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Cuban Sandwich between TIA & Busch Gardens

Hi all

My 16 year old grandaughter is flying in this weekend..We are going to Busch gardens right from the airport...But 1st she will definately want a cuban...someplace casual & quick...Thanks,Vicki

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  1. La Teresita --

    La Teresita
    3302 W Columbus Dr, Tampa, FL 33607

    1. Arco Iris on Columbus Blvd.
      Not far from the route you have to take from the airport to Bush Gardens

      2 Replies
      1. re: TampaPete

        While Arco Iris is my go to place for Cuban food, I like Cacciatore & Son at 3614 N. Armenia for their Cuban Sandwich. And try a deviled crab also if you get to Cacciatore.


        Arco Iris Cafe
        4001 N Habana Ave, Tampa, FL 33607

        1. re: RibDog

          Definitely stop at Cacciatore's for the deviled crab and Cuban sandwiches. The bread pudding they make is also pretty good.

          La Teresita is also pretty good. Make sure to try the daily special.

      2. I dig the cuban at the Floridian, along with their bean soup and great hot sauce, it's among my faves. May not be perfectly true to style but it's close enough and they do a nice job with the bread (I think they put a bit of butter on the press before pressing them). Also I love the innards of the Wright's cuban, but the bread rarely does anything for me.

        7 Replies
        1. re: askdrtodd

          i find that the Floridian's house roasted turket sandwich is actually better than thair Cuban. Girlfriend ordered it and i was surprised. The Cuban is okay, but the turkey surpised me.

          1. re: andy huse

            sweet, now I know what I'm getting for lunch!

              1. re: RibDog

                I'll be there @11:30 if you wanna join!

                1. re: askdrtodd

                  hrm. Floridian was not as good as I remember, Bill & I went and got a cuban and a turkey sandwich, and split both, and a couple devil crabs. Ironically the highlight of the meal for me was the bean soup sides (we tried both black bean and Floridian bean). Meat was a bit sparse albeit tasty. I think I'll hit Wrights one day this week and Colombian one day too...

                  1. re: askdrtodd

                    I have heard that their soup is good.

                  2. re: askdrtodd

                    Sorry, did not get your message in time.

          2. La Ideal on Tampa Bay Blvd. Excellent Medianoches here also.

            1 Reply
            1. re: the_sneeb

              I second this. They have what is easily one of the best Cuban sandwiches I've eaten.

            2. If you want to get a bit historical, you could always pop into the deli at La Segunda Bakery, on 15th St down in Ybor, for a Cuban and some pastries...


              1. I suggest the Columbia in Ybor. I ate one today that had me swooning. Call your order ahead and pick it up in the bar/cafe. Ask for it pressed well. Probably an extra 20 minutes to your trip to get the best in Tampa.

                7 Replies
                1. re: andy huse

                  Knowing that you wrote a book about the history of the Columbia in Ybor and are partial to their food, I have had their Cuban and although it's O.K , I certainly am not "swooning" for another in the immediate future.

                  1. re: kenr

                    then tell me where to get the best.

                    1. re: andy huse

                      I haven't been able to find one better than the Columbia. The ones at the Cafe are not quite as swoon worthy as the ones in Ybor but even they are better than anywhere else in town.

                  2. re: andy huse

                    I'm with Andy -- the Columbia is still the best -- I just didn't mention it because it's not on the way from TIA to BG.

                    1. re: andy huse

                      I think I'll try the Columbia cuban manana. Sadly I spent about a month eating a different cuban nearly every day and still couldn't find the "perfect" one

                      1. re: askdrtodd

                        What makes the one at the Columbia so good for me is the quality of the meats and the freshness of the bread. Each component could stand on it's own in a sandwich and be a winner.

                      2. re: andy huse

                        andy i can just picture you swooning :) i've never had their cuban, but it's now on my wish list.

                      3. Oh man, Bill & I had a Cuban today at Wrights that is going to be damn hard to beat. that thing was tasty.

                        1. Wrights is a damn good cuban, they are in the top 5 for sure. The others in my top 5 are Castellano&pizzo, west Tampa sandwich shop (honey cuban) , Columbia, & Roberts BBQ.
                          ...and i have done extensive research all over the bay area, lots of ather good ones, but i am super picky about cubans

                          23 Replies
                          1. re: TrevorDavis

                            I have NO idea what the name of place might be, but there's a divey little sandwich shop right by St Pete Airport -- one-story brick place on the south side of Roosevelt.

