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Friday, September 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dining Deals

A Midnight special hits the spot at lunch

Special to The Seattle Times

Paseo


4225 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle; 206-545-7440

Cuban

$

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, closed Sundays- Mondays.

Accessibility: no obstacles.

Rating: Recommended.

No liquor license / cash only.

Recently I was interviewing a chef and asked him about his favorite ingredients. "Well, there's pork, obviously," he said. He would love Paseo, the long-running Cuban sandwich stand in Fremont.

Paseo's Midnight Cuban sandwich, made with slow-roasted pork shoulder, is a messy, spicy delight. The grilled pork sandwich is no slouch, either. But there's more to Paseo's charm than pork, and that's why, 12 years after it opened, there's still a line out the door and a wait for one of the few tables every day.

Commandeering a table for one at Paseo would be cruel, which explains why the two guys at the table next to mine had just met. I would not be surprised if enduring friendships or marriages were formed over a couple of Midnight Cubans — or the chicken thigh, fish, tofu or prawn sandwiches.

Every sandwich is also available as a plate, which takes away the bread and adds rice, salad and soup. (Plates and sandwiches both come with corn on the cob.)

I've never seen people order many plates at Paseo, which could be because the sandwiches are so good or because I always come at lunchtime. Besides, it's harder to imagine romance blossoming over the plate meals — they're less messy and therefore less conducive to the romantic-comedy staple of dabbing at your dining companion's mouth with your napkin.

Paseo does as much takeout as eat-in, especially on rainy days when there are no outdoor tables. It's a good option, as long as you don't try to eat your sandwich in transit.

While I was finishing my sandwich, something occurred to me. Crusty bread, onions, cilantro, jalapeños, mayo? No wonder Seattleites love this place: They serve Cuban banh mi.

Check please:

Midnight Cuban sandwich: Pork shoulder is a flavorful cut to begin with, but here it's marinated with spices, slow-roasted until meltingly tender, then placed in a crusty hoagie roll with cilantro, mayo, jalapeños, thick-cut grilled onions and lettuce. A perfect sandwich that you should not eat while driving. All sandwiches are served with a half-ear of buttered corn on the cob.

Fish in Red Sauce plate: The fish comes in firm chunks, sauced with red peppers, rosemary and tomatoes, and served over rice. In another context, this fish would be overcooked, but you have to accept that silky, barely cooked fish would turn into mush and disappear into the sauce. I asked for four-star spicy, but sadly it wasn't. You also get corn, a bowl of remarkably tangy black-bean soup and a salad spiked with pickled beets.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Midnight Cuban sandwich $6.25

Fish in Red Sauce plate $10.75

Two sodas $2.00

Tax $1.77

Total $20.77

Matthew Amster-Burton: matthew.reviews@gmail.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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