"What's a montadito?" is the first and most-often question asked and answered at the new eatery 100 Montaditos on Fitzpatrick Lane, downtown by the Kino Sandal outlet in Key West.
The popular Spanish-style pub chain started in Cadiz, Spain about 10 years ago and now boasts more than 100 locations throughout the world, with 11 now in South Florida, said Victor Pena, who opened the Key West franchise in November, after moving back to the island to be closer to his daughter.
A montadito is a small sandwich -- about 4 inches long -- served on crusty bread that's baked fresh daily at the downtown shop, Pena said.
The "100" in the name stems from the multitude of fillings available in the sandwiches that range from savory Spanish ham and cheeses to sweet chocolate fillings with almonds.
Most of the montaditos are just $2 each, with the most expensive -- a 6-inch version -- selling for $3.
"I went to one of these places in Spain about three years ago, and I knew Key West would be a perfect place to open one," said Pena, who was born in Cuba, but traces his roots back to Spain.
He opened his location Nov. 28 in a former cigar shop that had been emptied down to the walls. So Pena installed the kitchen, renovated the whole building and mirrored the decor of the other locations around the world.
Black-and-white photos of Cadiz, Spain line the brick-colored walls and helpful employees stand at the ready to walk diners through the ordering process.
A four-page menu includes numbered montaditos, such as No. 18, which is filled with chorizo sausage and Iberico cheese. Number 47 offers Serrano ham, pulled pork, Iberico cheese and brava sauce, but there are plenty of "gringo" options for the sandwiches as well. Number 59 is filled with hamburger, cheddar cheese, bacon, chipotle aioli and crispy onions, while Number 54 offers tuna salad, pepper and lettuce.
The options are nearly endless from shrimp, pork, beef, pastrami, ham, cheeses and chocolates.
"You can be full after probably three sandwiches, and they're mostly $2 each," Pena said, adding that the restaurant also offers five types of dinner salads and platters of thinly sliced ham and cheese that are reminiscent of the popular Spanish-style tapas that people enjoy sharing around a table.
The restaurant also carries Spanish beers, wines and sparkling waters.
The menu can be intimidating for the uninitiated, but the staff will walk diners through the ordering process in which they write down the numbers of their chosen montaditos on a small slip of paper and hand it over at the counter. The cook calls the customer's name when the order is ready.
"I haven't heard a single negative comment from anyone yet," Pena said. "The main thing is that many people don't yet know we're here."
He said he plans on being very involved in community events, will host parties at the restaurant and will happily assemble catering platters of the crusty sandwiches for parties and other events.
A Wednesday special offers $1 montaditos, according to the menu.
"We use quality ingredients and offer great prices," Pena said. "Everyone who comes in has said, 'This is awesome, we'll be back.'"
And when they do, there's always a new montadito to try.