The menu at La Carreta at Miami International Airport.
Arthur Bovino

Sandwich of the Week: La Carreta's Medianoche

Miami's best medianoches and Cubans? Maybe not. Best eats in Miami International Airport? Now you're talking.

Best Cuban in Miami? Loaded topic. You need time to wade through all the challengers.

El Rey de las Fritas? Miami New Times awarded it the title in 2010. Then again, they said Moro Castle had Miami's best Cuban in 2008. Local site, 3 Guys From Miami gives the honor of best Cuban to Latin American Restaurant and Cafeteria. And just last February, Food For Thought, another Miami food blog, was asked to list five of the best and noted the following: Versailles, Enriquetas, Luis Galindo's Latin American, La Comaronera, El Mago de Las Fritas, Bin No. 18, and Puerto Sagua. You could do a weeklong trip to Miami that just focuses on Cuban sandwiches and still not hit all the places you wanted to.

And it's not like Miami doesn't have other good food to sample. You've got to stop by Joe's Stone Crab, after all, Zuma opened up there last year (don't try taking photos there by the way), there are the big names (db Bistro, Scarpetta, Mr Chow, Hakkasan), it gets tiring eating meals at all these spots. And there's more to come — you heard José Andrés is opening another Bazaar, this one on South Beach, right? (When it comes to big-time chefs opening other locations of signature restaurants, is Miami the new Vegas?)

So here's a dirty little secret. By the time you get to all of the places above, it just may be time to get back to the airport to head back to wherever you came from. And if you're hungry, and need a quick bite for the trip, your best option at Miami International Airport is a Cuban — that and a medianoche from La Carreta.

There are at least seven locations of La Carreta in Miami, and there's one in the North Terminal at the airport. A huge, cavernous cafeteria with a long line of people waiting for sopa de pollo and ropa vieja — huge portions mind you, not even necessarily amounts you'd like to eat before getting crammed into an Economy Class seat (especially when they make you put your seat in the full upright position and fasten your seatbelt).

So, if you have a half an hour before boarding, the key to solving your hunger issues is to skip the long line at La Carreta and go straight to the sandwich counter. Get a Cuban and a medianoche. For the unintiated a medianoche (literally, "midnight") is a ham, pork, pickle, and cheese sandwich in a toasted sweet roll. Skip the fried yucca sticks, but ask for a side of the cilantro and garlic aioli in which to dip your sandwiches. In fact, make sure you hit it with hot sauce before running to your gate.

These are by no means Miami's best renditions, but the bread is warm and toasted (if not oven-fresh), the meat/pickle/cheese ratio works, and the buttery medianoche will have the guy in aisle seat wishing he was you, crammed into that middle seat if only he could have a bite.

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