Bite of the Week is a weekly feature showcasing an exceptional meal or dish, curated by The Growler.
The closure earlier this year of the restaurant Xavi was rightfully hailed as a sad event, but there’s a big silver lining to that particular cloud. The Xavi space at 56th and Chicago Avenue has become Guavas, a Cuban-themed cafe that is serving up a tight menu of classic dishes with a culinary focus that is as admirable as it is uncommon. For the moment it’s serving a breakfast- and- lunch-focused menu, but it will expand to dinner service when its beer and wine license is granted.
We gravitated immediately toward the Cubano sandwich ($12 or $13 with a side dish). It’s authentic but accessible, a perfect gateway to a culinary journey from wintry Minnesota to balmy Havana.
The things that work about this particular spin on a Cubano are, well, all the things. All of the things are the things that work. The bread is beautifully brown and crispy, chewy without being tough. The ratio of pork (ham, salami, and pulled pork) to Swiss cheese to mustard to house-made pickles to bread is ideal—no ingredient dominates or gets lost. This is one of those sandwiches where you take a bite and then start to smile for the simple reason that everything is in harmony and you have been put under the irresistible spell of bread, cheese, and meat.
The other dishes we sampled at Guavas (a chicken cutlet rice bowl with superb beans and rice, patatas bravas, plantains) were equally promising, and the coffee took us back to Miami right at the first sip. We’ll be back when they fire up their dinner service in the months to come.
The Dish: Cubano sandwich, $12
The Place: Guavas Cuban Cafe, 5607 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis
The Reason: The proportions are harmonious and the dish is downright charming