The award-winning vegan cheesesteak from Blackbird Pizzeria is well-known among Philadelphia's vegetarians. But over the years, Blackbird's Cubano has become a stalwart favorite among regular customers, said co-owner Mark Mebus.
The Cubano is one of several sandwiches available at the new Northern Liberties outpost of Blackbird, which opened this month on Second Street. (The sandwich also is on the menu at the first Blackbird location, near South Street.)
Traditional Cubanos are made with ham, cheese, mustard, pickles, and sometimes salami. Blackbird's pressed sandwich, served warm on a crusty baguette from Metropolitan Bakery, comes with smoked tofu instead of ham and smoked shallots to add flavor, as well as bacon-style and pepperoni-style seitan.
"It doesn't taste the same as bacon or pepperoni, but the combination gives it that mixed lunch-meat flavor," Mebus said.
Instead of mustard, Blackbird uses a mustard-flavored vegan aioli and deli pickles that give the sandwich a firm crunch. The sandwich tastes so hearty, Mebus said, that it's usually not the choice for vegetarians who dislike the taste of meat.
"We're going for the meatiest taste we could," he said.