This El Cubano doesn't taste exactly like a "normal" Cuban sandwich—but it's just as tasty.

What: El Cubano

Where: Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, 706 S. Eugene Road, Palm Springs

How much: $9.50

Contact: 760-832-9007; cheftanyapetrovna.com

Why: It is a tasty creation all its own.

As I ordered my El Cubano sandwich at gourmet vegan restaurant Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, the woman taking my order asked if it was my first time at the restaurant.

“Yep!” I said.

“Oh, you’re going to love it!” said the woman behind me.

As I waited for my to-go order—all of the limited seating space was taken—we chatted a bit. I told her I was trying Chef Tanya’s Kitchen—the newest endeavor of Tanya Petrovna, the founder of the Native Foods Café—even though I am a confirmed meat-eater, because so many people had raved to me about the place. The woman explained she’d recently become vegan, and was losing a lot of weight as a result.

We then talked about the menu—salads, sandwiches and specials, like tacos on Tuesdays, and dinner items on Wednesdays—and I asked if she’d ever ordered the Pastrami Mami sandwich. No, she responded; she’s not a fan of sauerkraut.

“Oh, that sandwich is what made me start to like sauerkraut!” another diner exclaimed.

I thought to myself: Wow, the customers here are really gung-ho about the food at Chef Tanya’s Kitchen!

When I got home and took a bite of my sandwich, I began to understand why. When done right, a Cuban sandwich is one of my favorite foods. Chef Tanya’s version subs out the usual ham and pork for slow-roasted citrus and garlic seitan, and while I can’t say the seitan made me forget about the absence of those meats, it made for a damn tasty sandwich. It melded with the tomatoes, pickles, onions, lettuce, mustard, mayo and freaking amazing bread to create a hot-pressed delight. To my palate, this El Cubano didn’t taste exactly like a Cuban sandwich; instead, it tasted like something different—but equally delicious.

I may still be a confirmed meat-eater—but I’ll certainly be a regular at Chef Tanya’s Kitchen. Her vegan fare is simply fantastic.

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...