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The 10 Best Cuban Sandwiches in the U.S.

By Zach Brooks
May 1, 2014

In the pantheon of great sandwiches, there is a certain perfection to the Cuban that renders a ham and cheese sandwich boring. Grilled cheese? Pedestrian. Meanwhile, a Cuban features salty pork, sweet ham and fatty salami (provided you're in Tampa), balanced by cool and crunchy pickles and tangy mustard, bound by melty Swiss cheese and the perfectly soft but slightly crunchy Cuban bread - ideally smeared with butter. Its origins are in dispute, but one thing isn't - the Cuban is a delicious masterpiece.  Here are 10 worth seeking out around the country.

  • Miami: Enriqueta's

    Any list of Cuban sandwiches has to start in Miami, where choosing a favorite for some might be as arbitrary as a game of pin the tail on the donkey. Versailles, Palacio de los Jugos and Las Olas Cafe could all be on this list, but in the end it had to be Enriqueta's. At this classic Miami cafeteria, the especial takes a typical Cubano with ham, pork, Swiss, pickles and mustard, and smushes it together with their famous croquetas.

    Price: $5.85

    186 NE 29th St.; 305-573-4681

  • Miami: The Bazaar by José Andrés

    Once you make your way through the endless parade of classic Miami Cuban sandwiches, there's still one left to try - and that's José Andrés' version, served at The Bazaar on South Beach. Inspired by Cafe Versailles, according to the chef, it features Iberian ham, Swiss cheese foam and an "air puff bread" and is only served at his South Florida location.

    Price: $12

    1701 Collins Ave.; 305-455-2999

  • Tampa: Columbia Restaurant

    While Miamians will emphatically disagree, Tampa has a historical claim as the Cuban sandwich capital of the U.S. Home to scores of cigar workers at the turn of the century, the Ybor City section of Tampa has been serving up a version of the Cuban sandwich (originally called "The Mixto") for over a century. At the Columbia Restaurant, they serve a classic Tampa Cuban, with meat and cheese layered in ratios dictated by a 99-year-old recipe. Glazed ham, pork loin, Swiss, pickles and mustard all make an appearance on buttered Cuban bread from La Segunda Central Bakery. But the calling card for a Tampa Cuban is the Genoa salami, a layer no doubt added to draw in the Italian immigrant population also living in Central Florida at the time.
     

    Price: $8.95

    2117 E. Seventh Ave.; 813-248-4961 

  • New Orleans: Cochon Butcher

    Sandwiches in New Orleans usually come in one of two forms: po' boy or muffaletta. But the Cubano from Butcher, the sandwich shop offshoot of Cochon in the Central Business District, makes a strong case for expanding the list. Donald Link would be forgiven for turning this into a glorified cochon de lait po' boy, but it's actually a pretty classic rendition of a Cuban sandwich. You've got your sliced pork, ham and Swiss on pressed bread, the catch being that the meats from Butcher are all housemade, and far better than you'll find at the average sandwich shop.

    Price: $10

    930 Tchoupitoulas St.; 504-588-7675

  • Houston: El Rey Taqueria

    This popular Houston chain might not compete for best Mexican food in the city, but the Cuban half of their menu more than makes up for that. Their Cuban sandwich has sliced roasted pork, sweet ham, Swiss and pickles, or you can go crazy with their shoestring fry-topped steak sandwich and famous plantain- and black bean-stuffed Cuban tacos.

    Price: $6.75

    Numerous locations

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: Rosa Blanca

    No stranger to Latin cuisine, Jose Garces opened the Cuban diner Rosa Blanca last December. There are large family-style specials, like ropa vieja and picadillo, plus breakfast is served all day long. The Cuban is pretty classic too, highlighting smoked ham, sliced roast pork, Swiss, pickles and mustard. Order the Calle Ocho, and they'll replace the ham with chorizo and grilled onions.

    Price: $9

    707 Chestnut St.; 215-925-5555

  • Washington, DC: Mi Cuba Cafe

    This Columbia Heights cheap-eats favorite might be just over a year old, but their food can be traced back straight to Havana - where the owners are originally from. The enormous Cuban sandwich is a standout, made from slow roasted lechon and topped with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, all on perfectly buttered Cuban bread.

    Price: $9

    1424 Park Rd. NW; 202-813-3489

  • Los Angeles: Ink.Sack

    Los Angeles might be known more for their tortas and cemitas than for their Cuban sandwiches, but Top Chef Michael Voltaggio is looking to change that at Ink.Sack. It's a little smaller than your average Cuban, and they don't press the sandwich, but the version served at this take-out sandwich shop in West Hollywood is still worth going out of your way for. Should you add a bag of their housemade BBQ pork rinds? Claro que si.

    Price: $6

    8360 Melrose Ave.; 323-655-7225

  • Photo by: Brent Herrig

    New York City: The Spotted Pig

    This classic Manhattan gastropub is known mostly for their burger and ricotta gnudi, but lurking in the shadows, the silent hero has always been April Bloomfield's Cuban sandwich - a lunchtime-only offering. Made with proscuitto instead of ham, cornichons and pickled jalapeños instead of dill pickles, and Gruyère instead of Swiss, the chef-y substitutions become an afterthought after one bite of that brined Heritage pork shoulder, which is fried in duck and pork fat.

    Price: $18

    314 W. 11th St.; 212-620-0393

  • Seattle: Paseo

    The lines start early at this Caribbean sandwich shop in the funky Seattle neighborhood of Fremont. They do a pressed sandwich with roast pork, smoked ham and Swiss cheese, but it is nearly impossible to go and not order the Caribbean Roast: a lemony mix of roasted pork shoulder, topped with garlic mayo, lettuce, pickled jalapeños and a heap of grilled onions, all on a toasted baguette. Admittedly it may have more in common with a pan con lechon than a Cuban, but it's something every Cubano lover should experience at least once in their life. 

    Price: $8.50

    4225 Fremont Ave. N.; 206-545-7440

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Places Mentioned

Paseo

Caribbean • Fremont

Food28 Decor12 Service20 Cost$13
 
 
 
ink.sack

Sandwich Shop • Beverly Grove

Food- Decor- Service- Cost 
 
 
 
Bazaar by José Andrés

Spanish • South Beach

Food- Decor- Service- CostVE
 
 
 
Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop

Sandwich Shop • Wynwood

Food24 Decor8 Service19 Cost$12
 
 
 
The Spotted Pig

European • West Village

Food24 Decor20 Service19 Cost$49
 
 
 
Cochon Butcher

Warehouse District

Food28 Decor21 Service22 Cost$20
 
 
 
Mi Cuba Cafe

Caribbean • Columbia Heights

Food- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
Rosa Blanca

Cuban • Washington Square West

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
 
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