TAMPA, Fla. — It has been claimed that the Cuban sandwich originated in Tampa, though some debate that it actually got its start in Miami. It's a straight-forward recipe: Cuban bread, ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and—unique to Tampa—salami. Whether you like it with lettuce and tomato or traditional, sweet or spicy, these are four local Cuban sandwich spots you need to check out!
La Segunda Central Bakery
Address: 2512 N 15th St, Tampa
The key to a delicious Cuban sandwich starts with fresh-made bread. La Segunda is the world's largest supplier of authentic Cuban bread, and it's located right in Ybor City.
"On average, we make about 20,000 loaves a day of Cuban bread," said La Segunda president, Copeland More. "We run 24 hours a day. It takes anywhere from...eight to ten people per shift working together."
La Segunda's recipe dates back to 1915. A palmetto leaf is placed on top of each loaf before baking to score the bread. Their bread is shipped around the globe and delivered to many local spots as well.
"As the popularity of the Cuban sandwich has grown in the United States, so has our business," said More.
La Segunda's Cuban sandwich is made with their fresh Cuban bread, a mustard mix, Genoa salami, mojo marinated pork, smoked ham, pickles and Swiss cheese. Try it cold or buttered and heat pressed.
You can also check out their second location on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa.
Address: 2117 E 7th Ave, Tampa
The secret to the perfect Cuban Sandwich is all about the layers. Columbia is the world's oldest Spanish restaurant and the oldest restaurant in Florida, getting its start in 1905 and has been family-owned and operated for five generations. It has become a staple of Ybor City and known for their Cuban sandwich.
"Why I believe the Cuban sandwich really originated in Tampa...is because each of the layers represent people who immigrated to Ybor at the turn of the century in the early 1900s," said Andrea Gonzmart, owner and operator of Columbia Restaurant. "The ham representing the Spaniards, the bread and the pork representing the Cubans, the salami representing the Italians, and the mustard representing the Germans. And I say the Swiss cheese is what creates Ybor City into being that melting pot and melds all those different cultures together."
Columbia makes their Cuban Sandwich with La Segunda bread, house-baked ham, mojo-marinated pork that is roasted on-site, Genoa salami with peppercorns, mustard, two pickle slices and Swiss cheese, then buttered and heat pressed for a crispy finish. It's served with a side of plantain chips, lettuce, tomato, and a pickle spear.
"We want to put the best of the best into our sandwich," said Gonzmart. "Every sandwich is made daily, with much love, and every Cuban that you have here is going to taste like the same exact Cuban that you had last time you visited."
Columbia has seven restaurant and cafe locations across Florida, which you can find here.
West Tampa Sandwich Shop
Address: 3904 N Armenia Ave, Tampa
This is the perfect spot if you're looking for a sweet take on a Cuban sandwich. West Tampa Sandwich Shop is family-owned and has been in business for 30 years. It has been a spot that many local and national politicians have visited, from mayors to senators to former Presidents. It is also a place that is all about family and making their customers feel welcome.
"The sandwich we always recommend is...the Honey Cuban," said Yeni Russell, daughter of the owners of West Tampa Sandwich Shop.
"We got our cousin who used to work with us at the restaurant, and he's the type of guy who would put honey on anything," said Andy Russell, Yeni's brother. "He went ahead and took the initiative one day and just put a little honey on a Cuban...we tried it, we thought it was delicious."
The Honey Cuban is made with Faedo Family Bakery Cuban bread, fresh pork roasted daily, salami, thin-sliced ham and Swiss cheese, then topped with butter and heat pressed. Part way through the press, they add honey on top, cover with parchment paper and press again to create a sweet and crispy glaze on the sandwich. Afterward it's topped with mayo, mustard and pickles inside, and you can add tomato and lettuce for an extra fee.
"I've never, ever heard of a Cuban with honey on it, and once we did it...it was everywhere," said Andy. "We didn't invent the wheel, but we definitely invented the Honey Cuban."
West Tampa Sandwich Shop also has a regular Cuban, as well as more than 20 other sandwiches to choose from.
Address: 4534 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa
The Floridian's Cuban sandwich has racked up a variety of awards over the last 11 years. Not only has it won Best of the Best through the Tampa Bay Times and Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay, but this Cuban Sandwich is a three-time winner of the Latin Times Best Authentic Cuban Sandwich Competition, which has inducted The Floridian into the “Cuban Sandwich Hall Of Fame”.
"I think it's the care and love that goes into it, we use the finest ingredients," said Harold Seltzer, owner and operator of the Floridian. "All of our sandwiches are made to order so people can add and subtract what they like...and it just makes it all very delicious."
The Floridian's Cuban sandwich is made with La Segunda bread, ham, mojo spiced pork, Genoa salami, imported Swiss cheese, dill pickle and a mayo-mustard mix, then basted with butter and heat pressed to perfection.
Looking for something on the spicier side? Try their Angry Cuban, which is their traditional Cuban sandwich with jalapenos and their house-special angry sauce.