2 famous dishes face off from Super Bowl-bound Kansas City and Tampa Bay

KELLY MCCARTHY
·7 min read

Between the food in Tampa Bay and Kansas City, this Sunday is set to be one of the tastiest Super Bowls in recent years.

But as the Chiefs prepare to take on the Buccaneers in enemy territory, it begs the question for football fans who love food: Which city reigns supreme when it comes to its best-known dishes?

Kansas City is adored for one thing on its culinary scene: barbecue. In Tampa, the Cuban sandwich is an undeniable iconic meal.

To tackle the hard-hitting question, "Good Morning America" tapped two experts -- a celebrity pitmaster and an award-winning chef -- to help share both sides of the debate ahead of Sunday's coin toss.

Plus, a recipe and delivery tip so that home cooks can answer the question for themselves with a head-to-head taste test to know for sure.

A Strong Case for Cuban Sandwiches

PHOTO: Andrea Gonzmart of Columbia Restaurant in Florida holds up the iconic Cuban sandwich. (Visit Tampa Bay)
PHOTO: Andrea Gonzmart of Columbia Restaurant in Florida holds up the iconic Cuban sandwich. (Visit Tampa Bay)

Who better to speak to the succulent Cuban sandwich and its cultural significance than a fifth-generation owner of Florida's oldest restaurant Columbia Restaurant Group.

Andrea Gonzmart told "GMA" the dish is considered "Tampa’s sandwich" and her restaurant was named Florida’s best sandwich by Food & Wine just two weeks ago.

"A hot, pressed Tampa Cuban sandwich has all the great flavors and textures. It’s crunchy, meaty and melty, salty and sweet with a bit of tartness," Gonzmart said.

"The special thing about the Cuban at the Columbia is that it represents all the people who came to Ybor City at the turn of the century," she explained of the sandwich's history. "The ham represents the Spaniards, the pork and the bread represents the Cubans, the salami the Italians, the pickles and mustard being the Germans. The melting Swiss cheese represents Ybor City as the melting pot of all of these great cultures coming together, starting in the late 1800s when Ybor City cigar rollers would take it to work with them in the cigar factories because it was delicious and easy to hold."

Aside from the incredible melding of flavors, the fresh-baked Cuban bread from La Segunda Central bakery is the staple ingredient that holds it all together. "Delicately crusty on the outside and tender inside. There is no better Cuban bread in the world," she said.

While Gonzmart maintains that there’s nothing like the real deal in Tampa, she conceded that any home cooks who want to take a stab at recreating the iconic sandwich can use a "combination of ham, roasted pork, salami, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles to get you pretty close, regardless of the loaf."

Her alternative is to use a French baguette, heated in a panini press or toasted in the oven between two cast-iron skillets. "Butter the top slice of bread and heat it long enough to melt the Swiss cheese."

Burnt Ends and Kansas City BBQ

PHOTO: Burnt ends served with fries and white bread at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, Missouri. (David Tauber)
PHOTO: Burnt ends served with fries and white bread at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, Missouri. (David Tauber)

Arthur Bryant's BBQ has long been regarded as some of the best in Kansas City serving former presidents, movie stars, athletes and locals alike and General Manager Conor Rauschelbach told "GMA" that "the history surrounding this style of food is what makes it so special."

"As far as burnt ends are concerned they say that Arthur Bryant was the originator of those," he explained of the famous dish. "The tips of the brisket would be burned a little bit, so Arthur Bryant would instruct his pitmaster to cut them off and dice them into bite-size pieces. When the restaurant would have long lines -- Mr. Bryant would walk up and down the lines with the burnt ends on toothpicks handing them out to his guests as they waited to order."

Rauschelbach said the morsels of charred brisket pieces "became such a hit that he eventually gave in and started to put the burnt ends on the menu."

PHOTO: A burnt ends sandwich from Mighty Quinns BBQ. (Might Quinns BBQ)
PHOTO: A burnt ends sandwich from Mighty Quinns BBQ. (Might Quinns BBQ)

Pitmaster and co-founder of Mighty Quinn's BBQ, Hugh Mangum, may be based in New York City, but he and co-founder Micha Magid, are experts in their culinary craft and built on the case for what makes authentic KC BBQ so good.

