After James Lambert tried his first meal at Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine during a visit to Manhattan in 2011, the D.C. resident spent the rest of the day ordering a meal at each of the chain’s remaining five locations on the island.
“I’d never had anything like it in D.C.,” says the former government employee and — since it opened last week in Dupont — the owner of the first Sophie’s franchise (1134 19th St. NW) to exist outside of New York.
Started in 1997 by a mother-daughter duo from Peru, Sophie’s has earned accolades for its pernil (roasted pork), which can be served over rice ($10) or on a traditional Cuban sandwich with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mayonnaise and mustard ($8).
Of the various hurdles Lambert encountered in bringing the Manhattan institution to D.C., perhaps the biggest was recreating its signature Cuban bread. After nearly a month of trial and error working with local bakers, Sophie’s executive chef signed off on a dense-yet-fluffy version produced by Metropolitan Baking Co. in Northeast D.C.