We've all heard about the ongoing battle for "Cuban Sandwich Supremacy" between Tampa and Miami over the years. What city is responsible for creating the Cuban sandwich? Is there really a difference between the two Cuban sandwiches? To whom does the Cuban sandwich actually belong? Well allow me to settle that conflict for you: there's no conflict. It's Tampa.
Yes, they were invented here. Yes, they are different (we use salami, Miami doesn't because they're wrong). And yes, they are better. I am a Tampa native, born and bred, and have studied long and hard on this one. We here at 813area know this won't be without controversy, because there is no debate in our city that stokes the fires of Tampanians like this one (except for maybe how to do Gasparilla). The only steadfast rules are you must have ham, pork, and salami, but otherwise we're allowing for a bit of wiggle room. With the rules established: here is our list of nominees for the Best Cuban Sandwich in Tampa.
Ah, a Tampa classic. This family-owned local sandwich shop has been feeding lines out the door since 1948 and prepares my personal favorite Cuban sandwich. The Cuban at Brocato's is stacked with ham, pork, salami and Swiss cheese on homemade Cuban bread. It's offered in five different, generous sizes. Extra small (4"), Small (8"), Regular ("10), Large (12") and Joe's Special (15"). All Cubans here are served with chips and your choice of unlimited canned soda or 8 oz beer. Broacto's even allows you to order online and bypass the long waits that always fill the parking lots at this Tampa treasure.
Here we have another family-owned, Tampa staple with some Spanish splash. Rubens has been serving up hot pressed Cuban Sandwiches with Cafe' Con Leche for nearly 30 years. Everything is made in-house and always from scratch, which puts it near the top of the list. Rubens famous Cuban is loaded with cooked ham, Cuban roast pork, salami, Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard, pickle, lettuce and tomato.
Yes, we know how certain Tampanians feel about lettuce and tomato on a Cuban: we're presenting both sides of the debate here.
Cubans here are served cold, hot, light hot or extra hot with chips. Rubens is located on the outskirts of Temple Terrace and offers carryout and delivery as well.
Don't be phased by the size of this small "hole in the wall," West Tampa Sandwich Shop is another hidden treasure on this list. In fact it's likely the most-unique sandwich in the Bay area, the Honey Cuban "Obama Sandwich." It's a traditional Cuban sandwich but with honey! You can try it just the way President Obama did during his visit a few years ago by adding lettuce and tomato for a small additional charge. That's ham, pork, salami, Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard and pickles on pressed homemade Cuban bread. Sandwiches here are served small, regular or large. This West Tampa legend opens every day of the week at 5:00 a.m. and is located at
Located in Tampa's historic Ybor City District, you kinda just know this one is going to be good. Widely known as "Tampa's original restaurant" the Columbia has been serving Cuban sandwiches and traditional Spanish favorites since 1905, and is the oldest restaurant in Florida. Not only is the Cuban Sandwich here top notch, the experience and ambiance takes dining here to a whole other level. Today the Cuban Sandwich at the Columbia uses the original 1915 recipe of Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., with the same proportions of meat and each ingredient piled on top of one another, placed on Cuban bread brushed with butter on top and pressed to a crispy finish. The sliced, freshly baked Tampa Cuban bread from La Segunda Central Bakery used at the Columbia puts this sandwich over the top. Reservations are often required at the Columbia, and you can book yours online anytime.
Owned by the Capedevila family for many generations and serving a menu of Cuban and Spanish standards in an intimate surrounding, La Teresita is possibly the best overall Cuban restaurant in Tampa Bay. It has become the most popular hot spot for a delicious breakfast or lunch, cafe con leche, soups, homemade cooked meals and of course, the Cuban Sandwich. The Cuban here is typically made with many of the ingredients you see above, but it's served quicker and cheaper than anywhere else. You can enjoy a Cuban Sandwich at La Teresita in a more traditional seated dining room or in the bustling, order at the counter cafeteria filled with customers on lunch break or stopping in for a quick bite during their busy day. There is also an affiliated market and bakery for customers to check out during their visit here. La Teresita has previously been voted the "Comfort Food Award", the "Cheap Eats Award" and the "Best of the Bay" Award.
Full disclosure: this one isn't authentic. But that doesn't mean it's not a delicious spin on the original concept. Instead of using traditional Cuban bread, Datz's Havana Hottie is on a batard. There's no salami (like those heathens down in Miami, that's called a "mixto" BTW) and you get a much sweeter honeycup mustard instead of something yellow or spicy. It's terrific, but it's not the real thing: you'll have to head somewhere else to say you've had a "real" Cuban. But it goes great with their blue cheese-drizzled chips and other hi-falutin treats in South Tampa.
Again: not the real deal, but that's the only way you can argue about this. Wright's is as much of a South Tampa institution as hoity-toity air kisses and people running red lights on Henderson Blvd. There's often a line down Dale Mabry Blvd. for lunches, but in addition to roasted pork with ham, Genoa salami... they add turkey breast. The pickles and Jarlsberg cheese with mustard served on fresh Cuban bread is as 813 as a hand-rolled cigar, and it is a six-time winner of the Tampa Tribune's (RIP) All-Tampa Cuban Sandwich Contest, but... turkey. Also be sure to allow 15 minutes for this one when ordering.
A cash-only locals joint connected to a transmission shop, but don't be fooled by the lack of visual presentation. Palm Ave. Sandwich Shop makes an incredible Cuban sandwich and for a great price! Like a few places on this list, you can get by without English if necessary, and it's open for breakfast at 7 a.m. during the week so grab a con Leche too. It's about as authentically Tampa as you can get, and is one of the institutions in this town.
So that's our list for the best Cuban sandwich in Tampa. May the debates begin. But if you want to find out more about dining in the Tampa Bay area, make sure to visit and register for 813area.com. It's your FREE resource for events, nightlife, restaurants and more!