Stefano's Golden Baked Hams
18220 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Yorba Linda, CA 92886
When my favorite Cuban sandwich place, DeSimone's closed in Orange, it left a gaping hole in my stomach where a Cuban sandwich needed to be. My love for the Cuban sandwich has been well documented on this blog. Not to get too controversial on the subject, but I feel that the Cuban sandwich is the most balanced sandwich around. It has all the components, the saltiness from the ham, the richness of the pork, mustard adds some tang, the pickles contribute a sour element, the cheese brings a creaminess, and the toasted bread rounds everything out with texture. Every time I meet a sandwich maker, I always ask them to put a Cuban on the menu. Yeah, you could say I am kind of obsessed.
People have been trying to get me to try Stefano's Cuban sandwich for a few years now. It's not that I haven't wanted to try it, but I'm usually only up in this area at lunch time for dentist appointments two times a year. After my most recent dentist visit, I made a point to meet my Mom up here for lunch. I'm not sure how long Stefano's has been in business, but their first Yelp review is from 2008, and they now have over 300 reviews, and still have a 4.5 star rating. Pretty impressive rating. I also had gotten an email from a reader, Thai, that urged me to come here. That was three years ago, hope you are still out there Thai. Sorry it took so long to get to your spot.
Stefano's is located in the Packing House Center, at the corner of Yorba Linda Boulevard and Imperial Highway, tucked into a corner, behind Chili's. Don't let the name fool you, they are not just about hams here. Think of Stefano's more as a family run sandwich shop, that specializes in panini sandwiches. Their menu features 14 varieties, along with some daily specials that are offered from time to time. They also have salads, wraps, and more traditional hot and cold sandwiches on their menu.
I met my Mom here at 1PM on a recent Thursday. I had heard this place could get a little crowded at lunch, and they were busy when we arrived, but it thinned out during our stay, as people got back to work after their lunch hours. Ordering is done at the counter, and the food is brought out to you. There was one snafu when I was ordering, they were out of carnitas for the Cubano, so I had to make two trips here. No worries though, as I had a follow up visit to the dentist the next week, (no it was not a cavity, it was just a polishing). Anyways, let's see what we thought of the sandwiches at Stefano's.
We'll start with my Mom's lunch selection, the Chicken Salad Sandwich ($6.50). My Mom is a real creature of habit when it comes to ordering sandwiches in restaurants. She either goes for tuna or chicken salad, and very rarely deviates from these two. This time she got her chicken salad on non-toasted squaw bread, with just mayo. My Mom was not too thrilled with this sandwich. The chicken was still in big hunks, which is one of her pet peeves when she orders a chicken salad sandwich. She likes a much smoother chicken salad. I liked the uniqueness of this chicken salad. There was celery, and maybe some grapes, or something else that sweetened this up a bit. I do agree with her that the chicken needed to be chopped up a bit more though.
Since I was foiled in my first attempt to try the Cubano, I went with my second option, the Bur-Gini Panini ($9.50). I have never seen a burger panini offered on any menu, so I was definitely intrigued. The patty here is a blend of short rib and brisket, which is then topped with a garlic and jalapeno cream cheese, bacon, avocado, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and onions. I really enjoyed this panini. The meat was tender with some big time flavor. There was a heat here, which I think was from the jalapeno cream cheese, and it was awesome. The bread of course had a good crunch from the panini press, and you can never go wrong with the combo of avocado and bacon. I'm not the worlds biggest fan of cream cheese, but it did not get in the way on this sandwich. Eating this almost made me forget about my disappointment of not getting the Cubano, which I got the next week.
I first must preface this part of the review by stating that I took this sandwich to go, so it was a little on the cold side when I ate it at home in Mission Viejo. Even after the 45 minute drive down the 5 Freeway, this Cubano Stefano Panini ($8.75) still held up surprisingly well. The bread did lose a little of its crunch, but I attribute that to the drive. The insides of this sandwich were pretty solid. Filled with their specialty, golden baked ham, carnitas, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, mayo and yellow mustard. A pretty good substitute for a traditional Cuban sandwich, and if I lived closer I would get this with some regularity. The ham was good, but what made this was the carnitas. It had a great flavor, and went well with the other components of the sandwich. The ratio of cheese to meat was a little off for me, but not enough for me to dismiss this sandwich as anything but good.
I have been on a real cookie binge lately, so when I saw that they had them at Stefano's, I of course had to try all four that they offered. I liked all of these Cookies ($.50), but they are not going to blow you away. The oatmeal raisin was probably the best, with the sugar cookie being a close second. They had a good texture to them, not too hard, and not too soft. They needed to be a little sweeter in my book though.
Stefano's is definitely worthy of all of the praise that they receive, but I was surprised that my favorite sandwich here was not my beloved Cuban, but the Bur-Gini. That panini-burger hybrid is the one that will draw me back here, with its big time flavors. At the end of the day this is a pretty solid, family owned business, the service was good, and the prices might be a dollar or so too high, but the quality of these sandwiches is worth paying the extra dollar or two. Now I'm off to find another great Cuban sandwich.
Out of five running shoes, (because one of the most successful Italian long distance runners in history is Stefano Mei, and I could imagine that he's gone through tons of running shoes in his career), five being best to zero being worst, Stefano's Golden Baked Hams gets 3 running shoes.
For more information on Stefano's Golden Baked Hams, go to their web site here: http://www.stefanoshams.com/