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Conquistadors and Cuban Sandwiches | Home & Garden

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Conquistadors and Cuban Sandwiches
Conquistadors and Cuban Sandwiches

It was the first day of July in 1540 when Hernado de Soto came to Lenoir City.  Okay, technically he didn’t come to Lenoir City, he came to the village of Coste.  This Native American Capital was located on Bussell Island, now the home to a T.V.A. recreational site.   Native Americans have lived here since about 3000 B.C.  Archeologists call the first inhabitants “The Round People” because of their rounded burial mounds.  The next inhabitants were part of the Mississippian culture.  They buried their dead in large conical mounds which supposedly can still be seen today.  I’m not sure I would recognize a conical burial mound, but then again, I just recently learned that a Spanish Conquistador once marched around the park where I take my kids to see deer grazing at twilight. 

Apparently the Chieftain welcomed De Soto and things went pretty well for a day or so, until some of the Spanish soldiers stole provisions from the Native Americans’ storehouse.  The tribe retaliated and used clubs to beat up the soldiers. De Soto responded by kidnapping the Chieftain, releasing him only after he agreed to send guides with the soldiers as they marched on, searching for a route to Mexico. 

De Soto never found his route to Mexico, and he never found the Fountain of Youth.  I have been more fortunate.  You see, my husband and I have had a quest of our own.  For years and years, we have tried to find an authentic Cuban sandwich.  It all started when we read a series of books set in Miami.  The main character ate a Cuban sandwich at least once every three chapters.  The descriptions of the sandwich haunted us: the soft Cuban bread, the juicy pork loin, the salty ham, the melted Swiss cheese, and the crisp crunch of the pickles. 

We tried every restaurant we could think of.  O’Charley’s had a Cuban.  It was good but the bread was all wrong.  We asked our friends on Facebook if they knew any place we could get one; they didn’t.  We ordered Cuban sandwiches from here to South Carolina and nothing satisfied.  We even tried to make Cuban bread at home.  It was a disaster.  We finally decided that short of going to South Florida, we were out of luck. 

Fortunately for us, someone else recently came to Lenoir City.  His name is Ernie Rodriguez.  Two months ago, he opened Captain Ernie’s Seafood Bar and Caribbean Grill. He had owned a seafood restaurant in Farragut for four years, but decided it was time for a change.  Luckily for me, that change included the addition of Cuban dishes to his new menu.  Oh, he still has outstanding seafood (one person I know had the Fish Poor-Boy last week and is still talking about how wonderful it was), but he now offers traditional Cuban food, too, including a Cuban sandwich on traditional Cuban bread.  I finally got what I hunted for, and unlike De Soto, I did not have to resort to kidnapping. 

Captain Ernie’s Seafood Bar and Caribbean Grill is located at 501 Highway 321 N., Lenoir City, TN.  Captain Ernie’s is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 5 to 9 p.m. seven days a week.    

So come on down sometime and explore Bussell Island for yourself.  Stroll the walking trail, swim in the lake, and please, please let me know if you spot a conical burial mound.  Then, make sure and visit Captain Ernie’s to get one of the best sandwiches you have ever put in your mouth! 

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