Margon is a hole in the wall around the corner from Times Square. Prices are criminally low and the Cuban food is classic. Plush, it is not. A ramp leads downward to a long, narrow space with four stools jammed up against an impossibly uncomfortable counter near the front; tables are lined up on the right of an aisle that leads to the back.
On the left of the aisle is a buffet counter where arriving customers stand and place orders. A lot of business is take-out — people bringing lunch back to the office — but if you plan to dine here, this is how it works: Walk to the back with your eyes looking left. This allows full view of what’s to eat, including pork chops smothered in gravy, glistening roast chicken, rice & beans, sweet plantains, and octopus salad.
My first visit was for lunch on a long-ago Thursday with James Rodewald, an editor at the late Gourmet magazine. James, like I, decided to forgo the day’s special of tripe & pig feet in favor of a Cuban sandwich. The sandwich orders were conveyed via intercom to the front, where the planchas (sandwich presses) are; and in the meanwhile, our extremely friendly waitress, who wanted — but didn’t want — to be photographed, gave us octopus to carry to a table. The tender leaves of meat sparkled in their marinade, but after only a few forkfuls, the sandwiches arrived and commanded all our attention.
These are beautiful Cuban sandwiches, the crisp-toasted length of bread enveloping roast pork, salami, ham, melted cheese, a surfeit of pickle slices, mustard, and mayo. Somehow, James managed to keep his sandwich intact as he ate it. Ingredients slithered out of mine start to finish. It was a delicious mess!
On the way out, James insisted I stop for a shot of espresso. Since he was the one who led me to this excellent restaurant, I couldn’t say no. He grinned wide as I slugged it down. A serious coffee aficionado, he delighted in introducing a newcomer to one of the most delicious cups in town.