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The Best Cuban Sandwiches (Cubanos)

Is it possible to get a bad Cuban sandwich in Miami? Well if you have been exiled to the Northland for a while, there is no such thing as a bad Cubano sandwich. For the northern Cuban in our group, it's the first thing he craves after his plane lands from Minneapolis. At that point, anything resembling a Cubano will have to do – even the lesser specimens available on the airport concourse!

However, the savvy Cuban knows the difference between the pre-made bargain Cuban sandwiches found at many lunch counters and coffee windows, and the delicious handmade-to-order variety found at restaurants and cafes.

Man cutting pork roast

Glenn Lindgren: There is a simple recipe for success. in the Cubano sandwich world: start with fresh high quality ingredients and the best, fresh-from-the-bakery Cuban bread.

Jorge Castillo: Each Cubano sandwich should be made to order, with the highest quality hand-cut meats – no processed pork loaf – and cheese.

Glenn Lindgren: The traditional Cuban sandwich can only be made on Cuban bread. Start with a well buttered loaf, layer on some dill pickles, roast pork, ham and Swiss cheese.

Raúl Musibay: A minute or two on the sandwich press (plancha), and you have a delicious treat that has launched many an unsuspecting traveler on the road to Cuban food addiction.

Glenn Lindgren: What makes a GREAT Cuban sandwich (Cubano) is both the quality and especially the quantity of meat.

Slicing real roast pork by hand.

Raúl Musibay: The pork is an essential ingredient and it needs to be slow-roasted with Cuban spices, giving the pork a distinct garlic and citrus flavor.

Glenn Lindgren: Although one might encounter numerous variations across the country, a traditional Cubano sandwich does NOT include mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce, or tomato.

Raúl Musibay: Some people just do not know when to leave a classic alone!

Glenn Lindgren: Mustard or mayonnaise on a Cuban sandwich is a personal choice. We find that the best Cubanos don't need either ingredient. The butter, natural meat juices and yes – even the pickle juice give it all of the moistness and flavor it needs. Most places in Miami don't routinely add mustard and/or mayo unless you specifically ask for them.

Raúl Musibay: But in other parts of the country -- especially Los Angeles -- you have to tell them to "HOLD THE MAYO!"

Jorge Castillo: In Tampa, they just cannot make a Cuban sandwich without Genoa salami!

Raúl Musibay: We think there may even be a law on the books.

Jorge Castillo: However, you will not find salami on a Cubano sandwich in just about any other city.

Raúl Musibay: Most likely, this came about because in the early days of Ybor City, the Italians were the only ethnic group as numerous as the Spaniards and Cubans.

Glenn Lindgren: It's understandable that there was a little blending of cultures, at least when it came to making a Cuban sandwich.

Man cutting pork roast

Jorge Castillo: You won't find salami on a Miami Cuban sandwich. Although some places do add Serrano ham in addition to the usual ham. Look on the menu for a "Sandwich Cubano Especial " or ask your waiter.

Raúl Musibay: The Serrano ham adds a nicy salty pork flavor to the sandwich.

Jorge Castillo: In Key West, they serve their own version of the Cubano sandwich called a "Key West Mix." This un-Cuban variation includes mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato!

Glenn Lindgren: One variation of the Cuban Sandwich (Cubano) is perfectly authentic: take the exact same ingredients as the Cubano and place them on a smaller bread loaf made from sweeter egg dough and you have a "medianoche" or "midnight" sandwich, so named because it makes a great midnight snack.

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The Details

Cuban Sandwich (Cubano) Recipe

Can't make it to Miami or Tampa? Make your own Cubano sandwich at home.

Recipe Here

The best Cubano sandwich makers in Miami have elevated sandwich making to an art form. The larger restaurants station the Cubano sandwich maker in a prominent spot where everyone can enjoy the show.

Armed with a long, thin, serrated knife, the sandwich maker expertly cuts the ham and pork, usually from a whole pork leg. Using the flat surface of the broad knife, he artfully arranges the layers of meat onto the sandwich.

The best Cuban sandwich? Some will argue that Las Olas Café with its proximity to the beach and carefully sculpted Cubano sandwiches offers a great Cubano at a real bargain: less than $5. Others sing the praises of the Cubano at Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop, a funky dive with plastic seats and a lot of Formica. Still others vote for a long-time Little Havana mainstay: Morro Castle.

The only way to solve this argument is to see for yourself!

Enriqueta's was once a little known spot in Miami, but with a recent feature in the Miami Herald and a mention in Food and Wine, this little hole-in-the-wall joint has hit the big time. At lunchtime it comes down to choice: a tasty, meat-packed Cubano sandwich hot off the plancha or an excellent chicken sandwich piled high with shoestring potatoes, lettuce, tomato, and grilled onions.

HOURS: Monday through Friday 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. | Saturday 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.


ATMOSPHERE: Very casual

Don't be surprised to see some frazzled members of the club crowd queued up at 7:00 a.m. for a hangover-relieving breakfast. The breakfasts here are great, but the Cubanos really shine.

Here the Cubano sandwiches are made with care on a clean and well supervised plancha so that the cheese melts like gooey butter and the crust comes out oh-so crunchy!

Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop

Las Olas Café

HOURS: Monday through Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. | Sunday 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


ATMOSPHERE: Very casual

Morro Castle

HOURS: Daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner


ATMOSPHERE: Very casual

Morro started out as a drive-in restaurant complete with carhop service. The carhops are gone, but the tradition of eating outside continues, there is no inside seating at Morro. The restaurant is popular for its freshly made churros, crispy fried cylinders of dough lightly sprinkled with sugar. When temperatures in Miami plummet to as low as 50 degrees, you will find the locals huddled at tables under the big green awning sipping thick hot chocolate and dunking their churros. The locals also swear by Morro's version of the Cubano sandwich --one of the best in Miami.
At "El Segundo Palace of Juices" in Westchester (now called La Juguera Tropical), they have their own version of Mr. Clean: a bare-pated gentleman in a white shirt and black vest who does nothing all day but assemble the pantheon of Cubano sandwiches to order from his perch in the middle of the store.

HOURS: Daily 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.


ATMOSPHERE: Very casual

La Juguera Tropical

Las Olas Café
644 6th Street
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Palace of Juices/La Juguera Tropical
10140 Southwest 56th Street
Miami, FL 33165
Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop
186 Northeast 29th Street
Miami, FL 33137
Morro Castle
2500 Northwest 7th Street
Miami, FL 33125
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