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The Havana Restaurant in Vancouver doesn’t make a Cuban, but it serves the next best thing – a medianoche (typically consumed after a night of dancing).

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Chef, the movie, is the diner food of comfort comedy.

You may come out of the theatre questioning the lava-cake comprises of an artist's life. You might even start making meta-life metaphors about director/writer/actor Jon Favreau's return to his indie roots. Who wouldn't want to fall back on a simply nourishing, dialogue-driven, food-truck travelogue after the roundly panned, humiliating defeat of Cowboys & Aliens?

Wherever your intellectual analysis of Scarlett Johansson as a seductive restaurant manager in boho bangs might take you, there's no doubt that you and every other restaurant critic (be it a villainous media type, c'est moi, or the more benign couch-side variety) will go home craving the sweetly glazed tang of a cheesy Cuban sandwich.

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But where in Vancouver can one find the tasty Florida specialty that is so hotly contested between Tampa and Miami for proprietary rights to the grilled blend of bitter-orange roasted pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and dill pickles?

I guess us baddies (so depicted in the film) are good for something after all. I searched high and low, and here is what I found.

Red Umbrella Café

1707 Davie St., Vancouver; 604-688-7818

This totally unassuming home-style diner best known for its all-day breakfast is currently serving a Cuban sandwich ($11.99) as a chalkboard special.

Bread: Two flat slices of ordinary sandwich bread (white, brown, multigrain or rye) are nicely toasted with a golden crust and soft centre.

Pork: Four folded slices of honey-cured ham on top match the thickness of chunky, slow-roasted pork on the bottom. The latter's marinade is more sweet than sour. But its fork-tender texture is toothsome.

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Cheese: Swiss, again piled on thickly in the middle and lightly melted

Toppings: Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, dill pickles

Overall: Aside from the bread, this is the most authentic Cubano of the bunch, with the house-roasted pork really setting it apart. Could be improved with tangy yellow mustard in place of the rich Dijonnaise.

Whole Foods Market

510 West 8th Ave., Vancouver. 778-370-4210.

The upscale grocery's bustling café, which features impressive hot and cold salad bars, thin-crust pizza and freshly rolled tacos, offers a value-priced ($6) Cubano at its panini station.

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Bread: A dense multigrain baguette, flatly pressed with grill marks.

Pork: Jamon Serrano and tender roasted pork in a properly tart lime, chili and rice-wine vinegar marinade.

Cheese: Provolone, not well melted

Toppings: Yellow mustard, dill pickles, lemony garlic oil and a creamy black-bean spread brightened with cumin, oregano, cilantro and green onion.

Overall: The sour elements rise to authentic attention, yet the pork flavours meld into an indistinguishable mush. Commendable effort.

Las Tortas

3353 Cambie St., Vancouver; 604-569-1402.

This gourmet Mexican sandwich shop features the fairly common Cubana torta ($11.50) as part of its regular menu.

Bread: Fresh-baked daily, with a crispy crust and sweet airy middle, this comes closest to Cuban bread even if it's not grilled.

Pork: As with most Mexican variations, it includes a variety of meats – sweet pulled pork, Black Forest ham and breaded, deep-fried Milanesa cutlets.

Cheese: Fresh, white, smooth panela made from pasteurized cow milk makes a refreshingly cold bite of contrast.

Toppings: Sliced tomato, jalapeno, frisée cabbage, pickled red onion, creamy refried black beans, guacamole, butter and mayonnaise.

Overall: A supremely tasty sandwich, easily the best, but not Cuban in the least.

Duffin's Donuts

1391 41st Ave., Vancouver. 604-325-5544

A long-time institution for food nerds and night owls, this eclectic diner that is open 24/7 serves everything from fried chicken, Chinese spring rolls, Salvadorian pupusas, Vietnamese bahn mi, Canadian bear claws and a wide variety of Mexican tortas, including a roasted-pork loma ($4.25) that kind of tastes likes a Cubano.

Bread: Duffin's birote buns may be baked daily, but this Guadalajaran specialty is the light, spongy Wonderbread version of a French-style baguette. You'll be hungry 20 minutes later.

Pork: Thinly sliced, fried pork cutlets. Avoid the sickly sweet teriyaki BBQ sauce.

Cheese: Cheddar slices for 50 cents extra.

Toppings: Lettuce, tomato, avocado, mayonnaise, hot banana peppers.

Overall: Not great, but good value and worth visiting at 3 a.m., if only to finish with a $1 buttermilk fritter.

Havana Restaurant

1212 Commercial Dr., Vancouver. 604-253-9119.

Vancouver's only truly Cuban restaurant doesn't grill up a genuine Cubano, but it offers the next best thing – medianoche ($14.95 with fries, coleslaw or salad), a sloppy close cousin typically consumed after a night of dancing.

Bread: A soft hamburger bun remotely resembles the original's yellow egg bread, but challah would be much better.

Pork: Spicy, drippy roast pork so soft it feels pulled and Black Forest ham piled on thickly.

Cheese: Swiss, melted to cream.

Toppings: Hot, hot BBQ sauce, chipotle mayonnaise and dill pickles.

Overall: An awesome sandwich. Could use a bit more tang. But goes down real smooth on a sunny patio table with a minty mojito. Chef Favreau would undoubtedly approve.

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