A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 29, 2006
Cuban Sandwich; Medianoche Sandwich

Cuban sandwiches and medianoche (midnight) sandwiches are popular in Cuban communities in Florida.
The long list of the names of sandwiches served on long rolls includes blimpie, bomber, Dagwood, garibaldi, gondola, grinder, hero, hoagie, Italian, jawbreaker, muffuletta, peacemaker (La Mediatrice), pilgrim, pistolette, po’ boy (poor boy), rocket, skyscraper, spiedie, spucky (spuckie, spukie), submarine (sub), torpedo, torta (Mexican po’ boy), wedge and zeppelin (zep).
(Dictionary of American Regional English)
Cuban Sandwich n
Also Cuban chiefly FL See Map Section=submarine sandwich.
1965-70 DARE (Qu. H42, The kind (of sandwich) in a much larger, longer bun,
that’s a meal in itself) Infs, chiefly FL, Cuban Sandwich, FL37 Cuban.
1967 AmSp 42.283 FL, The Submarine Sandwich…Cuban Sandwich—Miami.
March 1901, American Kitchen Magazine, pg. xxii, col. 2:
A sandwich popular at Cuban restaurants is almost a meal in itself.  It is made with two thin slices of the ordinary wheat loaf made in sandwich form. No butter is used, but on the lower slice is placed, first, a layer of
the breast of cold chicken cut very thin; over this goes more wafer-thin slices of cold boiled ham, then cucumber pickles also sliced very thin; shavings of bologna sausage top the pickle, and over the sausage slices of cheese. The bread top is then put on and the whole is fitted into an oblong frame which neatly and quickly trims off the crust and shapes the sandwich. It is then folded in plain white paper and delivered, the whole operation having been accomplished in sight of the purchaser and in an incredibly short space of time. Twenty cents of our money pays for the sandwich, which is eaten with a glass of wine or of beer.—New York Evening Post, Saturday,
October 6
18 January 1903, New York (NY) Times, “Havana’s Hotels and Cafes” by Dorothy Stanhope, pg. 26:
On the counters of restaurants are all kinds of baked meats and fowl. The hams are all spiced. Sandwiches are piled up high, but they are not the kind we know, with a simple layer of meat, or nuts, or lettuce. The Cuban sandwich is made of a roll and has three or four things between the sides. The kind known as “medianoche,” suggesting that it is usually eaten late at night, is of a very delicious roll, with chicken and bits of pickle between the sides.  Ham, cheese, and pickle are the ordinary filling for a native sandwich. Whatever may be lacking among the edibles displayed on the counters, sweet cakes are not. They are unprotected by bars of glass; still people eat them with great relish apparently. Cubans have a liking for very sweet things, and the cakes are made to suit them. To Americans they seem far too sweet.  Many of them are filled with custard, “flan,” it is called here. There are some small meat pies that are very palatable. Other kinds of pies are unknown. Large cakes are likewise uncounted among Cuban pastries.
1 March 1903, New York (NY) Times, “Cuba’s Capital Is Gay” by Dorothy Stanhope, pg. 4, col. 6:
There have been many luncheons; these differ very little from the ones to which we are accustomed in our own land either in service or the dishes offered.  The one exception is the fish course, which usually consists of the most delicious little dried fish—pargitos they are called.  One of them is about the right quantity for a person. Of all Cuban delicacies, none excels this.
Culinary Echoes From Dixie
by Kate Brew Vaughn
McDonald Press, Cincinnati
Copyright 1914
Copyright 1917
Pg. 185:
Cuban Sandwiches
This sandwich may be described as a club sandwich with cheese. It is usually made large so that it is necessary to eat with a knife or fork. It may be made in such porportions as to supply a large amount of nourishment.
Cut the crusts from the slices of bread. Between two slices lay first lettuce with a little salad dressing or salt on it, then a slice of soft, mild cheese and finally thin slices of dill pickles or a little chopped pickle.
The Dispenser’s Formulary
published by The Soda Fountain magazine
New York
Pg. 209:
To eight ounces of grape fruit marmalade add one half ounce each of chopped candied ginger and candied cherries.  Spread thinly.
Wyoming Valley Women’s Club Cook Book
Wilkes-Barre, PA
Pg. 139:
Between two slices of bread spread with mayonnaise put a thin slice of cooked chicken, followed by a layer of dill pickle, a layer of sweitzer cheese spread with prepared mustard and a thin layer of broiled ham.  A man’s sandwich.
Mrs. S. M. Wolfe
11 June 1925, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 11:
Cuban Sandwiches.
This sandwich may be described as a kind of a club sandwich with cheese. It is usually made large so that it is necessary to eat it with a knife and fork. It may be made in proportions as to supply a large amount of nourishment.
Cut the crusts from slices of bread. Between two slices lay first lettuce with a little salad dressing or salt on it, then a slice of soft mild cheese and finally thin slices of dill pickles or a little chopped pickle.
Every Woman’s Cook Book
by Mrs. Chas. F. Moritz
New York: Cupples & Leon
Pp. 588-589:
Cut large slices of bread, remove crusts, spread with soft butter. Between each two slices lay first a crisp lettuce leaf sprinkled with salt, then a thin slice of mild yellow cheese, then chopped or thinly-sliced dill pickle; cover with other slice of bread.
26 January 1929, Havana: The Magazine of Cuba, pg. 29, col. 1:
The frequent sight, “Hay Sandwich” doesn’t spell dry indigestion.  It tells you that at that place you can buy a sandwich, right now.  Incidentally, the sandwich may be called a “media noche,” which translates “midnight.”  Try one of these soft buns layered with different cold cuts and cheese and pickles with the last bottle of beer before turning in, and see how well it has been named.
