I must admit that within a couple of minutes of entering Kool Korner Sandwiches, I was completely baffled. I had read up on the place, which is in a Publix strip mall in the Vestavia Hills suburb of Birmingham, and followed the reviews and looked over their web site, all of which promised the best and most authentic Cuban sandwiches in the southeast from this brand-spanking new restaurant. Well, I was game. What I did not expect was the sight of all the awards on the wall labeling Kool Korner the home of the best sandwiches in Atlanta for several years.
It turns out that, during that great expanse of time when I was not paying attention to restaurants, Kool Korner was a fixture here in Atlanta’s midtown, in a shop on 14th Street that catered to professionals and Tech students. I either missed or dismissed the grief felt by the local foodie community when Kool Korner’s owner, an eighty-something granddad named Silvesonso Ramirez, retired and moved west to Birmingham. Ever restless, however, he decided to get back to work, along with two younger generations. Kool Korner is now a daily destination for anybody in Birmingham who wants one of the best sandwiches in town, and word has it that more than one Atlantan has made the pilgrimage west to revisit these amazing sandwiches that they loved so much. I can get behind that. If ever I got word that Tony opened a new home for my dearly missed Mean Bean in Birmingham, I’d be out there six times a week, minimum.
I had written earlier that we stopped downtown for a quick snack at Pete’s before driving south back to Homewood to do a little shopping. The ladies spent a little time in some clothing and toy stores before we made our way to the Birmingham branch of Penzey’s Spices. This is one of Marie’s favorite companies, and you can read about our stop in their Memphis retail store here. We bought enough to keep her cooking and baking for the next few months, and my daughter was pleased with the earrings that she found at a shop up the street, so after what seemed like no time at all, it was time for our last stop in town before heading back to I-20.
Kool Korner was deceptively tough to find, since that stretch of Montgomery Highway is totally lacking in businesses with prominently displayed street numbers. We pulled into the Publix strip mall just to get our bearings – we were hoping to hit a grocery store on our way out of town to stock up on Grapico anyway – and were pleasantly surprised to see Kool Korner there at the end of the strip. We each had a small sandwich and I also had one of their new-to-the-menu tamales. They were great big beasts, stuffed with wonderful roasted pork and on some incredibly nice, rich bread.
What can I say? Atlanta’s loss is definitely Birmingham’s gain. They deserved every one of those “Best of Atlanta” awards on their wall, and will certainly be racking up more from their new home. I just had the classic Cuban, but I would love to go back and work my way through the rest of the menu. I mean, it’s not even a three hour drive!
Other blog posts about Kool Korner: