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El Rey de Chivito - Fast Gourmet inside of a Gas Station, DC

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Following a thread on donrockwell.com, I couldn't resist going to a sandwich shop inside a gas station at 14th and W Sts, NW called Fast Gourmet. Serious sandwich making highlighted by a Uruguyan chivito, a feast that has been a sensation in Miami for a while now.

This may be The King of Chivito. It is $13, the size of two sandwiches, and comes with unannounced made-to-order fries. This is why I never order fries in a restaurant. You get a big supply even when you're not expecting them. Two people could easily split this, or if you are solo you could skip eating the next day.

There are tables inside as well as a counter to sit at.

Also, I saw a Cubano pass before my eyes on its way to another table. It looked knockout gorgeous. That will be my next sandwich.

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  1. I think this was reported on the TV somewhere. I saw the segment. The cuban was the touted sandwich. Looked like a good place.

    23 Replies
    1. re: Dennis S

      Yup, been hearing about this place for at least 4 months. I usually don't frequent the U Street area though, so haven't been yet. Not sure if it's worth the trip (for me, personally) for just sandwiches, but might be the next U Street joint I stop at if I ever find myself in the area around lunchtime.

      1. re: Dennis S

        I actually had half of their cubano. It was reheated (at home, not by them), so not a truly fair sampling, but it was still awfully good, enough so that I'm planning to pick up a fresh one soon.

        1. re: marcj

          Did it have chicharrones (pork cracklings) and roast pork? Was it toasted on a plancha? Do they have real pan cubano? Also, do they serve cafe cubano? I must know!

          1. re: flavrmeistr

            Where can I get a cubano with chicharrones?

            1. re: justaddwater

              That's what I'm trying to find out. The chicharrones are what distinguishes a true Cubano sandwich from a grilled ham and cheese sub. The pork must be soaked in mojo and roasted on the premises to get that great flavor. South Florida has them in abundance and maybe some enclaves in New Jersey (not sure about that). It would be great to find a place up here with the genuine item.

              1. re: flavrmeistr

                I have to say I have not heard of this before. I lived in Miami and still have family there, including Cuban in-laws. I have never been served a cubano with chicharrones. Are you sure?

                http://icuban.com/food/cuban_sandwich...

                1. re: Steve

                  I'm Cuban and never heard of the chicharrones on a sandwich though I am glad someone besides me understands the necessity of the mojo.

                  1. re: redfish62

                    Yeah, man. The cracklings from the outside of the roast pork, not the deep-fried chicharrones they sell on the street. Rey's Cafeteria in Hialeah. The Capri Diner in West Palm Beach. Even the Sedano's stores throw a little on their cubanos. Makes all the difference. My favorite sandwich is the pan con bistec-marinated steak w/grilled onions, LTM and potato sticks. Surely you've had one of these, no?

                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                      Cracklins are the skin, which I have never seen still attached to a pierna roasted for making a sandwich (or "sanweeche" if you want to use the proper term), it would need to be deep fried or would be soggy and tough. The idea of ground up cracklins as another filling on a cuban sandwich, though, is intriguing, I'm surprised it hasn't been tried.

                      For the interested, two cuban sandwiches on my "need to try" list (as well as the 'wiches identified in this thread by the OP) are the Floridano truck's cubano which looks great in their posted photos and the upcoming Sabora truck, which will have fritas in a slider package.

                      http://foodtruckfiesta.com/el-florida...

                      http://foodtruckfiesta.com/saborastre...

                      1. re: justaddwater

                        The next time you're in SoFlo, try one of those places I mentioned. I'll throw in one more, Havana at the corner of Forest Hill and Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. It'll change your life.

                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                          I'm actually going to be in Coral Gables in a couple of weeks, but I usually don't venture too far from there when I go. I am going to hit Sergio's for their pan with bistec, I've put off trying this sandwich thinking it was probably a tough palomilla steak, but I do need to try something different. Did the fritas last time at El Rey, not impressed. I always go with plans to do something different and end up hitting the old reliable spots.

                          I did, though, have the best sandwich ever a few months ago at Versailles of all places, a churrasco sandwich. Chopped up churrasco with onions and cheese available at their bakery adjacent to the restaurant. Miami's version of the steak and cheese.

                          1. re: justaddwater

                            The best palomilla is at Esquisito a few blocks down from Versailles. Tender, delicious and huge. There is also tiny place at 3rd Ave. and 7th called La Reina that has a specialty of chicken breast fried with bacon that is just outstanding. I really miss Miami, especially when I'm chipping ice off my car. If you get over to Hialeah, try the Molino Ranch.

                            1. re: flavrmeistr

                              Thanks for your list. I'l l e down there at the end of April.

                              1. re: flavrmeistr

                                Exquisito was on my list a while back for lechon. I heard they had a good one. I've been going to La Rosa for their saturday special. It's usually my last big meal before heading back. I also need to go to Enriqueta's, never been.

                            2. re: flavrmeistr

                              I grew up a few blocks from where Havana is and still spend a lot of time there, really good food.

                              1. re: flavrmeistr

                                Havana really does have good pork, and is a must-visit on our annual trips to Palm Beach Shores. The lechon asado is to die for. And the cubano is good, although I'm still looking for one as good as they used to serve at Antonio's in the 600 block of D NW oh so long ago

                              2. re: justaddwater

                                Yeah, El Floridano has disappointed me twice now, and I'm not giving them another chance. Elements are good, but they always screw up a large element that takes the sandwich down many notches. I find they have excellent sauces, but sometimes the bread isn't good, and sometimes the meat just isn't tasty. Disappointing. I have not tried the cubano though, just some roast pork thing.

