Courtesy of Enriquetas Sandwich Shop
The Cuban influence on Florida cuisine can't be overstated; from croquetas to pastelitos to Cuban rice and beans, dishes from Florida's southernmost island neighbor appear on restaurant menus all throughout the state.
Also popular in Florida are American-Cuban hybrid dishes developed by Cuban immigrants and inspired by the flavors of their birthplace, along with the traditions of their new stateside home. One of the most famous examples is the Cuban sandwich (also known as the "Cubano"), a Floridian lunchtime staple that gives a distinctly Cuban twist to the standard American ham & cheese by adding juicy roast pork marinated in mojo (a citrus-garlic mixture) and piling the sandwich ingredients on pillowy-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside Cuban bread.
To find a top-quality Cuban sandwich in Florida, you'll want to head to one of the Sunshine State's biggest centers of Cuban culture: Tampa (a historic Cuban hotspot on Florida's Gulf Coast), Miami (the metro region with the largest Cuban population in the United States), and Key West (the southernmost city in Florida, which is geographically closer to Havana than it is to Miami).
The next time you head to Florida, consider visiting any of the nine restaurants on this list, which serve the finest versions of the Cubano in Tampa, Miami, and Key West.
Best Cuban Sandwiches in Tampa
La Segunda Bakery
Visit: La Segunda Bakery
A Tampa institution since 1915, La Segunda Bakery in the historic neighborhood of Ybor City is venerated for its impeccable Cuban bread with a crisp crust and soft, airy interior. La Segunda also uses its bread to make a destination-worthy Cubano with mojo-seasoned roast pork, smoked ham, Genoa salami (an ingredient unique to "Tampa-style" Cubanos), Swiss cheese, and dill pickles. Instead of the classic yellow mustard, La Segunda dresses its sandwiches with a "special sauce" made of both mustard and mayonnaise.
Visit: The Columbia
The Columbia, a Spanish restaurant in Ybor City that also happens to be the oldest restaurant in Florida (circa 1907), is also home to a Cuban sandwich that regularly receives "Best Cuban in Florida" designations from local and national publications. The Columbia also uses La Segunda bread to make their Cubans, and these sandwiches are celebrated for their hearty portions of meat, cheese, and pickles, along with the extra-crispy texture provided by The Columbia's choice to brush the bread with butter and press it in a panini grill.
Visit: The Floridian
Another long-time favorite among Tampa Cuban sandwich fans, The Floridian makes a stellar classic Tampa Cuban. However, they're arguably best known for their "Breakfast Cuban," a morning must-have that includes the typical Cuban bread, pork, ham, salami, cheese, and pickles, but also invites fried eggs to join the party. If you hold the (very respectable) opinion that a runny yolk makes everything better, then this Cubano is the one for you.
Best Cuban Sandwiches in Miami
Enriquetas Sandwich Shop
Visit: Enriquetas Sandwich Shop
Although it's located on the border of Miami's ultra-trendy Wynwood neighborhood, Enriquetas makes no attempt to appeal to the Instagrammers who swarm this area. Instead, this Cuban diner and lunch counter focuses on one thing and one thing only: serving up hearty, flavorful, and reasonably-priced meals to the longtime locals who've become regulars—and to visitors in search of a truly unforgettable Cuban sandwich. The standard Cuban at Enriquetas is a bestseller, but in-the-know diners often opt for the "El Especial," which features the expected Cuban ingredients of roast pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, and mustard, but adds on two housemade croquetas, or breaded and fried potato and bechamel dumplings. The croquetas bring an extra dose of crunchiness to each bite, along with a rich creaminess that bolsters the Cuban's other flavors and turns the sandwich into a luxurious-tasting treat.
Visit: Islas Canarias
While we're on the subject of Cubans with croquetas, Islas Canarias, a restaurant and bakery that's known for making the finest croquetas in Miami, also serves a "Croqueta Preparada," a Cubano topped with their famous croquetas. In this sandwich's case, the croquetas are the undeniable star of the show: melty, indulgent, and with the perfect level of crunch.
Sanguich de Miami
Visit: Sanguich de Miami
While the other Miami eateries on this list boast decades of success, the owners of Sanguich de Miami made the bold choice to open a new Cuban sandwich spot in the Magic City within the last five years. What's more, they positioned Sanguich de Miami in Little Havana, a neighborhood well-known for its high Cuban population. Luckily, Sanguich de Miami quickly found a foothold among Miami's fastidious Cuban sandwich critics, thanks to the fact that their Cubano is really something special. The slow-roasted pork and spiced ham are bursting with flavor, the pickles are housemade and brilliantly tangy, and the bread is brushed with lard before it goes into the sandwich press, adding yet another layer of porcine goodness.
Best Sandwiches in Key West
Visit: 5 Brothers
Located just 90 miles from Cuba, Key West was a historic destination port for Cuban immigration throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Therefore, it makes sense that this laidback, bohemian community is a hotspot for impeccable Cuban and Cuban-American fare. One of Key West's best Cubanos can be found in an unassuming corner market on a quiet side street; 5 Brothers looks like a standard convenience store at first glance, but the sandwich counter at the back of the shop serves up classic Cubans with a flawless balance of ingredients. 5 Brothers also makes a fantastic "Midnight" sandwich, which is their take on a Medianoche, loading ham, Swiss, roast pork, and pickles on a semi-sweet egg-dough roll similar to challah bread.
Cuban Coffee Queen
Visit: Cuban Coffee Queen
As its name suggests, Cuban Coffee Queen specializes in "Cuban coffee," also known as espresso whipped with sugar. But insiders know that this outdoor coffee stand is also a prime locale for excellent Cubanos. Cuban Coffee Queen's Cuban Mix includes Cuban bread, mojo-marinated roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and mayo, along with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions (all of which are commonly found in Key West Cubans).
Recipe: Sandy's Cafe
Sandy's Cafe is a Key West classic, serving Cubanos out of its sidewalk window adjacent to a laundromat since the mid 1980s. They're piled high with all of the usual fixings, and Sandy's regulars love the simple, hearty, no-frills nature of these flavor-loaded sandwiches, which are big enough for two meals.