The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

The Spotted Pig: Burger Vs. Cubano, Plus Some Banoffee Pie

close up of burger
Hello there.

This is the chargrilled burger from The Spotted Pig. The general reaction to this burger upon first impression is, "Holy jebus," or a drool-filled utterance of similar meaning.

Although far from homely, I wouldn't call it super fancy either. It's just...very pretty. The brioche bun is so perfectly plump as to appear inflated, and the evenly spaced and darkened grill marks look as though they had been skillfully painted on. In between the bun halves is a thick puck of meat that, while glistening in beef juices, doesn't sloppily extrude any excess liquid. Next to this perfectly coiffed burger (a burger can be coiffed, right?) is a messy pile of golden shoestring fries possessing a crack-like addictive quality by the addition of fresh rosemary, fried garlic slices, and that magical seasoning called "salt."

This is the main reason I brought my friend Rebecca, who was visiting from Seattle, to the Spotted Pig for lunch. Not just any lunch, but her first lunch in New York City.

...Also, I wanted the burger. That may have been 50% of the reason.


But while looking at the menu, my longing for the Cubano surpassed that for the burger. And after eating them side by side in my 50/50 sandwich split with Rebecca, I realized that I actually prefer the Cubano. It wasn't a close race either; as soon as I took my first bite of the burger after finishing my half of the Cubano, my taste buds made weepy sad faces (like so: ;_;) in their longing for the pork-filled pressed sandwich.

A typical Cubano that shouldn't run you more than $5 (unless you're reading this in the way future and the dollar devalued by a buttload) is already a mouthwatering thing of sandwich beauty. It's a harmonious combination of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard (and mayonnaise/butter?) layered in a Cuban bread roll (or something similar), pressed and toasted. In his Cuban sandwich recipe, Nick noted that the glory of the meaty sandwich lies in the textures: "the luscious roast pork is cut by the acidic pickles," and crunchy bread contrasting against smooshy filling is one of the major pluses of eating toasted sandwiches (besides that toasting makes the innards warm and potentially gooey).

close up...of gooey cheese

With the help of Ed's review, I'll describe this sandwich to you. It contains the basic Cubano ingredients, just hit with a fancy stick borne forth from the belly of a well-fed angel (which is kind of a gross image, now that I've had a second to reflect on that). Taking the place of roast pork is slow-roasted brined heritage pork shoulder cooked in duck and pork fat (mm, two kinds of fat); instead of nondescript ham there's Prosciutto de Parma or speck; pickled jalapeño peppers provide the acidic (and slightly hot) touch; and then all this fatty awesomeness is smothered in melted aged Gruyère and compressed between two halves of a toasted, crackly-crusted roll from French bakery/restaurant Balthazar.

So it's like a regular Cubano...dipped in gold and sprinkled with diamonds. And the gold and diamonds are made of premium fat.

Now you can see why it costs $15. Maybe. Everything at the Spotted Pig runs a bit on the pricey side—I may not be dying to pay $16 for an apple, walnut and cheddar salad, but I think the Cubano is worth it (and it's the second cheapest lunch entrée they offer). I'm sure as hell not going to roast a chunk of heritage pork shoulder and cook it in duck and pork fat in my home kitchen.

burger innards

The burger is a whole other kind of sandwich beast. It's got the delightfully gratuitous meat and cheese combination down (it delights me, at least), but not much in the ways of varying textures or flavors. The soft bun and char-less medium-rare beef patty (at least, it didn't taste very char-y to me, despite that the name describes it as a "chargrilled burger") kind of just melded together in this uniform mush of...meat and meat receptacle. Of course, it didn't taste bad—it was just a stark change after eating the Cubano. And while I had previously loved the strongly strong, tangy Roquefort cheese, this time it seemed to overpower the meat. What happened to my taste buds? What. HAPPENED?

Rebecca is thinking, "Robyn is going to make me gain 5 pounds"
Rebecca, during the brief non-eating moment prior to downing our lunch and immediately gaining five pounds.

