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Cuban Sandwich in Tampa

eimac Aug 25, 2009 02:10 PM

I'm from Miami and my husband went to USF so we have divergent ideas about what makes a "good" Cuban sandwich. We're going to go to the aquarium and need a place for lunch. Is there anywhere we can go that will give him a " That's what makes Tampa.s better" moment?
I've looked on older postings, but there's nothing recent and he's looked up the restaurants he remembers and they don't seem to be there anymore.

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  1. Bayareafoodiei RE: eimac Aug 25, 2009 02:26 PM

    Hugo's or Brocatos, they are both fantastic!

    1. a
      andy huse RE: eimac Aug 25, 2009 03:44 PM

      I have had a long love affair with the sandwich.

      I was not impressed with Hugo's. They may have been good in the 1980s when they garenered awards, but not any more.

      Brocato's is good, but i don't their ham is very good. I prefer some of their other sandwiches. They do the pork well, tho.

      The Floridian does a pretty good job, but i found their house roasted turkey sandwich much more impressive.

      The Columbia has revamped their sandwich from top to bottom, unveiling the new sandwich in January, and it is impressive. I highly recommend it.

      1. t
        TampaNativeThatLovesNYC RE: eimac Aug 26, 2009 08:36 AM

        One of the more decent Cubans I have found in the area is La Segunda. I have not tried the Cuban at Columbia but I have heard it was good. I have to disagree with The Floridian, I only tried it once but it was pretty bad.

        4 Replies
        1. re: TampaNativeThatLovesNYC
          andy huse RE: TampaNativeThatLovesNYC Aug 26, 2009 03:43 PM

          La Segunda makes some of the best Cuban bread on the planet and supplies the Columbia. I need to try their sandwich! any excuse to get an almond crescent.

          1. re: andy huse
            tortambassador RE: andy huse Nov 23, 2009 06:10 AM

            I went to the Columbia this weekend to check out thier new and improved Cuban. Let me tell you I've never been so disappointed with a sandwich in my life. The swiss cheese wasn't even melted and the meat was cold on the inside of the sandwich. I can't believe they spent $30,000 on a new oven and Mr. Goznmart spent all that time researching about which cheese and Genoa salami he needed to import. Probably went down as one of the worst Cuban's I've ever had in Tampa. I was shocked that the chef would allow such a poor product to leave the kitchen. At $7.95 it wasn't just bad it was a total ripoff. Mr. Gonzmart you need to completly start over fro scratch. I hope non of the New Orleans tourists tha came here for the game stopped in. I would be embarrassed if they did. Columbia's Cuban isn't even in the top 25.

            1. re: tortambassador
              andy huse RE: tortambassador Nov 23, 2009 06:24 AM

              i just had one Thursday, and it was great. Sorry to hear about yours. There is no excuse for a poorly-pressed sandwich. But i do think you're barking up the wrong tree to personally blame the owner. He would not be pleased to hear about this and the offending kitchen personnel would feel his displeasure. I'd be interested in hearing where your favorite sandwiches are.

              1. re: tortambassador
                rshally RE: tortambassador Nov 23, 2009 02:50 PM

                The Cuban I recently ate at teh Columbia Cafe along the waterfront at teh Tampa Bay History Center near Channelside was AMAZING!! Perfect even...large could be shared amongst two people, generous helpings of perfectly roasted pork, ham and teh swiss cheese was generously melted....just get pickles and some mayo/mustard slathered on the crisp and toasty cuban bread....if it isnt as delcious as this sounds, then you just dont like Cuban sandwichs....

          2. r
            RibDog RE: eimac Aug 26, 2009 07:50 PM

            I have always enjoyed the Cuban sandwich at Cacciatore & Son on Armenia myself.

            17 Replies
            1. re: RibDog
              Mild Bill RE: RibDog Nov 23, 2009 03:05 PM

              ----checking my schedule to see what part of town I'm gonna be in tomorrow at lunch time.

              Oooooooh, 50th Street & I-4! Brocato's babaaaay!

              (& I agree with Andy about the ham on their Cuban, but I get it with extra cheese / no lettuce & tomato, and it's usually pretty good...)

              Might go with the roast pork, we'll see...

