yeah, you're probably right, Frodnesor, but I like my fantasy better--more exotic!

                                            1. re: gfr1111

                                              I like this theory

                                              The Monte Cristo, now there is a Cuban Sandwich for you.
                                              If it don't move we fry it

                                              1. re: TampaPete

                                                Think you could fry a Cuban Sandwich after you press it? - a Cubana Frita.

                                                1. re: Frodnesor

                                                  don't forget the battered and fried picadillo sandwich. I had one in keys diner. It wasn't great, but i had to try it.

                                        2. re: TampaPete

                                          Don't wonder. Its delicious.

                                          I have it on Cuban bread, pressed. If the turkey is good, its a textural symphony. First, your teeth break the slightly crisp, salty-buttery pressed bread, then you hit the meaty turkey & cream cheese, warm & gooey, a sweet note of preserves (also warm) brings the whole thing together perfectly.

                                          Oh, do not forget the cafe con leche.

                                          1. re: Afrodesia

                                            Great fun to read Afrodesia's thread about my favorite sandwich, Elena Ruz. I started the controversy when my boyfriend, Bob Mervine, thought I had made it up! We all lost Bob in October 2007, but his interest in food lives on! Afrodesia and the Elena Ruz brought him bac, if only for a few minutes! Thanks!

                                            1. re: Sally E

                                              I did a bunch of research on this a few months ago for an article. I'm still unsure about the bread, tho medianoche bread is often suggested.


                                              1. re: andy huse

                                                As a born and raised Miami gal, Elena Ruz is best on a thin Cuban baguette or your "Medinoche bread". The mountains of NC have no such thing...sad to say!

                                                1. re: Sally E

                                                  Funny, I had never heard of this sandwich before until yesterday. I was reading last months Saveur magazine and they have a recipe for the Elena Ruz and it says it used to be served at merienda or afternoon tea. And then I come here and this pops up. Either way I think I need to try one.

                                                  1. re: juli5122

                                                    afternoon tea? I'm surprised Saveur would publish such misinformation. It was a late night snack. Cubans don't typically have afternoon tea at all. what a crock.

                                                    1. re: andy huse

                                                      Here is the piece from Saveur. As your the historian I think I wil go with your definition :)


                                                      1. re: andy huse

                                                        OK, for the record, this sandwich is not so good with ham lol. Thanks to this thread i made a bastardized version with ham cold cuts for dinner last night. It was OK, but turkey would be way better.

                                                    2. re: Sally E

                                                      As a born and raised in Cuba Cuban-American I say Elena Ruz is best as the original on white toasted bread (what we used to call American bread in Cuba) - Don't mess up a good classic.

                                                      Andy, loved your article about the Elena Ruz, but the contents of this sandwich would be too cloying using challah or medianoche bread. They have a sweetness to them that would make the Elena Ruz too sweet and would spoil the balance

                                                      1. re: foodiesleuth

                                                        That's like saying un Cubano es mas bueno sin papas ftitas...all subjective.

                                                        I'll take one any any bread, gracias mucho mas. Call me crazy, just don't call me late to dinner.

                                                        1. re: foodiesleuth

                                                          i agree with your assessment, but I wasn't about to ignore the historic record in the article. the egg bread was part of the original, but toasted white bread is just fine.

                                                          i think of Elena Ruz as a Paris Hilton type who felt so entitled that nothing on the menu was good enough for her. and her name was in lights with the price a mere 25 cents. no wonder her mom was horrified.

                                                    3. re: Sally E

                                                      One never knows how these things work...my friend Luisa made a scrummy roasted turkey breast, I suggested she build herself an Elena Ruz & that got me hankering too so thanks be to Bob, you & the rest of the Hounders for providing some fun food talk. I'm glad it gave you a few moments of a fun food fight memory.

                                                      Hey Bob! Sally was right! ; )

                                                      1. re: Sally E

                                                        Nice to see you posting. I sure miss Bob posting here!

                                                        1. re: rhnault

                                                          Fun to see the Elena Ruz "controversy" still has some steam...as far as posting again goes...my memories of Bob are "posted" daily. He would have loved this!

                                                2. re: Sally E

                                                  As Bob's other girlfriend, I've tried the elena ruz and it is almost as good as Bob. He is the BEST!

                                                3. A few years ago there was a big discussion here about the origins of the Elena Ruz Sandwich and the name. Here is an update....from a post by Carolina Bolado in the MenuPages / S.Florida Bog who corrected me on the link of the relationship between Elena Ruz' family and the brothers Castro. I had shared her information with the Yahoo! Group Cocina Cubana and a member there who lives in Costa Rica found out that Elena Ruz is still alive....she is now 101 years old and lives in a nursing home in Costa Rica. He is trying to follow up with more updates about Elena and her daughter, who also lives in CR...and YES,,,,the sandwich was named for her and not Babe Ruth's wife or anyone called Rush or Roos or anyone else.
                                                  Here is the post from Carolina Bolado: http://blogs.menupages.com/southflori...

                                                  4 Replies
                                                    1. re: andy huse

                                                      Yes, I know....I read your article....but had forgotten about it - Gracias for the reminder....
                                                      Will share it at the Cocina Cubana group....

                                                      1. re: foodiesleuth

                                                        of course, Carolina's info was decisive in my research, too. It put to rest all of the silly theories about Castro and Babe Ruth. cheers!

                                                        1. re: andy huse


                                                          I checked your blog but seems as if you're not keeping it curent...?