The sandwich shop in Harrison West has ethnic influences.
As I gazed up from my greasy, fat-splattered fingers into the blazing late-morning light, bouncy music leaped into my ears with this carpe-diem lyric: "I'm gonna soak up the sun/Before it goes out on me."
Normally, I'd try to tune out an overplayed Sheryl Crow radio hit like that, but in that minute, the catchy ditty felt just right.
And I realized I wasn't really angry at that crazy sandwich for mucking up my hands so badly. Called the Mazatlan Slow-Roasted Pork and Egg ($9.25), it's a signature, buttery, toast-bound destroyer from Katalina's Cafe Corner, and though it was shamefully over the top, it tasted kinda great in its own soak-it-up and live-for-today way.
Therefore, I hoisted the Mazatlan monster into my mouth again and, fully immersed in the sparkling spring morning on Katalina's lovely little patio, dug in.
An onslaught of sorta torta-like hard-fried egg, gobs of gooey cheese, mayo, avocado and roasted red pepper strips (for a tangy sweetness) greeted me, along with Katalina's slow-roasted pork. The housemade last ingredient, which tasted like pulled shoulder meat in an almost Mayan-style barbecue sauce, points to the changes Cafe Corner has embraced since altering ownership around two years ago and taking on the name Katalina. It's these newer and improved things, along with Katalina's neat patio, that I came to enjoy.
That's not to say eating inside tiny Katalina's is a bummer. In fact, it's rather a fun and funky hipster hangout, with a wacky "Addams Family"-type chandelier, rainbow-colored chalkboard menus and various other amusing thrift store-style bric-a-brac.
And Katalina's mainstay arsenal of hot- and cold-running deli sandwiches is certainly worthy (they come with chips or an apple - I recommend upgrading, for $1.50, to a homemade side like tangy and spicy poblano potato salad or pasta salad). Made with decent Boar's Head meat, they're tricked out with good toppings and receive an irresistibly crispy treatment for their XXL-sized high-quality bread slices.
But here are some of the newer, more homemade and Latin-touched goodies I dug into:
• Slow-cooked pork tacos ($10) That aforementioned Mazatlan meat worked better in this comparatively restrained trio of thick, flavorful corn tortillas garnished with the works (tomatillo salsa, queso fresco, sour cream, avocado and more), sided with a nice and ruffle-leafed salad.
• Latin Hummus Plate ($9) Basically a straightforward black bean hummus, it comes with toasty pita triangles, sliced veggies, kalamata olives and feta cheese; I like combining the salty elements with the mild hummus.
• Latinized Chicken Salad sandwich ($9) Like the hummus, it's not flagrantly "Latin," but it's some of the best chicken salad in town. Placed onto crusty nine-grain bread, it's made with bits of walnut, grapes, a touch of celery and a ton of big chunks of good chicken meat held together with just enough mayo; this makes for a fresh and refreshing texture fest.
• Puebla BLT ($8.25) A grade-A BLT with good cheddar cheese shoots up to A-plus with the addition of a spicy chipotle barbecue sauce
• Swedish Pancake Balls (six for $9) These crepe-like, pillowy soft (but slightly crusted) golf-ball-sized globes hold secret centers of gooey Nutella or strawberry preserves. They are dusted in confectioner's sugar and come with outrageous, thick-sliced spicy, syrup-glazed bacon (!) - they're definitely worth the splurge, and alone are worth a visit to Katalina's.