              1. re: Mild Bill
                askdrtodd RE: Mild Bill Nov 23, 2009 04:44 PM

                ooh I hear good things about brocato, how is it? Also West Tampa Sandwich Shop is really good, so is Arco Iris. My perfect cuban would be the guts of the cuban from Wright's Gourmet Deli on South Dale Mabry with the bread from the Floridian on Kennedy with the side of black bean soup from the Floridian. That would be perfect. My buddy and I spent a month trying to find the best cuban in Tampa (within 10ish minutes of the airport anyway) and I can tell you Hugo's went down a steeeeeep hill once they recieved those accolades. doesn't hold a candle to floridian. you walk in and to your left behind the counter is about 8 dozen pre made cubans, they just grab one, heat it and huck it on a plate. I won't ever be going back there again! Floridian and Wright's both make it when you order it.

                1. re: askdrtodd
                  Mild Bill RE: askdrtodd Nov 23, 2009 08:08 PM

                  Brocato's is a scene! A real hotspot...
                  Huge sandwiches and a big menu...
                  The roast pork they put on the Cuban is very tasty...
                  With proper orderin' it comes out good...

                  Really delicious & big deviled crabs too...
                  It's something they're known for and proud of...

                  I'll be there around 1:00 if you're able to meet me there!
                  If so I'll post my email...

                  1. re: Mild Bill
                    askdrtodd RE: Mild Bill Nov 24, 2009 03:15 AM

                    I'll ask my co-worker/lunch buddy, but by all means shoot me an email, my address is just my nickname on here at gmail.com

                    1. re: Mild Bill
                      rhnault RE: Mild Bill Nov 28, 2009 11:03 AM

                      We just tried to go to Brocato's but they were closed because of the holidays. I guess they are normally open on Sat for lunch. Oh well..... maybe next week.
                      Anyway, we went to the Columbia and had an awesome Cuban and salad. I also had a cup of calde galego and my husband had the gazpacho. Everything was very good. The meat on the Cuban was especially good and the sandwich was heated completely through, the cheese melted, and it was crispy.

                      1. re: rhnault
                        Mild Bill RE: rhnault Nov 28, 2009 04:27 PM

                        I think you were better off going to the Columbia for the Cuban--- something I plan on doing next week...

                        Brocato's sandwich is a big generous heavy version, that I'd get again, but little attempt is made for balance or artistry...
                        Mine was thick and kinda dry----- and even if I asked for extra mayo/mustard it still would have ended up a sandwich that was made with all the ingredients of a Cuban sandwich, but really isn't one... Somehow...

                        None of the ingredients were premium, and the bread was bland and a lil' chewy----- no magic in the flavor, crunch or texture...

                        A good pressing can heat up the meats inside and made them juicy, and the cheese melty, and that didn't happen...

                        When all that DOES happen--- with top shelf bread, meats, and cheeses, dressed & pressed with care, it'll be something special...

                        I can't believe I'm actually writing this, but I'd prefer 'the ideal' Cuban sandwich to be half the weight of Brocato's but twice the quality...

                        I had such perfect toasty pressed sandwiches in Argentina (even at the freakin' airport) and that gives me the hope that someone out there is making the perfect Cuban sandwich with that level of balance, texture, quality, and flavor, as their Holy Grail....

                        But like I said--- I'll stop in to Brocato's when I can, and play around in their menu... I love a friendly & generous spirit!
                        I certainly LOVED the Deviled Crab!

                        And I ran into Andy which was a big bonus!
                        We sat outside under the big awning at a picnic table in the rain...
                        It was beautiful!

                        1. re: Mild Bill
                          lowtone9 RE: Mild Bill Nov 28, 2009 05:29 PM

                          Mayonaisse? Lettuce and tomato? Pressed!?!

                          1. re: lowtone9
                            Mild Bill RE: lowtone9 Nov 28, 2009 06:37 PM

                            I think it was a mayo/mustard blend (which I normally prefer), if not all mustard--- but there was nowhere near enough to moisten the sandwich...

                            No lettuce or tomato by request this time...
                            The first time I had their Cuban it had lettuce and tomato and it diluted the flavors as Andy described somewhere...

                            Pressed, yes---- but it didn't have the right effect...

                            The top just got a little harder, not toasty or crispy in any way...