Both agreed that if they had to pick just one cut of meat that defines the delicacy, it would "definitely" be burnt ends. "The Kansas City flavor profile often uses molasses-based BBQ sauce with a tomato and spice kick. People also associate burnt ends or brisket tips with Kansas City," they said.

Mangum suggested that anyone rooting for the Chiefs, or just craving an authentic KC BBQ experience, opt for finger foods like "spicy wings and smoked spare ribs to enjoy the big game." He also suggested a crisp acidic side of vinegar-based coleslaw to "compliment to the rich flavors in the meat."

"As far as recreating our meats is concerned, unless someone has a pit or smoker at home it would be hard to recreate the BBQ from KC," Rauschelbach said. For those without the proper equipment, he said "the best way to order KC BBQ is through GoldBelly -- some of the heaviest of hitters from KC sell their product on this site, including us."

Hundreds of BBQ joints have popped up in Kansas City since Arthur Bryant's first arrived in 1950, which to him "is what makes KC BBQ the best."

"Everybody has their own way of doing it, and if you ask 10 people in KC what their favorite BBQ restaurant is you will get 10 different answers. We take great pride in a few things here in KC. Those would be the Chiefs, Royals, and our BBQ," he added.

Which Dish Wins in Your Book?

Gonzmart explained that in her opinion, "the Cuban is more balanced, with a great selection of meats, the cheese and the bread -- perfect to soak up any game day libations. And it’s also a lot less messy."

"I'm not sure you can compare burnt ends to a Cuban sandwich," Rauschelbach said. "They are far apart in taste. However, I will say -- much like the Buccaneers and the Chiefs -- that Cuban sandwiches are an acquired taste, and I believe BBQ is for everybody."

Although the crowds have been reduced on-site for Super Bowl LV and stay-at-home guidelines have restricted fans from flying across the country, check out menus and support your local restaurants that serve these regional favorites. Then, whether you make it at home or order in, share your top pick with "GMA" on Sunday!

How to Make a Homemade Cuban Sandwich

PHOTO: A stack of Cuban sandwiches from Tampa, Florida native and chef MacKenzie Smith. (Chef MacKenzie Smith)
PHOTO: A stack of Cuban sandwiches from Tampa, Florida native and chef MacKenzie Smith. (Chef MacKenzie Smith)

Chef and Tampa Bay native MacKenzie Smith, who was recently on the "Heart to Table" podcast to chat Super Bowl Sunday, shared her recipe for the traditional regional favorite.

"Growing up in Tampa Bay, Cuban Sandwiches were a way of life. Anytime we had get-togethers, my mom would make these tasty pressed sandwiches that are traditionally loaded with different types of pork, swiss cheese, dill pickles and mustard," she told "GMA." "Over the years and after trying many different variations from fancy restaurants -- like the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor -- my family adapted a version that became our signature go-to recipe."

She said that anyone who has been fortunate enough to have one "would without a doubt say that our family is known for our Cuban Sandwiches."

Ingredients

2 tablespoons salted butter, room temp

1 tablespoon garlic paste

1/4 cup cilantro, finely diced

1/4 cup parsley, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 large loaf cuban bread

3 tablespoons yellow mustard

1/4 pound Swiss cheese

1 lb pulled mojo pork

1/2 pound deli ham, thinly sliced

1/4 pound salami, thinly sliced

1/2 cup dill pickles, sliced lengthwise

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine butter, garlic paste, cilantro, parsley and oregano in a small bowl and stir. Set aside.

Slice Cuban bread in half and smear the inside of one half with the herb butter and the other inside half with the yellow mustard.

Add pickles to the yellow mustard side and top with Swiss cheese. On the garlic butter side, add mojo pork, sliced deli ham and salami.

Place the sandwich, open-faced, on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese starts to melt and the salami begins to crisp. Take the baking sheet out and close the sandwich.

Put a piece of tinfoil over the top of the sandwich and place another baking sheet on top to weigh it down. I recommend using a cast iron pan or another heavy-duty oven-safe dish. Bake for another 10 minutes until the sandwich is heated through and the bread is crispy and toasted.

Remove from the oven and cut into five sandwiches! Enjoy!

2 famous dishes face off from Super Bowl-bound Kansas City and Tampa Bay originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com