- Griffin Swartzell
- A sour orange marinade brings a citrus pop to the new chicken sandwich.
Hector Diaz befriended Indy food editor Matthew Schniper and me in 2016, when Schniper wrote about Diaz’s childhood. Diaz grew up in Havana, Cuba, but he and his sister Ada were sent to the U.S. as child refugees as part of Operation Peter Pan after the Castro government took power. We’ve also been big fans of the food that Diaz and two of his kids, Elyse and Adam, sold from their Lucy I’m Home food truck before its recent expansion into a brick-and-mortar store. Consider that a disclosure of apparent conflict of interest — and then consider the success they’ve had at food truck competitions in town and the long lines at the truck whenever they set up for downtown food truck meetups. Consider that it’s not just the Indy that’s been gassing them up. And then consider the possibility that we don’t have to exaggerate or forgive anything, that the comida Cubana at Lucy is just that good.
The new location, however, merits some comment. It previously hosted Carbonella Creations, the Italian take-out-only spot. Lucy, too, is predominantly for take-out, as three counter seats looking out onto the diminutive parking lot may or may not be crowded with patrons waiting for their food. There’s the beginnings of a patio outside, though, and we’re told they intend to have lights and Cuban music playing out there come warmer months. That’ll offer challenges, as the location has limited street visibility and a dismal parking situation.
But let’s get to the crown jewel: the Cuban sandwich. Lucy’s Cubano is the kind of sandwich a person can’t quite stop thinking about the next day. Its perfect pile of lechon (roast pork) ham, pickles, mustard and Swiss between crisp-crusted halves of a loaf of pan Cubano, panini pressed to perfection, rocks our socks with a parade of rich flavors and textures — rich and faintly garlicky roast pork with salty ham cut by acidic pickle and yellow mustard, crisp bread giving way to a softer interior and tender meats with pickle snap.
Those who want to mix it up can do so with the medianoche, literally the midnight sandwich, which replaces pan Cubano with pan medianoche, which is softer and sweeter. Both sandwiches rate superlative, though the softer medianoche’s sweetness adds another flavor direction. Call it a matter of preference.
We also dig the Cubano sliders, which pare things down and put the lechon more at the forefront. Sold by threes, these little wonders see tender, unctuous pork paired with pickles and garlic aioli, each on sweet, pillow-soft rolls that taste like King’s Hawaiian with the sweetness dialed back. Each bite comes rich as butter, pork and garlic singing together until the pickles cut the fat so the next bite is just as good. And the lechon continues to rock on the perro, a hot dog piled with lechon, matchstick-sized potato chip sticks, onions and garlic aioli. It’s a lot to put on a hot dog bun, but we’d take this to the proverbial ballgame any day.
- Griffin Swartzell
- Lucy’s unctuous lechon is the star of their Cubano sliders.
Moving down the menu, the new pollo a la plancha sandwich, or grilled chicken, sees pounded-flat chicken breast marinated with sour orange and grilled to juicy, golden delight. That citrus flavor pops but lacks any sweetness one might associate with oranges. Piled on a sub roll with garlic aioli, lettuce, thick tomato slices and crunchy potato sticks for more flavor and texture, it’s a damn good grilled chicken sandwich — not rapturous, like the Cubano, but delicious all the same. The pan con bistec steak sandwich rates about the same, piled with tender beef that bursts with garlic and tomato flavor alongside lettuce and tomato..
For something new-ish, the Diazes put their bright, fruity, savory mango chicken, previously a “plate” entrée item, into their empanadas. There’s minimal sweetness, but the mango and bell pepper combined with the chicken bursts with flavor in these little parcels. Previously, they’d sold only picadillo empanadas, full of seasoned ground beef with raisins and olives. We skip these on our visits, but we try standalone picadillo as part of an “everything” plate, a pick-two sampler with beans, rice and sweet fried plantains for the curious and indecisive. But a pile of seasoned ground beef with the occasional raisin or cooked-mellow green olive slice underwhelms next to everything else. It’s far from bad, but it’s the least exciting thing we try.
Of course, we can’t leave without a cafecito, an espresso-sized serving of sweet, black coffee made from Café Bustelo beans in a stovetop Moka pot. Diaz gives us a second on the house, one for me and one for my dining companion. They’re bracing, not over-bitter, balanced in flavor, and just the right thing. In a way, it feels like coming home.
Lucy I’m Home – The Flavor of Cuba
390 N. Circle Drive, 632-0052, facebook.com/lucyimhomefoodtruck
11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday