Travelers looking for a delightful sandwich in downtown Richmond, Virginia should look no further than a trendy little place named Urban Farmhouse Market & Café. Technically more of a restaurant than a market, the place has a pleasant, hippie-chic atmosphere with décor that suggests farm-fresh, organic, eco-friendly fare served in an urban environment. Sturdy wooden tables and a beautiful view of sunlit Cary Street make this place ideal for lounging, reading, and people-watching. Alas, the snarky tone of the surprisingly ill-mannered cashier was enough for me to take my sandwich to go, so I wasn’t fully able to experience the leisurely lunch that I had been hoping for. But what Urban Farmhouse lacks in customer service, the kitchen makes up for with the quality of its signature sandwich — the Virginia Ham Cubano.
True to the classic, this sandwich marries two very complementary piggy products: a salty cured ham and a slightly sweet roast loin. In this case both ham and pork are sourced from local Virginia farms, true to the underlying concept of the restaurant: local, farm-to-table, “curated” products. The ham comes from happy, healthy, outdoor-grazing, antibiotic-free, Certified Humane six-spotted Berkshire pig from nearby Edwards Farms. The meat is heavily salted, smoked with hickory, and hung up to age for just over a year before it arrives to Urban Farmhouse’s kitchen. The meat is soft and packed with salty, smoky, and nutty flavor.
The pork is likewise sourced locally, from Twin Oak Farms in Louisa, Virginia. The loin is marinated in-house for three days before being roasted, sliced, and layered onto the sandwich. It has a wonderful succulent, juicy, tight mouth feel that provides a great textural backbone to the flakier, more delicate ham. A caramelized crust coats the exterior of the meat. I was pleasantly surprised to come across patches of buttery soft, tender fat that melted readily on my tongue, releasing a rush of pure piggy flavor. The meatier bits are more neutral in flavor, with a subtle sweetness that pairs wonderfully with the musky, aged funk of the latter. Locked in a mad embrace, the two meats harmonize wonderfully.
Photo Credit: Facebook/The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café
Accenting the tangle of porcine flavors is the zingy acidity of a dill pickle and the piquant heat of sharp American mustard smeared onto the bread. Though not baked fresh in house, the baguette used for the sandwich is delivered fresh daily from Flour Garden Bakery in nearby Midlothian. It is pressed onto a grill slightly to achieve a crunchy exterior, while the inside remains slightly chewy and soft. Grilling also loosens the slices of Swiss cheese lain over the meat, releasing the gym sock funk so characteristic of the cheese. The latter sweats moisture into the sandwich and glues the layers of meat to the slices of bread, uniting the ingredients into a cohesive bite. Technically more of a restaurant than a market, The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café has a pleasant, hippie-chic atmosphere with décor that suggests farm-fresh, organic, eco-friendly fare served in an urban environment.
The sandwich is served with a generous mound of ruffled potato chips. A half-sandwich option is available for guests who prefer to try a soup or salad on the side. Personally, I went with the whole Cuban and had no regrets about my choice.
The Virginia Ham Cubano is one of three of Urban Farmhouse’s popular signature items. According to the three guests ahead of me in the sandwich line, no doubt daily regulars, the Q Bleu is also a contender. The sandwich incorporates Urban Farmhouse Buffalo Bleu, a tangy vinegar-based sauce that pairs nicely with blue cheese and birched onions, also stuffed into the sandwich. The lemony Caesar salad topped with antibiotic and hormone-free chicken breast and tossed with the restaurant’s signature eggless Caesar dressing is a great option for a light working lunch. Richmond visitors searching for that unexpected sandwich will find just what they’re looking for at Urban Farmhouse.
Lili Kocsis is a self-proclaimed gastronome. She graduated from Harvard University in 2011 with a BA in linguistics. She dedicates her spare time to purposeful travel, food photography, and writing about regional cuisine under the penname MyAmusedBouche.