18 December 1937, Collier’s, “South From Miami” by Nina Wilcox Putnam:
Pg. 18, col. 4:  “Turtle Steak, 50 cents” and “Try our homemade lime pies.” Next was “Conch Chowder” and “Stone-Crab Salad.”
Pg. 39, col. 2:  There is a restaurant on Duval Street called Delmonico’s which looks about as much like Delmonico’s as I look like Shirley Temple. (...)  And oh, my gosh, the chicken (Col. 3—ed.) soup with noodles! Stone-crab cocktail, fish a la minuta!
If, however, you are a light snacker, let me recommend Cuban sandwiches. There is a little hole-in-the-wall across from the Cuban Club which makes them. These sandwiches are hardly a snack, they are more like a career.  Tell the boy to use Cuban bread and Cuban ham. Then watch him make them.  You never saw such an artistic performance of sandwich-making.
15 January 1939, New York (NY) Times, “Down Florida’s Bright Trails,” pg. XX6:
The motorist sticking to the trail will miss such places as Fort Myers, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa, and no visit to Tampa is complete without a Spanish dinner in Ybor City, or at least a Cuban sandwich, bean soup, Cuban coffee and coconut ice cream.
25 April 1942, Mansfield (OH) News-Journal, pg. 10:
Offer Cuban Sandwich.
Among the specialties at the Health Kitchen is the Cuban sandwich, Southern innovation in eating. Erwin, who became proficient in preparing this delicacy while in Florida, claims that it is a meal in itself.
“I suppose you people would call it a ‘Dagwood’ sandwich,” says Erwin, “but it takes a lot more than just piling a lot of different things together. To make a good Cuban sandwich, it takes what we restaurant folk call cooking artistry.”
The Cuban sandwich is publicized in the south as one of the most popular items in Cuba. According to Erwin, it took the Southern residents by storm. Cuban sandwich stands flourish there just as hot-dog or hamburger stands do in the North.
Main ingredients of the Cuban sandwich are ham, cheese, brunsweiger, lettuce, salami, salad dressing and several others. The whole thing is served between two pieces of Cuban or French bread cut lengthwise and as Erwin says, makes a meal in itself.
11 June 1942, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, pg. ?:
Only 90 miles from the northern coast of Cuba, Spanish is spoken in Key West almost as much as English.  Cuban sandwiches, Spanish dinners and “turtleburgers” are featured on every menu.
8 April 1943, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 22:
A little farther along a noisy group was gathered around the counter of the Cuban sandwich shop. A Cuban spiced ham hung from the ceiling by a rope and Juan, the counter boy, was spinning it and cutting thin slices from it with extraordinary skill, his flashing knife catching the pieces in midair and flipping them between long sections of crisp bread without for an instant interrupting the flow of his conversation with his clients.
August 1955, American Restaurant Magazine, pg. 54, col. 1:
Special Demand for Sandwich Specialty
100 to 250
Sold at noon by
Tampa, Fla., restaurant,
A southern “Dagwood”,
it includes
boiled ham,
roast pork,
swiss cheese,
sour pickles and
mustard or mayonnaise
in 7-inch loaf
of Spanish Bread.
Pg. 55, col. 1:
CUBAN sandwiches, a kind of southern “Dagwood,” are one of the best “short order” lunches in Tampa, Florida. They are a specialty of Tampa’s well known Las Novedades Spanish Restaurant and as many as 100 are served at noontime daily, with up to 250 of them merchandised on Saturdays.
It is made up of a combination of boiled ham, roast pork, salami, Swiss cheese, sour pickles and mustard or mayonnaise, plus Spanish bread.
To prepare them, the chef first splits a hefty seven-inch slice of Spanish bread. On half the bread goes a base of boiled ham, covered with roast pork slices; next, two salami halves; then strips of natural Swiss
cheese; a couple of slices of sour pickle, and a coating of mayonnaise or mustard to complete the item.
Dozens of Cuban sandwiches are made up in advance for noontime trade to meet daily demand for them.
Las Novedades, first established in 1890, is operated by five partners who have directed the restaurant since 1939…
19 June 1956, New York (NY) Times, “Florida Seafood,” pg. 339:
In Tampa, across the bay from St. Petersburg, are two famous Spanish restaurants in Colorful Ybor City. They are known for their Spanish bean soup and chicken with yellow rice. Both dining places are old landmarks, and feature Cuban sandwiches. These, an economical meal in themselves, cost around 35 cents.
17 August 1958, Washington (DC) Post, “Cuban Sandwiches Airborne Here to Meet Tampans’ Gastric Crisis,” pg. A1:
What came yesterday aboard a Northeast Airlines plane were 240 Cuban sandwiches made in Tampa and comparable to our submarine sandwiches. They contain fresh pork, smoked ham, salami, cheese and so forth, and they are made of Cuban bread.
18 December 1966, New York (NY) Times, “Havana Reborn in a Corner of Miami” by Agnes Ash, pg. XX5:
Long Sandwiches
This area also harbors several short-order restaurants at which yard-long Cuban sandwiches are sold. Ham, turkey, pork loin, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard are layered on a long loaf of crusty white bread (similar to French bread) and then cut into about four sandwiches. Prices start at 50 cents.
Medianoche sandwiches, also available at these places, areslightly different. These, too, are made from ham, turkey, pork and cheese, but the wrapper is a flat, toasted bun. Medianoche means midnight, and these weighty tidbits have long been favorite after-theater snacks among Cubans.

Posted by Barry Popik
Florida (Sunshine State Dictionary) • Saturday, July 29, 2006 • Permalink

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