                            What Rebekah (rhnault) is describing below is what I'm looking forward to consuming ASAP... It sounds right...

                            Come to Papa!

                          2. re: Mild Bill
                            rhnault RE: Mild Bill Nov 28, 2009 05:29 PM

                            The meat was very high quality today. The ham had a really wonderful flavor, as did the roast pork and salami. All 3 were very well distinguishable in each bite. Plus the sandwich was completely heated through without being over pressed and having a tough top layer.

                            1. re: rhnault
                              lowtone9 RE: rhnault Nov 29, 2009 12:02 PM

                              Plese forgive me, but I'm on a crusade against pressed Cubans. Partly, it's because the sandwiches i grew up with in the 50's, 60's, and 70's were never pressed, but heated and lightly toasted. They were never dressed with mayonnaise, or lettuce and tomato, either. Now, i understand, eat what you like, but for me personally, there is no other way.

                              Another part is that a primary ingredient, the one with the highest individual worth, is the bread. The texture and flavor of Fresh Tampa Cuban Bread, baked on the same day it is eaten, is unique, and if you press it, you might as well be eating Winn Dixie cuban-shaped french bread, or even the miami version.

                              I don't blame miamians for pressing their bread, I would too, but there is no reason to be ashamed of Tampa bread!

                              1. re: lowtone9
                                andy huse RE: lowtone9 Nov 29, 2009 05:40 PM

                                you bring up an excellent point, and Tampa has the best Cuban bread in the state. I know many restaurants warmed their sandwiches in ovens before presses became common. warming sandwiches open faced in the oven would probably produce a superior result overall, browning more surface area than a placha. i understand how toasting the sandwiches would allow the structure of the bread to shine, rather than crushing it in the press. which restaurants had the warming ovens? did the presses take root after castro or when? this is an important distinction between old and new Cubans...

                                I also find that the ham is often discounted as an ingredient, and we often find wet boiled ham with little flavor.

                                1. re: andy huse
                                  lowtone9 RE: andy huse Dec 2, 2009 02:35 PM

                                  In the time frame i mentioned, all the restaurants used a toaster as far as i know. Mine were most often bought from the Silver Ring. There were also a few joints on 22nd and 21st down towards Hooker's Point that served excellent cubans. All of the restauarants, Cafe Pepe, Valencia, Spanish Park, etc... served similar, but I'm not sure about the Columbia or Las Novadadis.

                                  I believe that pressing started gaining favor in the eighties, and was imported from Cuba via Miami, where the bread is of course, mediocre.

                                  I certainlt agree that the trend toward using real, good quality, jamon and roast pork in place of processed "flat meat" is more important than whether or not the bread is pressed or toasted.

                                  these things are important to me...

                                  1. re: lowtone9
                                    andy huse RE: lowtone9 Dec 2, 2009 03:34 PM

                                    the columbia had a warming oven especially for the bread/sandwich in the 1940s. i think the press started getting into the mix in the 1960s but i'm not sure.

                                    1. re: lowtone9
                                      Mild Bill RE: lowtone9 Dec 2, 2009 04:35 PM

                                      I popped into the Arco Iris Cafe at Tampa Bay Blvd & Habana (I think) to check theirs out...
                                      Here we had good pressed, toasty, crispy, bread---- and then 'a cheap ham sandwich'... It was cool/cold inside...
                                      One slice of lunchmeat pork that was undetectable--- no salami--- swiss was ok, and the mayo/mustard blend was sufficient and tasty...

                                      The menu and specials board was full of awesome things I wish I got instead.... Oxtails, Lamb Shanks, all kinds of stuff that I'm sure was off the charts...
                                      Arco Iris on Columbus is awesome....

                              2. re: Mild Bill
                                andy huse RE: Mild Bill Nov 30, 2009 06:27 PM

                                i totally agree that a big sandwich does not equal a good sandiwch. it is like the ideal slice of pizza: everything should be in proportion and the flavors balanced.

                                1. re: andy huse
                                  RibDog RE: andy huse Nov 30, 2009 06:31 PM


                                  1. re: RibDog
                                    Qball RE: RibDog May 22, 2014 01:01 PM

                                    I'm heading to Tampa soon and see that this hasnt been updated since 2009. What's the best spot to get a cuban sandwich now?? thanks!!

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