Little Shop of Pleasures
From Cuban sandwiches to creamy flan, tiny Black Bean Deli delivers big-time on Latin classics.
Empanadas and vanilla flan are Black Bean Deli mainstays.
Think of Black Bean Deli as a food truck without wheels, a remarkably small place with a kitchen, ordering counter and a (very) few seats along a window facing the parking lot. In fact, Andres Corton, who has owned this perennial local favorite since 2002, actually co-owns the La Empanada food truck, which has a more adventurous slant on classic Latin hand-held meals than BBD. But that’s for another story.
Black Bean Deli is integral to the Hispanic history of the area. It opened in 1982 under Gladys Miavitz, whose uncle, Rolando Vieitez, started Orlando staple Cuban restaurant Numero Uno in 1979. BBD was tiny then, so obviously it’s not changing, and I applaud its owners’ resistance to needless expansion in the face of continual success. Most of the business at this Winter Park eatery is take-out anyway.
The hard-working Corton can usually be found behind the counter, particularly during the mad lunch rush. Sandwiches are the mainstay, especially the classic Cuban ($6.25 large, $5.25 small), a hot-pressed layering of roast pork, glazed ham, cheese and pickles on soft Cuban bread that has its origins in the ancient trade routes between Havana and Key West. The sandwich is as good here as it must have been there, and variants with spicy chorizo sausage (choripan, $5.25) and slow-cooked pulled pork drenched in rich and tart garlic mojo sauce (pan con lechon, $6) are on the menu.
I’ve always liked the idea of the media noche sandwich ($5.25), a lovely layering of sweet ham, melted Swiss cheese and roast pork spread with mustard and pressed in sweet egg dough bread. The thought of a treat made to be eaten at midnight seems quite civilized, regardless of when you actually eat it.
Vegetarians aren’t left out of the traditionally meat-centric mix. The namesake black bean soup ($2.25) is made without ham, yet still retains a deep, savory flavor, and steamed cornmeal tamales ($7.25) are hearty without being heavy. Crisp and mildly spiced empanadas are available in a veggie version that includes brown sauce-enveloped potatoes, carrots and a textured protein that I thought was minced beef, in a good way. The flaky deep-fried dough also wraps around a picadillo ground beef hash, ropa vieja (shredded beef) or chicken (all $2, all worth trying).
I don’t often single out a dessert, but the small cups of flan custard ($2.50) are real highlights, particularly the creamy and espresso variety. An inexpensive snack, a bit of black bean magic and a coffee-enriched dessert seem a worthy tradeoff for the lack of elbow room at the Deli.
While you’re there:
Try two fritterish Cuban treats—the potato balls stuffed with chicken or beef called papas rellenas ($3 for two), and finger-sized deviled ham or ground chicken croquettas ($1 for two). They’re fast sellers; if you see them, get them.
BLACK BEAN DELI
325 S. Orlando Ave.,