As a vacation destination, Miami has it all - sun, sea, and, of course, sandwiches. While many adore the Magic City for its year-round sunshine and vibrant nightlife, for the gourmet traveller, one of the main attractions is surely the famous Miami Cuban Sandwich, a local delicacy served in dedicated foodie hotspots throughout the city.
The Cuban Sandwich, or Cubano, is made from mouthwatering layers of roast pork, glazed ham and Swiss cheese, all topped with pickles and served on Cuban bread spread with yellow mustard. The sandwich is then toasted in a sandwich press called a plancha until the cheese melts and the bread is slightly crispy, and sliced diagonally before serving. It can be served with potato sticks or plantain fries for a hearty lunch you’ll want to linger over.
As the name suggests, the sandwich is thought to have originated among Florida’s Cuban population. Being the closest state to the island of Cuba, Florida has become home to large numbers of Cubans at various points throughout its history, whether they came to work in the cigar factories of Key West and Tampa in the latter half of the nineteenth century, or to escape the Castro regime in the 1960s.
Because of this, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact point at which the Cubano was introduced to the USA. Some people believe that the sandwich was a popular lunch - being both portable and filling - with Cuban factory workers back home in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. On arriving in Florida, they naturally brought their favourite working lunch with them, and it soon became a firm favourite with the locals too.
These days, the Cuban sandwich is so well-loved by Floridians that a friendly rivalry exists between the cities of Miami, Tampa and Key West as to who makes it best. There also are variations in the way each city makes its own perfect Cubano, with the Tampa version often adding salami, while the Key West version can sometimes include mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato.
So what makes a good Cuban sandwich? Controversial additions aside, the consensus seems to be that a truly great Cubano should be generously filled, with several slices of each ingredient added in distinct layers. Quality ingredients are also a must, from freshly-baked Cuban bread to homemade pickles and artisan meats. And despite ongoing discussions about what should or shouldn’t be included in a Miami Cuban, many of the city’s favourite restaurants offer innovative but tasty variations on the classic recipe.
The Best Miami Cuban Sandwich Places
The Cubano graces the menus of eateries throughout the city of Miami, from the smallest ventanita to the lunch menus of the biggest restaurants, and from popular chain restaurants to one-of-a-kind local gems. But not all sandwiches are created equal, and much effort has gone into tracking down the very best the city has to offer. We’ve gathered together three lists from around the internet for some different opinions on what makes the best Miami Cuban sandwich.
Our first list comes from Time Out magazine, whose search for the best Cuban sandwich in Miami includes a mixture of independent restaurants and small local chains. The independents include the self-proclaimed ‘world’s most famous Cuban restaurant’, Versailles, and Doce Provisions, whose Cubano includes slices of soppressata, making it treacherously similar to the Tampa sandwich. The chain restaurants include Sergio’s Restaurant, a popular hangout for youngsters that takes third place, and Caribe Cafe, a Miami-based chain offering large portions for small prices.
First place goes to Sanguich de Miami, a Cuban cafe in Little Havana that goes the extra mile in creating the ultimate Cuban Sandwich. The proprietors make their own pickles and mustard, cure the pork in-house, and have their Cuban bread specially baked to their own specifications. Second is Enriquetta’s Sandwich Shop, a popular and trendy Wynwood eatery whose Cubano is available in its original form, with an extra helping of pork, or with two croquettas added to the sandwich.
Our second list is courtesy of restaurant review site The Infatuation. Restaurants on this list are not ranked, but the compilers do voice their agreement that Sanguich de Miami makes the best Cubanos in the city.
This list recommends several smaller outlets, including S & N Vegetables, a sandwich shop and ventanita, or takeaway window, in Hialeah that has been serving Cubanos for over 30 years. Two butchers’ shops, Babe’s Meat and Counter and Proper Sausages, are given a mention, and even a laundromat with a side in delicious sandwiches makes an appearance in the form of Mary’s Coin Laundry. Here, not one but two Tampa-style Cubanos have infiltrated the list, with Doce Provisions making a second appearance, while Tinta Y Cafe, who add slices of mortadella to their Cuban-inspired sandwich 'The Patria', are also recommended.
Our final list is from lifestyle magazine Pure Wow, and contains many now-familiar names. As with the Time Out list, first and second place go to Sanguich de Miami and Enriquetta’s Sandwich Shop respectively, while Versailles, who came fourth on the Time Out list, is here ranked third. This makes Sanguich de Miami the undisputed favourite, with each list naming its Cubano best of the best. It is also the only restaurant to appear on all three lists.
Making a second appearance are Las Olas, a no frills eatery in South Beach and Three Palms Cuban Cafe, both of whom also appear on The Infatuation’s list, along with Enriquetta’s Sandwich Shop, Versailles and La Caretta, who all appear in Time Out. Doce Provisions and its controversial soppressata, which featured in Time Out and The Infatuation, is the only other restaurant to appear on two lists.
The rules for making a great Miami Cuban sandwich also apply to any gourmet sandwich. The key to success is quality ingredients, well prepared. To learn more, take a look at our tips for making the ultimate gourmet sandwich.