The Cuban sandwich recipe arrived in Tampa and Miami in the 1960s, as Cuban people emigrated from the island in droves after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. In the following years, the recipe made its way west, eventually reaching Phoenix.
A Cuban sandwich is generally served on Cuban bread, a unique dough that contains lard in addition to flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. In Phoenix, it's challenging to locate bakers who make Cuban bread in the traditional style of adding a palmetto leaf atop the dough when baking to provide a distinguished flavor to the rising bread. But local chefs and sandwich makers have improvised, creating their own flavors with the Cuban-born treat.
Also called Cubanos, the sandwiches are stuffed with lots of protein. The lineup typically includes ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. Some places add salami.
In Cuba, the sandwiches were just that, sandwiches. But as Cubans made them in the U.S., people started calling them Cuban sandwiches to differentiate from standard American varieties. Nowadays in the U.S., as food and cultures borrow from each other and blend, Cuban sandwiches are no exception to that rule.
Here are three different ways to enjoy a version of a Cuban sandwich across metro Phoenix, on the national holiday or otherwise.
The Canal Club
4925 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
480-424-6095Walking into The Canal Club inside The Scott Resort & Spa in Scottsdale feels like a time warp of sorts, bringing to mind a classy Havana resort in the 1930s. The Canal Club's indoor and outdoor dining area is packed with earth tones, accented with pastel blue, yellow, and pink colored decor. Plants, trees and green-colored paintings surround the rattan furniture and matching decor.
Outside, by the swimming pool, a projector plays old black and white movies above one of the few cabanas where customers can eat. The Havana theme continues in the inside dining room where Rumba and Cancion Cubana music play on the loudspeakers.
The space provides the perfect setting to order a Cubano. The sandwich is handcrafted with braised pork, ham, baby Swiss, sweet and spicy pickles, and chipotle aioli, served on a bolillo roll, a shorter version of a baguette usually baked in a stone oven and famous in Mexico.
The Cubano, which cost $16, comes with a choice of french fries, black beans, or a bowl of freshly sliced fruit. Add an egg to the layers of meat and cheese for an extra $3. The egg sets off the sandwich, its texture and taste balancing out the crispy bread and seasoned meat.
466 West Ray Road, Chandler
480-899-1879Chandler's Los Kaciques pizzeria is decorated with framed photos depicting various people and places in Cuba. While the spot sells lots of pizzas and pasta, management stacked the other half of the menu with Cuban cuisine.
The large selection of food here is written in both Spanish and English. Rabo Encendido, or Cuban oxtail stew, is a favorite dinner to order in the colder months. The grilled Cuban ham and cheese sandwich, served with fries, is sold as an appetizer to share or as a hearty lunch. It costs $9.
A Malta Goya drink for $3 pairs perfectly with Los Kaciques's Cuban sandwich. The sweet molasses carbonated beverage is brewed from hops and barley, but it's non-alcoholic and thick in texture. Finish your meal with a wide variety of Cuban desserts or a $2 Cuban espresso.
Cornish Pasty Co.
480-894-6261Cornish Pasty Co. has multiple locations throughout metro Phoenix. First opened in 2005, the restaurant was inspired by the handheld pastries traditionally served to the miners of Cornwall in southwestern England.
The restaurant chain carries the theme to the Cubano, their take on the Cuban sandwich packed with ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, mustard, and a healthy portion of pulled Mojo pork. Mojo pork, an original ingredient used in the Tampa and Miami sandwiches, is pork shoulder that is slowly cooked in a blend of spices, citrus juices, and garlic.
Here, instead of Cuban bread, the Cubano is served tucked into a pasty and garnished with a choice of mustard cream sauce, extra yellow mustard, or spicy mustard. The Cubano pasty cost $15.50