Papa Llega y Pon
2928 NW 17th Avenue
Miami, FL 33125
Well, we finally managed to make it home from our whirlwind culinary tour of Miami (thanks to the Polar Vortex for the delays)! In the coming days we’ll have reviews of eats around Little Havana / Calle Ocho, Miami’s amazing coffee culture, and why South Beach scares us. But today, we head straight for the reason M loves Miami so much: pan con lechón, a classic cuban pork sandwich. Lechón is a Spanish term for roasted suckling pig (BBQ lovers: note that lechón is NOT smoked, so do not expect a pulled pork sandwich). In Cuba, and especially among Cuban expats in Miami, pan con lechón (literally bread with roasted pig) is a classic lunch. We asked around, and there was near-universal agreement as to where to go to find the best of the best: Papa Llega y Pon, in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood.
It seems by now that we have an affinity for places serving lechón by someone named Papa. At Papa Llega y Pon, pan con lechón is the specialty of the house and a simple affair. Papa Llega y Pon seems to take pride in being nondescript. There is no sign either on the street or at the restaurant, so it is easy to miss if you do not know what you are looking for. Even so, the small parking lot, we were told, is almost impossible to get in and out of on weekdays around lunchtime. We played it safe and went at late afternoon on a Saturday, when it was nearly empty. Walking up the counter, you are greeted by women brandishing meat cleavers, ready to take your order. You have few options: you can order a pan con bistec (beef sandwich) or pan con lechón. While there are rumors of people ordering the former, the sign on the building’s north side is there to remind you of what you should be asking for:
When ordering, you are given a choice of sizes for your sandwich (we opted for medium, $6 each) as well as toppings. We went all out and chose both possible toppings, cebolla y picante (onions and hot sauce).
At Papa Llega y Pon, the pork is lightly but effectively seasoned, the hot sauce adds a tinge of spice (barely discernible to M), and the onions blend in with the rest of the pork, adding a little extra texture and variety to the flavors. Adding more texture is the obligatory chicharrón (fried pork rinds) mixed in with the pork meat. You can order yours without chicharrón, but you’ll get some strange looks from your servers. Overall, this is simple comfort food, so those expecting bold flavors or exquisite preparation will be disappointed. This is well-made, well-seasoned, and classically prepared food for those who have come to expect the best of the same. It definitely satisfied our lechón cravings, and there is no wonder it is so popular in Miami.