“Banana Fan-a”: The Jibarito at Maná Escondido in the South End

By | Boston Magazine |

The backlit menu above the counter at Maná Escondido, the South End Puerto Rican café, lists tons of intriguing options, and with time to kill, I try to divine what edible delight Nab’s got in store. The burnished roast pork everyone else is diving into looks terrific, but I’m guessing something parts-ier. What’s this escabeche de guineos y mollejas? “Gizzards,” says owner Angel Carrasquillo, with a long, satisfying “ee.” Sautéed chicken gizzards with pickled green banana. Bingo, I grin, as Nab strolls in. But no: “We’re trying the jibarito,” Nab says. “It’s this quirky Puerto Rican sandwich I’ve only ever seen in Chicago: steak or pork, with toppings like lettuce, tomato, onion, and spicy mayo, on crispy tostones instead of bread.” Brilliant! Make it two. The owner insists we go the pork route and try one as a jibarita, the Rachel to this Latino Reuben. It’s identical but with sweeter ripened-plantain tostones, plus melted cheese. Both are great, but we end up fighting over the last bites of the jibarita. The sweetness really pulls the flavors together, while the cheese helps keep the mess intact. Plus, what a clever way to sample that succulent roast pork. “This banana trick’s got some serious ap-peel,” Nab jokes. A smash hit.

Maná Escondido Café, 68 Aguadilla St., Boston, 617-266-0900.