I’ve been waiting for many months for this to happen – 9 to be exact! This cute little sandwich shop used to be in the Vestavia Hills City Center but closed in June 2015 after 6 years because the owners Bill and Ildefonso Ramirez, could not agree on a new lease with the shopping center’s owners. They assured all their regular customers that they were looking for a new location in Vestavia and would be back soon. Well, the wait is over! On March 21st, Kool Korners reopened in Vestavia. This time in the Vestridge Commons retail center on US 31.
The senior Ramirez is 93 years old and immigrated from Cuba in the early 1970s with his wife, Lucia, and young son Bill. They fled the Castro regime in Cuba where Sr. Ramirez was a very successful chemist. He and his family first landed in Spain for several years and then arrived in Miami. Eventually they moved to Atlanta so their son could attend college on a scholarship. In Atlanta, Sr. and Sra. Ramirez opened a grocery store where they began selling Cuban sandwiches. Unfortunately, the store burned down but soon after Sr. Ramirez opened Kool Korners in Midtown Atlanta. He ran his business there for 25 years and received many accolades and quite a fan base for his food. When the building that housed Kool Korners was sold in 2008, Sr. Ramirez moved to Alabama to be closer to his son, Bill. On a side note, I remember Bill Ramirez back in the day when our sons played soccer together in the Hoover Soccer Club. Bill was always the voice on our answering machine when the Club would have messages for the players and parents! Small world, huh?!
Kool Korners opened in Alabama in 2009 and Cuban sandwiches were introduced to a whole new fan base in Alabama! I remember taking my mother there for lunch once and Sr. Ramirez came by to check on us and we started speaking in Spanish – of course, this was after my mother said – “my daughter speaks Spanish!” He is such a sweet man and so interested in his customers and their enjoyment of his food! You could tell he loves his work!
So, on Tuesday, March 22nd, I sent a text to my hubby saying, “Feel like getting a Cuban sandwich?” He said “Sure! Where?” We headed over to Vestavia and luckily found a parking space right in front! The place was packed already and as we looked around, there were no seats available. We got in line to order and hoped for the best! Eddie and I both ordered the Cuban sandwich combo which includes a drink and chips of your choice. I really, REALLY wanted a Guava and Cream Cheese Pastelito, but they were out of them…and this was at11:45 a.m.!!! I’ll have to save that for another time. I just love guava! I could probably write an entire post about guava. (jot that down, Teresa….) Let me just say for the record too…those Cuban sandwiches did NOT disappoint!!!
Some people may wonder what all the fuss is about with Cuban sandwiches. After all, it’s just pork, ham, swiss cheese, mayo, mustard and dill picked on bread, right? Well…..not quite. It’s Cuban style roasted pork and the Cuban bread that make these sandwiches so tasty. Cuban bread is similar to French bread but during baking includes a small amount of lard or vegetable shortening. There are also any number of ways you can season the pork roast and I found and bookmarked numerous excellent recipes all over the Food Network on how to do this. Once all the ingredients are assembled and layered on the bread, you press the sandwich down for about 5 minutes on each side with a bacon press or even a heavy cast-iron pan. If you have a sandwich press, that works too! The finishing touch is to slice it diagonally.
I wanted a chance to see Sr. Ramirez when Eddie and I went by that day but the place was so packed that I decided to wait until another time. Right as we were leaving, I spotted him coming out of the back kitchen area and greeting a few people waiting for “to-go” orders. I hope I get the chance to speak to him next time I’m in Kool Korners. I’ve been looking over their menu and I’m hungry again! The photo of the empanadas on their website already has my stomach growling! YUM!