Every state has a sandwich to be proudest of. In Arkansas, the fried bologna sandwich is king. Californians love their French dips. Don’t miss the fried clam rolls in Connecticut. And in Florida, don’t you dare skip out on the mighty Cuban sandwich.
The sandwich’s history is tied to Florida’s Cuban immigrant communities who first came to the state in the 1800s to help jumpstart the cigar industry. With due respect for Miami, it’s believed Cuban sandwiches – sometimes called a “mixto” or “Cubano” – likely were born in the cafes of Ybor City, the Tampa neighborhood where cigar factories flourished.
Debate the origin of the sandwich if you must, all we know is that the eaters are the ultimate winners. If you’re looking for the best Cuban sandwiches in Florida, start with these institutions.
The original Columbia Restaurant, located in Ybor City (the historic Latin quarter of Tampa), is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Florida. It’s no surprise then that Columbia claims to have originated the Cuban sandwich. Of course, there’s a twist. Unlike Miami, Tampa was also home to a large number of Italian immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century. For those hard workers, salami was added to Columbia’s Cuban along with the usual ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. The bread for this particular Cuban is also unique – supplied by La Segunda Central Bakery.
Columbia has locations throughout Florida – Sarasota, St. Augustine, Clearwater, Celebration (outside Orlando), the Tampa Bay History Center and Tampa International Airport – but we recommend sitting down at the original Ybor City location. Be sure to book a table on nights that feature Flamenco dancers, and don’t forget to order the restaurant’s beloved “1905 Salad” to go with that sandwich.
2117 E. 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605
La Teresita Restaurant
Like the Columbia, you aren’t a true Tampan until you’ve feasted at La Teresita. What began in the 1960s as a small grocery store has evolved and grown into a culinary landmark near Raymond James Stadium and Tampa International Airport. The menu features all the most-beloved Cuban and Spanish specialties including arroz con pollo, boliche and picadillo. You can get a Cuban served “Los Yanqui” style with lettuce, tomato and mayo – another Tampa twist – but we recommend sticking to the old-fashioned recipe. La Teresita uses pulled or shredded pork as an ingredient, adding a different texture and added flavor.
3246 W Columbus Dr, Tampa, FL 33607
Wright’s Gourmet House
Look at any “best sandwich” list and chances are you’ll find Wright’s Gourmet House somewhere on the list. Since the early 1960s, the South Tampa establishment has been cranking out mouth-watering sandwiches, desserts and coffee to loyal patrons. (If you’re looking for something other than a Cuban, we insist you try their Turkey Martini, with turkey breast, marinated mushrooms, bacon with garlic/herb butter on white bread.) Wright’s Cuban comes pressed or unpressed – please try it pressed if it’s your first visit – and boasts of its six first-place awards in the Tampa Tribune All-Tampa Cuban Sandwich Contest. Alas, the Tribune has since folded, but the Cuban endures. Like other Tampa versions, it includes salami but switches out the ham for turkey breast. Jarlsberg cheese replaces Swiss, but the mustard and Cuban bread thankfully remain.
1200 S Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33629
Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop
Okay, it’s time to introduce the debate: Which city has the best Cuban – Tampa or Miami? Hungry patrons in both towns are fiercely loyal so we won’t presume to make a final judgment. At Enriqueta’s in Miami’s Midtown, Cubans won’t have that Tampa salami, but oftentimes shoestring potatoes or croquetas are added to the usual ham/pork/cheese recipe.
186 NE 29 St, Miami, FL 33137
The secret to a Sanguich Cuban is the details and the time invested. The roasted pork is marinated for 24 hours and nestled next to sweet ham that was brined for seven days. Two slices of Swiss and crunchy pickles complete the interior. Meanwhile, the Cuban bread – accept no substitute (unless you order a Media Noche) – is brushed with lard rather than butter before it’s pressed. Are you drooling yet?
2057 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135
Like Columbia in Tampa, Versailles is dripping with history. Whether or not Versailles deserves its self-proclaimed title of “Most Famous Cuban Restaurant” is up for debate – we’re on board that it’s certainly Miami’s most famous – the sandwich here is the most popular item on the menu, which is incredibly extensive. The “Original” sandwich is tasty – and features the obligatory ingredients – but we recommend you also give the “Versailles Especial” a try. It has sweet ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese and Spanish sausage for an extra kick.
3555 Southwest 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135
Ana’s Cuban Cafe
This small eatery would go unnoticed on the quieter end of Key West’s tourist district if not for the lines of patrons queued up outside the walk-up window. In a town that’s closer to Cuba than the rest of the United States, offering authentic Cuban food is essential here. It’s not a fancy affair – most of the food is offered for takeout or for eating on nearby picnic tables using paper plates and plastic utensils – but quality counts. The Cubans come in three styles – traditional, spicy and fiery – each served on bread that draws endless raves. The roast pork on the sandwiches here is pulled rather than sliced, so be prepared for an explosion of mojo flavor with each bite. Any regular here will insist you try the Cuban coffee along with your sandwich.
1330 Simonton St, Key West, FL 33040
No matter what you’re craving, chances are it’s on the menu at Kim’s Kuban – breakfast tacos, cafe con leche, picadillo, burritos and – yes – Cuban sandwiches. Located away from the tourist district on Roosevelt Boulevard, visitors probably need a car or Lyft driver to get to this joint. Once here, try the Cuban, which unlike most of the sandwiches we recommend includes lettuce, tomato, onion and mayonnaise. The additional toppings offer a bright twist of flavor to the classic ingredients.
2302 North Roosevelt Boulevard, Key West, FL 33040
Black Bean Deli
Locals have plenty of options in Central Florida, but the dual locations of Black Bean Deli thrive because of its regular and loyal clientele. Black Bean beckons at lunchtime when a special smaller Cuban sandwich comes paired with a cup of black beans and rice. The Cuban is prepared Miami-style: roast pork, sweet ham, pickles and swiss cheese. There are plenty of other sandwich options here – we recommend the beloved pulled pork sandwich with mojo sauce – if you’re in the mood for something a little different.
1346 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789
1835 E. Colonial Dr., Orlando, FL 32803
Cubans on the Run
Sitting in an unassuming location in a semi-industrial neighborhood north of Orlando is Cubans on the Run. You’ll know it when you smell the aromas coming from behind an often-overcrowded parking lot. There’s a full menu to peruse here – including full hot meals, soups and tamales – but you’re here for the Cuban, which includes ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. It’s available in two sizes – pick the biggest – and comes toasted to perfection. A side of piping hot Spanish bean soup makes the meal complete.
2956 S US Highway 17/92, Casselberry, FL 32707
Havana Bistro Cafe & Restaurant
The traditional Cuban here has roasted pork leg, sweet ham, pickles, swiss cheese and mustard. If you’re in the mood for something a little more daring, try the tripleta sandwich with pork, ham, beef steak, melted Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, shoestring potatoes, ketchup and mayo. Warning: If you pick the tripleta, you won’t have room for Havana’s legendary gigantic empanadas.
7975 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809