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Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop

photo 2Hector Santiago — the mad genius behind Pura Vida Tapas — has a great sense of the possible. The flat, two-tiered rooftop to his restaurant’s Poncey-Highland building became the perfect venue for a self-irrigating  pepper garden, nourished by both rainwater and runoff from his HVAC unit. The parking lot across the street became an ideally visible spot to stage a weekends-only outdoor burrito stand that he christened Burro-Pollo.

Now, the small dining room around the corner from his restaurant that he once dreamed of turning into a high end dining destination has found its raison d’être as Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop. Open for lunch Tuesdays-Fridays in a hilariously cobbled-together space, it’s a true original.

When you enter on Blue Ridge Ave., you climb a small staircase to the Pura Vida prep kitchen, which has been outfitted with a cash counter. You place your order and return downstairs to extremely pleasant small dining room to wait for your food.

I recently ate at Xoco, Rick Bayless’ much heralded Mexican sandwich shop in Chicago, and though Super Pan is a much more modest operation, the food is every bit as good. Santiago knows the art of creating distinctive flavor profiles that linger in your memory.

The BBQ rib bolillo ($12, above) packs tender and soulful shredded meat into a crusty bolillo roll (made by Bread Garden bakery) and tops it with an onion/carrot/cilantro mixture that brings Vietnamese banh mi to mind. There’s also an orange/chipotle BBQ sauce at your disposal for dipping, pouring and smearing pleasure. I loved the flavor of this sandwich but wanted a little higher veg:meat ratio. Maybe I’m weird that way. Most folks probably want their $12 sandwiches packed full of meat.

photo 3Yet I think the sandwich that will make this spot famous is this Medio Dia ($11, right) — Santiago’s diurnal version of the media noche Cuban sandwich.

Imagine a Cuban sandwich rethought: meltingly soft adobo-roasted Berkshire pork, thin strips of chayote pickle, hot-fruity habanero mustard and clove salt tucked into a crisp-soft pineapple bun. Got that? Now slide a few slivers of crackling pork skin into this business and just try not to inhale.

Santiago also gets big ups for the presentation: the sandwich is first wrapped and pressed in a banana leaf, then wrapped in sandwich paper and cut.

The only other sandwich I tried was a shrimp coctel bolillo ($9, below) that was unusual enough that it took me a few bites before I started to appreciate its charms.

photo 1This creamy, cold shrimp cocktail has elusive flavors of pickled garlic, shallots, ginger and basil, and it gets a cap of piquillo pepper agridulce, which tasted like a pepper chow chow with a Spanish accent. It’s kind of a mess to eat, but a glorious one. Santiago likes to cut the bread unevenly so as to pack the ingredients into the larger, boat-like bottom part. You have to kind of cradle it from the bottom and attack from the front. Load up on napkins first.

19 comments Add your comment

Sean M

August 31st, 2010
12:57 pm

no ham and cheese? that’s the best one!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop http://bit.ly/cWyMfB [...]

The Dude

August 31st, 2010
1:10 pm

For $12, yes, I’d expect some meat in my sandwich. And maybe a server…or fluffer. Jeez, guess the economic downturn hasn’t hit everyone.

Stephie

August 31st, 2010
1:16 pm

I am just gonna say that the tofu was awful. Don’t get it. The shrimp coctails innards were tasty but the sandwich was way to hard to eat.

Son of Puerquito

August 31st, 2010
2:09 pm

I hope his sandwich creations are better than the stuff he serves at pura vida…

reservoirDAWG

August 31st, 2010
2:18 pm

I won’t go.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

BJS

August 31st, 2010
3:01 pm

Wow, I’m surprised by the tepid comments. Have y’all tried that Medio Dia? So delicious! Best Cuban sandwich I’ve tried in the city, including the Havana Sandwich spinoffs… The sandwiches don’t cost any more than, say, Star Provisions, and they’re made with such care. Granted, I haven’t tried the tofu one, but the pork belly buns are also amazing.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Wino

August 31st, 2010
7:18 pm

I’m holding you your word to stay away. Gimme more of anything Hector does. He has a greater sense of spice and heat than any chef in the city.

[...] post on Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop kicked up a bit of dust in the comments section about its relatively high prices. Some thought that $12 sounded like too much to pay for the beef [...]

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Miguel A. Corona, Cheryl Hayes. Cheryl Hayes said: Super Pan Latino: Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Now, the small dining room around the corner from his restaur… http://bit.ly/97SHvj [...]

Eileen

September 1st, 2010
3:33 pm

hector santiago’s food is beyond the beyond. i thought i admired him for pura vida, then for super pan (where i’ve had 4 of the 7 sandwiches and have yet to be disappointed) and then for the burro pollo experience in the parking lot across the street. add all three ventures up and i don’t think you can top him.

JanSy

September 2nd, 2010
2:15 pm

Wow, I’m surprised by the some of the negative comments. Not every item that Chef Hector cooks up is going to please all palettes, but his profiles are always intriguing, always memorable and frequently out of this world. His cooking has always had heart and soul and I think his culinary voice is strong, unique and a distinctive addition to the food scene in this town. We are lucky to have him.

Son of Puerquito

September 2nd, 2010
2:26 pm

@ JanSy: I think you meant palate not palettes…

Mmmmm....

September 3rd, 2010
8:47 am

Does anyone know if this place takes credit cards?

John Williams

September 3rd, 2010
11:42 am

We went yesterday. I had the Medio Dia with a bag of plantain chips. This is the best “cuban” I’ve ever had. The meat was perfectly cooked, seasoned, and super tender. The bread was unbelievable. I can’t wait to go back.

Loving those sandwiches

September 4th, 2010
6:25 pm

We went this week and shared the media dia,pork buns, and barbecue and had the vegetable of the day, a beet and bleu cheese salad. Could not choose a favorite . By far the best around. Can’t wait to go back. Pleasant staff and good service.

Atlantan

September 14th, 2010
4:05 pm

I ate lunch there today and it was excellent. I had the Medio Dia – I agree with the others it was the best Cuban I’ve had too.