With the combined flavors of pork, pickle and mustard, The Cubano taco stands out as an exotic option on the Mad Taco menu.
Though it has become a staple for the restaurant, it wasn’t always a part of the menu. It started as one of the many tacos featured in the restaurant’s “Mad About” program, in which owner Peter Madden picks different monthly themes and creates corresponding dishes and drinks.
A recent example: Mad Taco was “Mad About” Oktoberfest, and the theme inspired such dishes as a bratwurst taco and a beer-and-cheese queso served with soft pretzels.
“I’m a chef by trade,” Madden said. “So I immediately start researching what we’re ‘Mad About,’ and what the national dishes are, what the popular dishes are, what ingredients they like to use. Trying to fit all of those into a taco becomes the challenge.”
In November 2016, Madden picked Cuba. The Cubano is a play on the Cuban sandwich, which was popularized in South Florida, where many Cubans settled after immigrating.
“The Cubano, in essence, is in some kind of crusty bread with braised shredded pork that has a lot of citrus in it, and they have sliced ham, mustard and a pickle,” he said. “It’s a strange-sounding national dish, but it works and tastes really good.”
This version of the dish puts the pork, pickle and mustard into toasted tamale bread folded similar to a tortilla, and served warm. The powerful tastes of the three ingredients all seem to find a harmony. It is filling, but a hungry customer might want to order two for a full lunch, or add chips and queso with the meal.
Madden said the customer reaction helped The Cubano earn permanent status.
“It was wildly popular,” he said. “People kept saying, ‘Can you put it on the menu?’ We ended up doing it. It’s a cool taco, it is unique.”