                            I still prefer the Columbia, but that no-name little shack cranks out some ROCKIN Cubans.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Airport Variety Store! My dad lives in Clearwater and I make a point to stop by every visit for Cubans. I've had them from the Columbia and they're good but AVS is just as good. Black beans are good too.

                              1. re: MandalayVA

                                that's the one. I knew it had a name that was pretty mundane, but couldn't remember what it was.

                            2. re: TrevorDavis

                              If you are super picky then please let me ask a question about the Wright's cuban. How can it be called a Cuban sandwich with turkey in it. That is not a cuban but some other facsimile of a Cuban. Historically, it is incorrect.

                              1. re: RibDog

                                I certainly detected no turkey in the sandwich at Wright's today, and when I read the ingredients on the wall there I 'don't remember' seeing it listed, but it IS on the web menu...
                                And their Cuban had a specific name--- like maybe they were givng it license to be a variation... ???? I'll go back SOON to clarify...

                                But the thing was juicy, crispy, & way delicious... Pressed well...
                                It was actually the closest to The Columbia's Cuban that I've had---- although today's had an extra slice of cheese which amplified its' contribution just as I hoped...

                                We'll hit The Columbia next, and then this other place that was highly recommended to me...

                                I asked Andy if he ever tried the Cuban at 'this other place' on Columbus and he said no, but was interested, so maybe a few of us can arrange a fun quick, casual, lunch soon...

                                1. re: Mild Bill

                                  Cool cool. Yeah I don't recall any turkey in the cuban at wrights, but (Andy correct me if I'm wrong) weren't the true traditional cubans not even pressed? I mean if the sandwich is 90% authentic, in my mind that's authentic enough, you have to allow for someone's take on something otherwise cubans in theory would never taste any different (because they'd all use the same bread, etc). Same with the Banh Mi, my favorite Banh Mi is probably not perfectly authentic because I slap a bunch of non-Vietnamese asian condiments on it but I still appreciate that it's almost completely authentic :)

                                  Bill you wanna do Colombia today? While the other cuban is fresh in our minds?

                                  1. re: askdrtodd

                                    We did the Colombia today, Cuban was good, but not any better than the one we had at Wrights. Definitely better than Floridian's though. I think the bread was where it fell short, good cheese/meat inside, but the interior was definitely lacking the unctuous quality we got at Wright's, even though we may have just caught Wright's on a good day. The beef martini we had at Wrights was pretty underwhelming and I remember that I loved that sandwich the previous times I had it.

                                    The mustard on the Columbia's was barely existent, and there was no mayo at all (although I don't know if that's a traditional ingredient or not), which didn't bother me because I really don't care for non-homemade mayo/aioli. The presentation was by far the best at the Columbia, they cut it diagonally down the entire sandwich, very pretty. I believe the sandwich was about 8 or 9 dollars though, which is slightly higher than Wright's. Cubans really shouldn't cost more than 5 or 6 bucks in my humble opinion, but that's just that, my opinion.

                                    Service was excellent and the restaurant is beautiful, we sat in the skylit room by the fountain and really enjoyed that aspect of it. Enjoyed the little devil crab's too, they were mostly crab with very little breading, some of the better devil crab I've had.

                                    Going to try to hit Brocatos tomorrow if possible.

                                    1. re: askdrtodd

                                      yeah, the Columbia is sparing with cheese, and don't add any mayo. The bread is La Segunda, which is my favorite in town. with the Columbia, it is about proportion, not amount of fillings, like a thin crust pizza. The price is a little high, but if you judge food only by the price, you're really issing the point. The myth that a Cuban has to be $4-$5 has done more harm to the sandwich than anything else. If we used the same definition for burgers, there wouldn't be many great burgers around. For those kinds of prices, I'd expect boiled ham and deli pork. I'll throw down more coin for something that has a little love in it.

                                      But that's just me. We share our subjective preferences here and I certainly don't expect everyone to agree. Wrights and the Columbia are surely at the top of the sandwich heap. Brocato's is impressive for its size, but the ham is weak. Last time I had it the pork was pretty good, tho. I actually prefer the all-pork sandwich at Brocato's over the Cuban.

                                  2. re: Mild Bill

                                    I've always felt the food at the Columbia was "so, so," at best. But recently (last couple of years) they re-formulated their cuban, and it is now damn good. I'm not going to guess at who's is the best, but the Columbia's are now up there.

