We recently had a chance to slip over to Vestavia for lunch and check out a couple of new menu items at Kool Korner, the Cuban sandwich shop.
Over the summer, owner Ildefonso Ramirez added Cuban tamales and black bean soup to the menu.
The tamales are made with freshly ground sweet corn and roasted pork and seasoned with onion, garlic, oregano, bay leaves and red and yellow peppers and then wrapped in corn husks. We found ours to be much moister and more tender than most -- almost like a spoonbread, with the little bits of pork and vegetables mixed throughout the masa rather than the masa being rolled around a central core of filling. It was very tasty.
The black bean soup had a great homemade taste, with the soup part being more "brothy" than the thicker versions we've had elsewhere.
He's also added guava and cream cheese pastelitos, Cuban pastries made with the tropical fruit guava, but after the sandwiches, tamales and soup, we had no room to try them. (The Classic Cuban is one of Garden & Gun magazine's "100 Southern Foods You Absolutely, Positively Must Try Before You Die.") They looked good, though.
Ramirez, who's 87, opened the Vestavia shop after he retired and closed the original Kool Korner Sandwiches, a favorite in Atlanta for years. Read more about Kool Korner in this blog post from the Birmingham News' Bob Carlton from June.
Kool Korner is located at the Publix Shopping Center in Vestavia at 790 Montgomery Highway. www.koolkornersandwiches.com.