Rebecca also preferred the Cubano. I felt like I had steered her wrong with the hamburger, a sub-par first impression I'd have to redeem myself for later on. On the upside, we both agreed that the burger's accompanying rosemary-garlic-salt shoestring fries were "stab someone else's hand with a fork dare they try to steal any of my 'tatoes"-good. If you're violent, at least. If you're not violent, they're addictively good, sans stabbing.

Since you can get the fries as a side, I'd recommend that two people share a Cubano and a plate of fries as a meal. Although you could finish a whole sandwich and maybe an order of fries, eating half means you'll experience the joys of both without clutching your distended belly and moaning, "Unnnggghhh," afterwards. Moderation is the key, people. Not that cheesy double-pork sandwich and super skinny deep-fried potato sticks go with the word "moderation."

Also, by not stuffing yourself silly, you can indulge in a dessert. I've never had the chance to try a Spotted Pig dessert before due to the condition of, "I ATE TOO GODDAMN MUCH," but this time I willed my belly into making wiggle room for something sweet.

banoffee pie

Admittedly, even if you were stuffed by the time you finished your main dish, you'd still be able to snarf down a slender slice of banoffee pie because, holy jebus, it's some freakin' awesome pie. Pie that lingers on your mind for days after you eat it (or more than a week in my case), the memory of which may possibly be the only thing keeping me alive right now, just until I can get another mouthful of tender, buttery crust, creamy dulce de leche, thinly sliced banana, and baby plops of whipped cream.

...Okay, maybe the dessert isn't that amazing (although I will say that my friend Sophie first spoke to me about the wonders of banoffee pie in September of 2006, thus planting the seed of banoffee pie-desire), but it was my first time eating this British dessert and I'm now mildly infuriated that seemingly no one else in New York City makes it. (On that note, if you know where else I can feed my banoffee pie craving, please tell me.) I may be far, far, far from anything resembling a baking master, but even I could cobble one of these babies together. Even if it didn't look as nice or taste as good as the version from the Spotted Pig (and I'm about 135% sure that it wouldn't), I think it's safe to say that it would still be a satisfying dessert. Just make a pie crust (the Spotted Pig's crust is more sweet tart-like, I think), layer it with banana slices, suffocate the fruity base with thick dulce de leche (the "toffee" part of banoffee), and splodge on sweetened whipped cream. As long as you're not opposed to any of those ingredients (I know some people who don't like bananas and/or whipped cream...sigh), you should embrace the banoffee (yup, simply "the banoffee") as easily as Rebecca and I did.

all gone
That didn't take long.

We cleaned the plate as well as we could without bringing it to our faces and licking off every wayward speck of shaved chocolate or smear of residual dulce de leche. Plate licking is a boundary I will only cross in the safety of my own home, or a friend's home if the friend is close enough that I don't think they'll judge me too harshly for my uncouth ways.

Cubano, burger, and pie—it's a good lunch, eh? Perhaps allowed once every few months; I'll call it my "reward for not yet giving into the desire to step in front of a moving truck."

The Spotted Pig, a Stomach-Burning Break, and Too Much Gelato
Grom, The Spotted Pig and Salud
Pearl Oyster Bar and The Spotted Pig


The Spotted Pig
314 W 11th St
New York, NY 10014


Joseph Bayot / March 30, 2008 2:46 AM

I felt the exact same way about the burger, in terms of the cheese overpowering the meat. I could have also gone for a charred crust.

And just like you, I thought the fries were great, although getting a burnt piece of fried rosemary or garlic now and then is annoying.

redrhino / March 30, 2008 10:58 AM

I <3 The Spotted Pig's Burger!

I ate there last year on vacation to the NYC.
It took me forever to find that freaking place but it was so worth it. I was hoping to run into Mario Batalli since that's one of his favorite places to hang out but no such luck. I did however run into him in front of the Library. Perhaps he was checking out a cook book?