                                    Castellano's are hit and miss, for me. I've had some that wowed me then other times I was unimpressed. I don't know why.

                                    Brocato's is always good too.

                                    Used to be a place on Gandy, near Bayshore, that had what I considered the best, but its been closed for a while now. Too bad.

                                    Wrights is definitely good, but the price of the thing is outrageous, compared to everyone else in town. Maybe that's what you have to pay for quality ingredients.

                                    I always loved the old Silver Ring in Ybor. I loved that the old guy would get pissed if you asked for it pressed. They had no press, just a toaster or small oven. I think he claimed that the press was a new fangled invention, and the original way to do it was to toast it

                                    1. re: Old E.

                                      I love Brocato's pressed all the way, too, but somehow I always manage to get sidetracked by their deviled crabs and stuffed potatoes. I used to work around the corner from Brocato's, and remember when all of Michael's boys were born.

                                      (is it okay if it makes me a little nauseous to think that Michael's boys are now old enough to have boys of their own?)

                                      Brocato's Sandwich Shop
                                      5021 E Columbus Dr, Tampa, FL 33619

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        to really test a sandwich, I take a small portion of the sandwich and eat the ingredients individually. The pork and ham should be able to stand on their own. wet, boiled ham is verboten in my book.

                                        I had Wright's sandwich a while ago, and it was good. didn't blow me away. the other sandwich I had, I think the Golden Gate, was better. Many old Ybor folks remember turlkey being a sometimes ingredient. The Columbia added turkey after thanksgiving in the 40s and 50s, but not the rest of the year. all I'm saying is that turkey wasn't unheard of. but lettuce and tomato was for salads, not sandwiches.

                                        I had Castellano and Pizzo a few weeks ago, and it was a good sandwich, but the Proscuitto Delight outshined it.

                                        Brocato's is good, but the ham is lacking. I'm sad to say i think the place is slipping. My beloved meatball sandwich is a mess of breaded/FRIED meatballs now. I almost wept at the travesty!

                                        Golden Gate
                                        213 S Tyndall Pkwy, Panama City, FL 32404

                                        1. re: andy huse

                                          NOOOO! Fried meatballs? Say it ain't so!

                                          Andy, do you remember JD's at the corner of 21st and 7th? Man, I ate my weight in Cubans and their Ybor burgers.Their Friday Trout a la Russe was the best around, and it was CHEAP. Good thing; I was paying tuition!

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            never had the pleasure of eating at JD's.

                                            1. re: andy huse

                                              pity -- they were good. Timo was one of the weekend cooks at the Seabreeze, but he had JDs for his daily income.

                                              Speedy Brown's was another good Ybor Cuban.

                                              (gawd, this thread makes me feel old! )

                                          2. re: andy huse

                                            Well, then I stand corrected on the turkey issue. But in my many years, especially listening to Andy also, I had never heard of turkey being on a Cuban sandwich.

                                        2. re: Old E.

                                          Bayshore Market, may it rest in piece, had excellent sandwiches. Their cuban was awesome. Wright's definitely has turkey, but that is not a detractor. Probably my favorite cuban, albeit a mouth-lacerating son of bitch. I've read somewhere that Castellano got bought out by a couple of Yankees, hopefully that doesn't effect their cubans. I always get a few XL cubans dry and unpressed from C&L to take back home with to Dallas to prolong my fix. Hey Doc, I saw on the Nashville forum that you were around Vanderbilt recently. Any good hot spots?

                                          1. re: the_sneeb

                                            I'm actually going in a couple weeks, but that City House spot really seems like the place to be. I have reservations there and at Watermark. Kind of a PITA that very few if any of the places the CH'ers love in Nashville aren't open for lunch!

                                            If only Andy Huse would open a Cuban Sandwich Food Truck (hint hint). Then I would be in heaven. And he would be a gabillionarie.

                                            Well at least a thousandaire, but it would be a great service to this great city and it's hungry inhabitants.

                                            1. re: askdrtodd

                                              believe me, i've thought about it! I'm also a big fan of breakfast Cubans...

                                              1. re: andy huse

                                                I'm still stuck on toasted Cuban bread with butter and dunked in a BIG cup of Cuban coffee. Media y media, por favor.

