Salvadoran Panes con Pollo Sandwich at Abi’s Cafe

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

From the recently-gone-viral files: a homeless man walked into Abi’s Cafe on Lake Street and asked the proprietor, 25-year-old Cesia Abigail, for money. To make a short story shorter still, she offered him a job, and he accepted.

Abigail’s act of tough-love generosity suggests an important follow-up question: how’s the food at Abigail’s Salvadoran restaurant?

We ordered the shop’s trademark traditional Salvadoran Panes con Pollo ($11.50). It’s a chicken sandwich (often traditionally made with turkey) that’s big enough to feed two and moist enough to qualify as a stew. Everything about this sandwich is luscious — the rich, hypertender meat, the coleslawlike curtido that serves as a crunchy, bright counterpoint to the bird, and even the bread, which is a soft-but-resilient flavor sponge for all of the sandwich’s elements. The inclusion of a full drumstick in the sandwich is not entirely practical but ultimately charming — it’s a garnish with swagger.

When we chatted with Abigail, she was cheerfully overwhelmed by the attention her cafe has been receiving (check this New York Daily News story to get a feel for it), and working with an expanded kitchen crew to meet the demand. Everything we could ask for from a small startup restaurant is here: passion, serious sandwiches, and a big heart.

Abi’s Cafe, 1532 East Lake Street, Minneapolis; 612.721.0013