Duh duh duh da da da....(Mary Hart voice intro) Tonight on Entertainment Tonight, top New York chef exposed as fraud? Tune in and see. Ha Ha Ha

After I left The Spotted Pig, there was some house turned bakery a few streets over that had a line of people down the sidewalk waiting to buy cupcakes. What's that all about? If the line was shorter I might of given it a try. I love fooding in NYC. Im hoping to make it back again this year.


roboppy / March 30, 2008 1:23 PM

Joseph: I must not have gotten those burnt pieces...or if I did I ate them and didn't mind, haha! ;_;

Marvo: Cos I wuz inspired:

redrhino: I have yet to run into Mario Batali (or spot him at the library...except that one time he gave a talk there), but I once saw April Bloomfield (the chef at the Spotted Pig) at Pearl Oyster Bar.

That bakery must've been Magnolia. It's not worth waiting for in line, but if no one's there (it happens) I might pick up a cupcake.

John: You will eat this Cubano someday! I WILL MAKE YOU!

Annie / March 30, 2008 3:44 PM

When you crave a food which is unavailable for purchase, that's when you start learning how to least, that's how it was for me.

Julie / March 30, 2008 6:10 PM

I first heard of a cubano on some PBS food show (which are always awesome, it seems). After that, I really coveted them, but heard I could only find them in places around Florida and the Cuban section in Chicago. Then I found a Cuban place here that had them. Oh my good!!!

Never had banoffee until I tried a place in Tempe, near Phoenix, that specialized in Cornish pasties. Banoffee was their main dessert. Oh. My. Goooood!!! Plus--pasties!

Danny / March 31, 2008 12:14 AM

I have to say, that cubano looks really good. The price tag is kinda like, 'OMGz is NY really that expensive?!' One of these days I will go and eat one, when the wait at the Spotted Pig is not insane.

Man, looking at your food pictures right before bed is not a good idea. Now I just wanna stuff my face with food.

roboppy / March 31, 2008 12:35 AM


Chubbypanda: And it's the only slice of banoffee pie I've ever seen. :(

Julie: I'm glad you found cubanos! I'm not even sure the first time I had one. Thankfully they're pretty easy to get here.

And cornish pasties are awesome. I wish I went to wherever you went when I was in Tempe! What's the name? :O

chocolate shavings: Goooo...noow..burger wants youuu...

Danny: All the prices at the Spotted Pig kinda make me go "OMGz." ;_; BUT OMGz I want my sammich. It's not hard to get into the restaurant for a late lunch, if you can swing that.

Go to sleep; no more food blog reading for you!

Clarrie / March 31, 2008 9:05 AM

I'm glad that wikipedia article states that supermarkets started selling banoffee pie as an American invention during the nineties.
Until today I'd always been under the impression that it originated in the U.S, so it's nice to be reassured that I'm merely a rube, rather than a mental.

michelle @ TNS / March 31, 2008 11:38 AM

i *heart* banoffee pie! i didn't know there was somewhere i could get it here! you can tell i'm excited because i'm using many exclamation points!!

can we still be virtual friends if i tell you that i like my cubanos sans pickle?

Molly / March 31, 2008 12:02 PM

holy shizz! usually i am completely anal retentive and read your entire entry beginning to end in an orderly fashion. but when i read "banoffee pie" in the headline my brain exploded and i immediately scrolled down for the glorious pic.

i lived in london for a while about 2 years ago and banoffee pie has to be one of things i miss the most. does the spotted pig let you just order dessert? i would go there just for that. i'm definitely searching for a recipe now too though...

ChuckEats / March 31, 2008 1:14 PM

I agree - the Cubano is better than the hamburger. And the hamburger is overpowered by the cheese.

My two favorite hamburgers in NYC: Burger Joint and the L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon hamburger/foie sliders. The latter are quite expensive but ridiculously good.