                                      2. re: RibDog

                                        picky as in "better taste damn good!" rather than picky "historically accurate". I go lettuce tomato too which some folks don't agree with as well. The airport variety store is the stand alone on roosevelt across from the airport entrance, they are very traditional there.

                                      3. re: TrevorDavis

                                        I've only had the Medianoche from West Tampa Sammich Shop, but it was darn good!

                                        1. re: askdrtodd

                                          I usually get the Soup and Sandwich combo whenever we go (Garbanzo Bean Soup and Cuban).

                                          I only wish the parking was better.

                                          1. re: deet13

                                            I went at 11:30 and parking was super easy, got off I-4 at 21st st, parked in the lot immediately north of the columbia. There were a ton of spots.

                                      4. Went to West Tampa Sandwich Shop today and neighboring Caccitore & Sons. Weather was INSANE.

                                        WTSS had lettuce & tomato on theirs (which I tried a couple bites of before picking it off), which was an initial disappointment, but after removing it, I really liked theirs. It had real shredded roast pork on it (although not much), perfect bread, perfect press, great texture, tasty meat (razor thin shaved ham). The cheese they used had a bit of funk to it, not bad but I didn't think it added anything to the sandwich. If they doubled the amount of meat I think this could be my favorite... Their devil crab was excellent, good size (not quite as big as brocatos, but close) a bit more breading than I prefer, but wonderfully seasoned and just slightly spicy crab filling. the tab was only $6.50 for the sandwich and the devil crab, and the ladies working behind the counter and serving the food were sweethearts. Nice experience.

                                        My co-worked called me when I was walking out to the car asking if I could bring him back a sandwich, so I went over to Caccitore & Sons to try theirs, which was recommended to me by RibDog on this board. I got them to cut a slice out of the middle so I could try it there (and so my buddy wouldn't see a bite taken out of it, heh), it had a generous amount of thicker sliced ham in it, which unfortunately was still cold (even though the lady pressed it for nearly 10 minutes) and kind of threw the sandwich off for me. It was otherwise good although a little salty from all the ham, and everyone working there was also very friendly and pleasant.

                                        I still haven't found the perfect Cuban. Not giving up yet.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: askdrtodd

                                          I've heard the cuban at Kalupa's is good, but I don't recall ever having it.


                                          1. re: askdrtodd

                                            WTSS is like walking back in time. Love the old Tampa crowd. Last time i was there, a pretty lady walked in and all the conversations in the place came to a screeching halt while all the old Latin men oggled her thoroughly.

                                            1. re: askdrtodd

                                              The Honey Cuban and the Palomilla sandwiches are pretty good too.

                                            2. I have lived in the Tampa area for over 30 years and have always liked the Cuban sandwiches at Pipos on Hillsborough Ave. in Town and Country area.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: Peeler1

                                                I like their food but if memory serves correct they use the boiled ham. Though it has been a while since I have had a Cuban sandwich there.

                                                1. re: rhnault

                                                  They may used boiled ham, not sure, but they taste pretty good. I need to try the one at the Columbia, never think of ordering a sandwich there. We do like their 1905 salad though.

                                                  1. re: Peeler1

                                                    when we go we split a 1905 and each get the half and half. My husband gets the 1/2 Cuban and the Gazpacho and I get the 1/2 Cuban and Calde Galllejo. On the half and half you can upgrade to a whole sandwich for a dollar or 2 more. Then you might have leftovers!

                                              2. While it's anything but authentic, wife & I shared a "Havana Hottie" @ Datz last night and it was really damn tasty. Probably the generous quantity of high quality ingredients. Ask for it extra pressed with extra hot sweet mustard, I know it's not a traditional cuban, but neither is the Mi Cubano at Cafe Hey and that one is damn good too :)

                                                15 Replies
                                                1. re: askdrtodd

                                                  If it was authentic it wouldn't be pressed!

                                                  1. re: Tom Scherberger

                                                    The sandwich press has been around for over 50 years and some folks used a tailor's iron for pressing before then. I think it is safe to press the sandwich. Now, lettuce and tomato are another matter.

                                                    1. re: andy huse

                                                      Ugh. I can tolerate a lot of "interpretation" but lettuce & tomato are a no thanks for me.

                                                      1. re: askdrtodd

                                                        Actually I think "authenticity'' limits creativity. Who cares if it's authentic if it tastes good?

                                                        1. re: Tom Scherberger

                                                          I think it becomes impossible to define authentic, or to define something AS authentic. What makes one person's interpretation less authentic than another's? Who knows what was done when and by whom in the past? My 2 cents... thereby allowing interpretation to be authentic.

