First night in Key West and the locals are determined to school this food writer. The most important advice?
“The best places to get Cuban coffee are attached to laundromats.”
Sure, there’s Sandy’s — a place so well-known it’s got sleek rides pulling up all day to pick up trays of coffees to go along with giant bags of sandwiches and a fleet of delivery cars whizzing in and out as you wait 20 minutes for your order. But the one that people keep saying is the must is a little less celebrated.
Beloved as this place is, its name escapes them. “Just go to the corner of Union and White,” I am told.
And so on a sunny Saturday morning, taking a little break from my writing desk, I do …
Located in a quieter, more residential bit of town, this is not a place that seems to attract many tourists — a fact that’s just fine with me.
It’s hard to miss White Street Sandwich Shop even though it’s a tiny dive — not just because of its sign announcing that it has “The Best Coffee In Town.” There are also the benches of men slouched by the laundromat, sipping coffee, watching the day unfurl.
The menu is simple — you can get Cuban toast with butter ($1.25), a range of breakfast sandwiches ($4 to $8.50) as well as housemade guava pastelitos ($1.50), tacos ($10) and of course, Cuban sandwiches ($8).
Sergei is the one-man show here — and you can watch him assemble your sandwich through the small window.
First, he places ham, cheese and salami in Cuban bread and grills it, then fries up some pork with onions, then puts that all together with shredded lettuce, pickles and tomato.
This takes a while so you might as well have some coffee while it’s happening. (This is the best place for it, after all.)
I order a cafe con leche ($1.50 to $2.50, depending on the size) — iced, because summer seems to have arrived early in the Keys this year. And it is delicious. Intensely flavored, slightly sweet, frothy and cold — this coffee hits the spot. I almost wish I’d gotten it hot so I could taste the coffee full on.
As for Sergei’s mammoth sandwich, this photo says it all. Each bite was fantastic, packed with the punchy mix of oniony pork, ham, salty cheese, pickles and a tangy sauce.
Will I return? Hell, yeah. I don’t care if it’s 100 degrees that day though — hot cafe con leche it’ll be.
White Street Sandwich Shop, 1222 White Street, Key West, Fla.; 305.797.6871