Lexington: Discover Old San Juan For an Authentic Cuban
I’ve long been a dedicated admirer–and consumer–of Cuban sandwiches. My favorite is served up at the wonderful Brocato’s in Tampa (by all means go there if you can). However, one of the real keys to a good Cuban is the Cuban bread, but it’s a specialty bread that doesn’t age well. Many simply will make their own Cuban variation with different bread. This can be done with excellent results like the Wallace Station Cubano, an absolute favorite of mine.
Still, one does long for a true pressed Cuban. Multiple people insisted my only destination could be Lexington’s Old San Juan. There I would find the object of my desire.
Situated in an unassuming strip mall on Malabu off Nicholasville Road, Old San Juan is welcoming with an old school diner vibe. The restaurant is run by an older Spanish speaking, couple. They use just enough English to get your order, but they make sure you’re well taken care of. The gentleman patrols the store like a king surveying his kingdom, but is quick with a smile and a joke to make you feel at home.
The menu has many alluring offerings, but I stuck with my goal and ordered the Cuban. Still, one feels a little guilty at merely scratching the surface of the wide range of no doubt tasty possibilities (Cuban cuisine is greatly under appreciated). My first time at Old San Juan my friend Dave had recommended the fried sweet plantains. I realized this was good advice, so I had them this time, too.
After placing your order you can stroll back to the drink cooler and pick the bottle or can of your choice, including an offering of foreign soft drinks. There’s also a display of some bulk grocery items that Old San Juan offers for sale that you can browse.
Not quickly, but soon enough, my order arrived, the sandwich, large, the plantains plentiful. The plantains serve as a soft and slightly sweet counterpoint to the savory goodness of the Cuban sandwich and its crunchy exterior. The blending of the ham, cheese, pickles, all hot pressed between the Cuban bread indeed takes you back to Old San Juan. This is what authenticity tastes like.
Filled all too quickly, I asked for a to-go box, glancing wistfully at the display case of desserts. “Next time,” I thought, as I certainly will return to one of Lexington’s culinary gems.
Old San Juan Cuban Cuisine
247 Surfside Drive
Tuesday – Thursday: Noon – 8 PM
Friday – Saturday: Noon – 9 PM
(please note many of the posted hours online indicate they open at 11 AM, but I learned the hard way they don’t open until noon)