                                                          1. re: Old E.

                                                            We have historians and researchers who help define events of the past.

                                                          2. re: Tom Scherberger

                                                            It might taste great, but that does not make it a Cuban sandwich.

                                                            1. re: rhnault

                                                              What about Cubans who come here and make a sandwich, that they have beem making for 50 years, just like their mother's sandwich, but it is different than your concept of a Cuban sandwich... which one is MORE authentic.

                                                              Historians are now the purveyors of Authenticity? I bet they would be unable to give you a specific recipe that was the mother of all recipes. Everything went through some sort of evolution.

                                                              My point is, the term authenticity is an intangible. Each interpretation is no more or less authentic than the next.

                                                              1. re: Old E.

                                                                I thought we were talking about the "authentic" Tampa Cuban sandwich. This does not seem to me to be something that is hard to define. I don't think we are talking about random Cubans who come here and make a sandwich. There is a specific Tampa version that has already been traced back to its roots.

                                                                1. re: rhnault

                                                                  Andy has spent more time researching this than I, so I'll defer to him, but I'm pretty sure it was the Anglos in Tampa who started calling mixto sandwiches Cuban sandwiches because that's who was making them, and sometimes they included turkey, which no one would consider authentic any more. And while sometimes they were pressed, they often were not. I moved to Tampa in 1980 and pressed Cuban sandwiches were not nearly as common as they are today. At the Silver Ring and La Tropicana, two landmarks in Ybor City, the sandwiches were warmed in an oven, if you wanted, though the default sandwich was cold. I think it was non-Cubans who added mayo and lettuce and tomato, so that probably wouldn't be "authentic" and doesn't work well when pressed. And only in Tampa do they include salami; Miami Cubans don't think the Tampa version is authentic (and they slice their ham too thick, imho).

                                                                  La Tropicana Cafe
                                                                  1822 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605

                                                                2. re: Old E.

                                                                  The semantics don't hold water.

                                                                  Yes, a sandwich prepared by someone from Cuba could correctly be termed a Cuban Sandwich, or even Cuban's Sandwich. (it's considerably less Cuban if it's prepared with ingredients not from Cuba, no?)

                                                                  But this conversation is about the *Cuban Sandwich*, which is the working and common name of a sandwich first created in Tampa, for which the documented history is long and detailed.

                                                                  There's even a competition every year or two as to who makes the best one -- read Richard Gonzmart's explanation of just how important a Cuban sandwich is to the Columbia:


                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    my comments are meant to be more generalized. Apply to tacos, sushi, cheese steaks... doesn't matter. I don't believe anything is "authentic." I think it is a made up term or concept that can never be proven. One guys authentic is another guys not authentic. Perhaps I'm just not making sense, or simply, no one agrees. Sorry for beating a dead horse.

                                                                    1. re: Old E.

                                                                      Absent a sanctioning body, with objective standards (like balsamic vinegar, for instance), you cannot measure "authenticity."

                                                                      Go to New York, ask 100 New Yorkers what the most "authentic" NY pizza is in the city. You will get 90-100 different answers.

                                                                      1. re: bagofwater

                                                                        True, that! Same with Philly cheesesteaks. You can start a fight over Cheese Wiz. vs. provolone (or white American).

                                                                        1. re: Tom Scherberger

                                                                          I will likely be thought less of for this, but for me authenticity holds water only if the (more authentic) final product is more exciting when I pay my hard earned money to eat it. This is the most evident thorn in my side with Japanese food. If you think for a minute that Japanese people make & eat friggin onion ring volcanoes and fried inside out chicken sushi, or that all Chinese people eat is sweet & sour beef, you're sorely mistaken. This is where authentic cuisine would dominate the Americanized version. To keep things on topic, I think the "cubans" I've eaten at Wrights or Datz have been not 100% authentic, but I would take in a heartbeat over most of the ones I've had that are whatever are currently defined by our most reliable sources as the spot-on definition of a cuban sandwich. Too much is left up to semantics and interpretation as it is to discount the cuban-inspired sandwiches available to us.

                                                    2. I have tried quite a few of the aforementioned places, but the best I have found was recently at the Cup of Organic Coffee Shop between Land O Lakes and Wesley chapel. They get their bread from LaSegunda in Ybor and use mostly organic