                                1. re: hamster

                                  I haven't had anything off this truck, always too many people in line, but the look of their Cuban is precisely what it should be.

                    2. re: flavrmeistr

                      It did not have chicharrones, but it did have roast pork. I can't answer any of your other questions because I haven't actually been in the space--I reheated half of my wife's sandwich at home.

                      Also, it's clear from this thread that you are far more a connoisseur of the Cuban than I, who am merely an appreciator. So I don't want to get your hopes too high. I just thought it was a really tasty sandwich, and particularly impressive for the sub-optimal conditions in which I ate it.

                      1. re: marcj

                        FWIW, I am also not an afficianado and so therefore call many "Cubanos" as "Dominicans". Including what we make at home.

                        1. re: Dennis S

                          I'm not necessarily an afficionado, just craving a sandwich experience that's probably 99.999% unavailable outside of South Florida. It's the same with Texas barbeque, Maryland crabcakes and New Haven pizza. Hope lies in that 1/1000th of a percent.

                          1. re: flavrmeistr

                            For the New Haven pie, have you by chance ever been to Crozet? I think next time I'm going South on 81 I'll convince my wife to take the detour. Joe H glowed bright on it for a while a few years back.

                            1. re: Dennis S

                              I've heard of it, but I don't get down there much. My favorite lately is Il Forno in Frederick. Crispy brick oven pie with good ingredients. It ain't Pepe's, but it's still pretty good.

                2. "The King of Baby Goats"? Awesome title! How was the sandwich?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                    Very delicious. The Chivito is the most expensive sandwich, BTW. So it is possible to spend less, but it's not dirt cheap.

                      1. re: MikeR

                        That also includes R&R just South of Baltimore.

                  2. The "restaurant in a gas station" thing has been done. There is a place called "El Carajo" in Miami located in a BP station where you can pick up a gallon of anti-freeze and down some tapas and Riberas. I found out about the place watching public TV at 1am. The local station WPBT runs a restaurant review show called "Check, Please" where local common Joe (and Jane) Chowhounds talk about their finds. This was one of them.

                    http://www.checkpleasefl.com/reviews/...

                    1. Just went to try the cuban. I thought it was very good, clearly high quality ingredients. Lovely tender roast pork and lots of it, high quality mustard and cheese, lovely sandwich integrity with nothing falling apart or dripping, certainly two meals worth since it's also served with the thinnest fresh french fries. They were really nice guys behind the counter and my sandwich came out quick! They also make all their baked goods, from which I chose a gorgeous berry danish/scone'ish thing which I will sample later.

                      Very cool spot.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hamster

                        Correction: it's an apple-berry galette. Not bad, not bad at all. I will probably try their other creations based on this.

                      2. Just got back from lunch. Lil woman and I split a chivito and a cubano (no, we didnt finish). The cubano was excellent and was only the second one I have had in two decades that I would order again. Great roast port (he roasts it for 7 hours after a long marinade), not sliced, a game killer for me, good ham, cheese pickles and a whole grain mustard. There was just one problem.

                        The chivito. It was so much better. So many amazing components, especially the olives and red peppers in vinegar and little button mushrooms. Did I mention the steak and bacon? Or the egg? This was an awesome sandwich. I couldn't order a cubano again there as sandwich to sandwich the chivito blows it out of the water even if it is one of the better cubanos I have had.

                        Fries were cold, but who cares about fries when there is that much sandwich to finish.

                        Great place. Great rec Steve, thanks.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sekelmaan

                          I gotta get down there. Are they open on Sunday?

                          1. re: sekelmaan

                            I finally got here today for lunch; I've been chomping at the bit to go since reading this thread. We arrived early, around 11:15, so we had no problems with waiting in line or with ingredients being unavailable. I was surprised, pleasantly, by the looks of the place. I was expecting something much grittier. It's a pleasant little space, and has a number of tables. (My fears of take-away only and cash-only were not realized.)

                            There are a couple of parking spots out front, but walking here would be better for those who are able to do that.

                            sekelmaan's comments pretty much expressed my views on the food. I too shared the chivito and the cubano with a friend. I'm no expert on Cuban sandwiches. I've only had about 10 in my life, but one was in Miami and several were in Cuba. This is the best one I personally have ever had. The key component that flipped it from good to great for me was the roast pork, which sekelmaan described above.

                            But the chivito... wow. I really loved this sandwich, as did my friend, who wasn't crazy about the cubano ("too meaty"). "So many amazing components, especially the olives and red peppers in vinegar..." Both sandwiches were very fresh and hot. I do think though that $13 is pretty steep for the chivito. (The cubano is $8.50.)

                            Fries were served warm-ish, but thin and crunchy -- not bad, really. I am not crazy about fries to start with, so it was very easy for me to taste a couple of them to see how they were then leave them. I have a large appetite admittedly, but I had little trouble eating half a cubano and half a chivito.

                            And... they deliver! I live within their delivery range, so this is exciting news! They have an intriguing menu; lots of interesting items on it that will be very difficult for me to try, as that would mean forgoing what I already know I love. The guy working there said the chivito and cubano were their most popular offerings.

                            Fast Gourmet
                            202-448-9217
                            1400 W St. NW
                            WDC 20009