Cafe Reviews

Sandwich Cubano: Born in Cuba, Developed in Key West

Like a Cuban cigar, a decent Cuban sandwich can be tough to find.

A take on mixto sandwiches in Cuba and an invention of cigar workers in Tampa's Ybor City in the early 1900s by Spanish, Italian, and Cuban immigrants fleeing poverty to seek new lives in America, the main ingredients of the Cuban sandwich (along with pickles, Swiss cheese, and mustard) take cues from each group: glazed ham from the Spaniards; bread and pork from the Cubans; and salami from the Italians.

When done right and avoiding blasphemous ingredients such as lettuce, mayo, and tomato (which dilute the flavor), this recognized and revered sandwich can be a traditional treat. And there's a decent one to be had right here in the Valley.

You can find a good Sandwich Cubano ($7.50) at Sabor Cubano, the restaurant serving tasty Cuban comfort food on West Camelback Road in Phoenix.

Sabor Cubano's version, closer to South Florida's rendition, in which the salami is omitted, provides a nice contrast of bread (in this case French, not Cuban) with the melted fats and of the meat in addition to notes of sharpness from the mustard and pickles, saltiness from the ham, and the subtle flavor of Swiss cheese.

Doing what history has taught it to do, the Cuban sandwich fills you up fast and has been called "a Latin-flavored equivalent of New Orleans' po' boy." Simply satisfying.

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld