Atlanta Orders In: Atlantans are smitten with Cubanos ATL

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

When Ozzy Llanes opened Cubanos ATL, he didn’t plan to quit his day job. He just wanted to create a project that would keep his semi-retired mom and pop — both in their early 70s — busy. His mother could serve her luscious flan. His dad would be in charge of the coffee. If they sold a few Cuban sandwiches a day, that would do.

“The problem was, in the first 45 minutes, we sold 125 sandwiches,” Llanes said, remembering that August opening when they got slammed. His parents quit the first day, though his mom did commit to supplying the flan.

By October, Llanes had left his job as a Mutual of America investment specialist to devote himself full time to Cubanos ATL, a Miami-style ventanita reimagined as a tiny house in the parking lot of a Roswell Road shopping center. The demand for his sandwiches — constructed from house-roasted pork and hyperauthentic bread from Tampa’s 106-year-old La Segunda Central Bakery — was such that he had to find a commissary kitchen for the growing operation.

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Today, Cubanos ATL has 10 employees, and Llanes is proud to be offering a 401(k) plan, starting March 1. Meanwhile, he’s getting ready to unveil a second location, in Cumming, by mid-March. Because he couldn’t get Cumming officials to buy into his plan to operate out of the tiny house he’d ordered from a manufacturer, he opted for an existing brick-and-mortar building. So, now, he has a spare structure, on wheels, though he feels certain he’s found a spot for it in Alpharetta.

“We are going 100 miles an hour,” said the Cuban-born entrepreneur, 38, who moved to Miami with his parents when he was 13, and built Cubanos ATL’s first tiny house in his Sandy Springs driveway.

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Aside from keeping his parents occupied, Llanes was inspired to launch the restaurant because he wanted the city to experience an impeccable version of the famous pressed sandwich of roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles.

In order to do that, he doesn’t cut corners. When La Segunda told him the bread would be shipped frozen, he almost walked away from the deal — until he realized the loaves are flash-frozen and not allowed to thaw in transit. Sandwiches are assembled at the company kitchen in Dunwoody, then pressed to order.

Espresso for traditional Cuban coffee is treated with similar care. Llanes buys java from Grand Havana Coffee out of Miami, though he’s trying to negotiate a deal with an Atlanta-based coffee roaster.

As business soars, Llanes gets frequent requests from customers who want Cuban pastries and croquetas (croquettes). Rather than incorporate the sweets and snacks into Cubanos ATL’s menu, he envisions a sister entity, Croquetas ATL. This makes sense from a logistical standpoint: Croquettes require a fryer, which adds an extra layer of permitting issues.

In addition to the classic Cuban (El Miami), the shop offers a Tampa-style sandwich with salami (El Tampa), and one made with deli-style chicken (El Pollo).

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Llanes loves to tell the origin story of the new and improved El Pollo. Initially, the sandwich was pressed with plain chicken breast. After the kitchen ran out one night, he asked his wife to pick some up. She bought jerk-rubbed bird by mistake. Rather than tossing the 10 pounds of meat, the restaurant offered it as a special. “People went crazy,” Llanes said.

Whatever you think of his food, you can’t deny his enthusiasm. This guy loves gabbing about everything, from Cuban politics to the price of sliced ham.

I only hope his mother finds the same unflagging energy when it comes to her flan. Soft, yet firm in texture, the eggy custard is bathed in the most exquisite caramel sauce. Cooked until it’s just a degree or two shy of burning, it’s a taste of heaven on a spoon.


Menu: Cuban sandwiches and coffee

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: El Miami, El Tampa and El Pollo sandwiches, mariquitas chips, flan. The smell of the toasted Cubans tortured me all the way home. All three were quite delicious, especially the Tampa and the noticeably spicy bird smeared with aioli, so good for breakfast the next day.

Service options: takeout and delivery via Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates

Outdoor dining: four picnic tables

Mask policy: required of employees, requested of guests, who pick up at the window and never enter the building

Address, phone: 6450 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-889-8948; food also is available at the company headquarters, 7730 Roswell Road, Dunwoody. 404-889-8948

Hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays


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