So while in Spain, I had my share of ham sandwiches, but my quest would not be complete without trying what Mark Bittman, writer of the Minimimalist column in the Dinning section of The New York Times, called the "best sandwich [he's] ever had." Ever? Could you imagine the number of sandwiches this man has consumed over the course of his life, not to mention, all over the world? He called the ham sandwich at Cafe Viena the best. So naturally, I had to go see for myself. I was happy to discover that this infamous cafe was right near our hotel. It's actually on La Rambla del Estudis, which is the same street that La Boqueria is on. It's a very busy street and I am sure Pete and I walked down this street at least 10 times and not once, did I even notice it. The storefront just has "VIENA" on it, but this picture was taken inside.The only hint of its fame is a small sign on the side window.
Pete and I shared the flauta d’ibéric d.o. jabugo. Here's the article that started it all. Bittman describes this experience much better than I ever could and it was written 3 years ago. To sum up, something wonderful happens when a crispy baguette meets a salty and chewy piece of superior jamon. Pete and I both remarked however that the crusts cut the roofs of our mouths when we bit into the sandwich, so beware, but there's no pain, no gain, right? The sacrifices we must make for our tummies.
I didn't notice this the first time (you didn't think we wouldn't come back, did you?) but when we bought one to go another day, I saw that the jamon and bread were not the sole players. There was another hidden yet key member of this team, the tomato. It had been rubbed unto the bread as well. As Mark Bittman brilliantly points out, it adds just the right amount of moisture and acidity to the sandwich. It's pretty darn tasty. I still have too many sandwiches to try before I can make the same proclamation as Bittman, but this place is definitely worth a visit or two, or ten.
A word of advice, don't be tempted to order a Bitter KAS with your sandwich. It's a sparkling beverage that entices you with its bright cherry red color, but the use of "bitter" in Bitter KAS is not mere ornamentation. It was actually quite bitter and didn't have the bubbly, fruity flavor I was expecting. Interesting, yes. A good beverage to wash down your sandwich, not quite. Th bottle is really pretty though.
Mark Bittman might be single handedly keeping this establishment in business, and for that, I am grateful. Oh flauta d’ibéric d.o. jabugo, how I miss you already.
La Rambla del Estudis, 115