Editor’s Update: Un Bien, open in Ballard June, 2015, is the love child of Julian and Lucas Lorenzo, sons of the former owner of Paseo, Lorenzo Lorenzo. Check it out and decide for yourself if they capture that old Paseo magic. It works for me!
Un Bien, 7302 15th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117, (206) 588-2040
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 – 8 for lunch and dinner
The Seattle sandwich world was rocked yesterday by news that Paseo, a veritable institution of Caribbean delicacies and a permanent fixture for foodies for the last 21 years, had suddenly shuttered both their Fremont and Ballard locations.
The news first broke on local website Seattle Eater. As it quickly went viral, stunned wails of “Why, God. WHY?” could be heard throughout the I-5 corridor. The story was front-page news in the Seattle Times, and reported heavily by other local media.
In fact, the public outcry was so great, a memorial of sorts has sprung up in front of the Fremont outpost, with diners coming to pay their last respects to arguably the best Cuban sandwiches available this side of Miami.
Although reasons for the sudden closure are somewhat murky, it’s become apparent that the restaurant’s owners had several issues managing their business, including a labor dispute over payment of its employees.
Due to their already huge following and consistently long lines, I never even bothered to review Paseo for Seatown. Everyone already loves (sob, loved) it. In truth, I’d like to think I was saving it up, not feeling like sharing the ecstasy that is the Caribbean Roast with the world at large, but wanting to keep a bit of it for myself.
So let this be yet another sandwich-related life lesson for you. Don’t put off the sandwiches you could be enjoying today. Make it a priority to grab life by the baguette and dig in. Herewith, I give you my posthumous review of the best damn sandwich you’ll never get to enjoy again:
Let’s start with what Paseo did best: meat. And by meat, I mean pork. Whether it was the tenderly roasted shoulder or the succulent cubed loin, that stuff was decadently juicy from Paseo’s secret-recipe marinade, and mouth-watering enough to be a delicious meal in itself.
Both the Grilled Pork and the Caribbean Roast “signature” sandwich came piled high with protein. These sandwiches were definitely knife-and-fork worthy, but somehow I was always able to break my “no sandwiches bigger than my head” rule. I like to tell myself that they were simply too messy to share, but that would be a lie. I wanted that sandwich all to myself.
Much like no man is an island, no sandwich is worth anything unless it’s served on amazing bread. Paseo piled their meat on perfectly toasted baguettes. I’m not sure where the bread came from (did they make it in-house? I guess we’ll never know…) but it was always fresh, and perfectly, consistently toasted. Crunchy on the outside with a luscious interior perfect for soaking up the sauce within, it was never soggy.
Adding what could almost be considered insult to injury, these mile-high sammies were topped off with lettuce (satisfying crunchy romaine that could on occasion become soggy and maybe a little superfluous), pickled jalapenos (critical to the overall flavor profile and in no way overly hot), gorgeously caramelized onions, and the coup de grace, a slathering of garlic aioli so delicious, people would stand in line for upwards of an hour just for a taste. Paseo didn’t offer extra sauce to go. Believe me, I tried.
Now that I have clarity, I realize that there were other, somewhat lesser, sandwiches on the Paseo menu. Chicken. Fish. Scallops. Even one with tofu. My vegetarian friends were huge fans of the Shrimp. Me, I never tried anything but the pork. Why? When perfection is (sorry, was) already right there, one doesn’t need to look elsewhere. Until today.
Vaya con dios, Paseo, you’ll be sorely missed.