Rebecca / March 31, 2008 4:02 PM i've always wanted to go to the spotted pig, but never had the chance. after seeing your photos, though, i've decided that i must have it no matter what the next time i'm in ny.

Julie / March 31, 2008 5:29 PM

It's calle the Cornish Pasty Co.! It's in the same shopping center as Cheba Hut (for yummy toasted sammiches), Rosita's (for decent Americanized Mexican food), Panda (for standard takeout Chinese food) ... dang, there are awesome restaurants all up and down University Drive, too, worth checking out, from Ethiopian to Frenchamerican to Italian ... But the Cornish place--check out the menu--lots of fun!

roboppy / March 31, 2008 6:38 PM

Clarrie: That's it as an American dessert? AND THEN THE CUSTOMERS WILL FLOCK TO IT!!


But omg I love the pickles! Wah...wah! Well. We can still be friends. I guess.

Molly: You read it in an orderly fashion? That's ...awesome! I don't really expect people to do that. Impressive. :)

It's totally okay to skip down to the PIE!!! I'm pretty sure you can just get dessert. I'd be all for a meal of fries and pie. Balanced!

sharelle: Aw...but wait, you want the cubano, not the burger!

Chuck: I have a feeling I won't be going to L'Atelier...anytime...soon. Or ever. ;_; But it sounds like I'd enjoy it. Wah!

Rebecca: Yes, you must go! :)

Julie: Thanks for the info! I don't remember much about University Drive. My next visit will be sooo food laden...

Nehna / March 31, 2008 8:12 PM

Banoffee Pie is REALLY really easy to make, we do it all the time...and I think we've gotten have of Cobble Hill in Brooklyn hooked on the dessert, having brought it to Sample bar a few times for thanksgiving festivities.

Kristin / March 31, 2008 8:39 PM

I have a great recipe for banoffee pie that involves boiling a can (yes, unopened) of sweetened condensed milk for for 3 hours to make the "toffee." It is my friend's British mum's recipe, and is always the hit of the party. Another tip: mix the cool whip with kahlua!

Jesse / March 31, 2008 10:53 PM

I used to make banofee pie all the time, just to bribe my friends to loooooove me. Then I got fat. It's a sad story.

roboppy / April 1, 2008 11:46 PM

Nehna: Damn, I should've made banoffee pie for Thanksgiving! Next year...yeah.

Kristin: NOO, NO ALCOHOL IN MAH PIE!...although I'm sure that tastes alright. :)

Mm, I love condensed milk in all its forms.

Jesse: You can bribe me. Plz?

..It's okay, you can have my love.

I bribe my friends with straight up cash.

Nehna / April 4, 2008 8:47 AM

There's also a very valid 'cheat' if you don't have the time to boil the condensed milk. Buy a can/jar of dulce de leche. Pretty easy to come by. And while it's not 100% the same, it's damn near close and most wouldnt know the difference.

It makes a ridiculously easy dessert even easier, but if you're in a rush (don't have two hours to boil the milk), it works like a charm.

natty / April 4, 2008 9:35 PM

ooh, I've heard about the cornish pastry place, but I've never been! Tempe is a surprisingly tasty place to live in.

roboppy / April 5, 2008 1:47 AM

Nehna: Damn, I hadn't even thought of that. Another tip to get me on my way to BANOFFEE PIE-DOM!

Natty: Oh god, I wanna go back to Tempe for more eatin. One week in the area just wasn't enough. :(

anon / April 6, 2008 6:34 PM

If you are ever in Seattle, have Rebecca take you to lunch at Paseo. It is seriously the best Cuban sandwich in the world, infinitely better than Spotted Pig IMO...but their gnudi have yet to be surpassed for me.

julesj66 / April 17, 2008 10:15 PM

I am going for the burger tomorrow for lunch. Even though I'm not a big banana fan, I may have to have a slice of that pie regardless. So, I guess my only decision left is what to drink (sure, I'll drink solo at lunch under the right circumstances!) ... the bloody mary description sounds quite tasty!

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