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Cuban Sandwiches - Manhattan Dish of the Month August 2012

Announcing the August 2012 New York City Dish of the Month: Cuban Sandwiches

Link to Voting Thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/860481
Link to Nomination Thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/859603

The goal is to collectively try as many versions of Cuban sandwiches as possible during the month of August! So let's start exploring and eating—report back with reviews and photos of the best Cuban sandwiches you can find.

This is the reporting thread for Manhattan. There's a separate thread for Outer Boroughs here:http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/861174

Looking forward to seeing what people try!

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  1. I like the cuban candwich at Sophie's a lot but am curious to know of any others that are worth trying.

    1. Epicerie Boulud's Cubano is definitely worth a trip uptown.

      Suckling pig confit, jambon de Paris
      gruyère cheese, housemade pickle
      triple mustard on pressed ciabatta

      1 Reply
      1. re: coasts

        Good call Coasts. The Epicerie Boulud Cubano was delicious though perhaps a bit overstuffed to be a true Cuban sandwich. Not that I'm complaining...

      2. La Flor de Broadway:
        3395 Broadway by city college. Around $4.00, and very good.

        1. The Cannibal has a tasty pigs head cuban with smoked ham, gruyere and pickles.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Scott_C

            Would start with these:

            - La Flor de Broadway (Bwy/138th); classic

            - El Floridita (Bwy/176th)--with a bit of extra garlic; Dominican-influenced

            -Margon (136 w 46th): cheap, good, and near the theatre

            -Sophie's Cuban Cuisine (I like the 369 Lex branch)

            - Cafe Habana (17 Prince): a bit fancier, but only $9.50 and served for a sit-down dinner.

            - El Cobre (95 Avenue A); more like cuban-sliders, but really good.

              1. re: strangemd

                I'll second Margon. That place is really solid, especially for the prices.

            1. + on Cannibal - their pig's head Cubano is awesome (as is a lot of their other fare)!

              1. Listing the sandwich as a "Cuban sandwich" doesn't make it a Cuban sandwich. A prerequisite of a Cuban sandwich is the bread must be Pan de Agua. Use any other bread and it just becomes an undistinguished sandwich. I'm not saying the other sandwiches are unlikeable but, only that they are not as described.
                It is like making a paella and using the wrong rice.

                9 Replies
                1. re: makko

                  Makko, who do you recommend, pan de agua-wise?

                  1. re: knucklesandwich

                    I only know about Miami restaurants. I gave up looking for it in Manhattan. Union City is probably the nearest town that has Cuban bakeries for pan de agua & either make the sandwich or could steer you to a restaurant that does. Good luck!

                  2. re: makko

                    I didn't know there was a group that was in charge of Cuban Sandwich Laws & Bylaws. Perhaps you'd care to share the name of this organization? Are they federal - part of the FDA, maybe?

                    Is the "first" (or what you assume is the first) version of something the only "authentic" version of it? How much is a dish allowed to vary from it's supposed first formation before it can no longer be named such? Certainly one couldn't pass off a hamburger as a Banh Mi, but I think most people would agree there's some leeway.

                    (I hesitate to bring this up, as I feel "authenticity" in cuisine is mostly nonsense to begin with, and it doesn't have squat to do with quality, anyway...)

                    1. re: sgordon

                      I'm with makko on the bread is key. Wikipedia isn't necessarily the bible but it starts by saying -

                      While there is some debate as to the contents of a "true" Cuban sandwich, most are generally agreed upon. The traditional Cuban sandwich starts with Cuban bread. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_sa...

                      Cuban bread is different too - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_bread

                      I has a similar theory on the outer boroughs thread on the same question.

                      Having grown up eating cuban sandwiches in Florida, I have not found one in NYC that compares.

                      ETA: That's not to say that there is only one authentic recipe. I've had arguments about whether mustard is supposed to be used or not, type of pickle, which cut of pork for the roast, etc. Plenty of shops in Tampa made slightly different sandwiches. But the bread is important. Everything I find here is typically too hard, too crusty or too soft.

                      1. re: Bkeats

                        I do find that people tend to lean towards the first version they personally tried of something - or, perhaps, the first version that they liked - as being the "authentic" one, be it Pho or Banh Mi or Ramen or any of the oft-debated dishes on these boards.

                        As Bkeats pointed out, one could just as easily disqualify a Cubano for its choice of pickle or cut of pork or condiments. Heck, as the Wikipedia article states, salami even makes appearances in some area - is that no longer a Cubano?

                        I suppose to some extent it depends on how far one can stretch from the original (whatever the original may be) and still be considered by the same name. I would say it's a bit conservative to insist that there can be no variation whatsoever. After all, if makko must insist on every term only being used for its original form, then forget the type of rice in paella - in truth, a paella would only ever contain rice, beans, eel, and... rodent. Water Vole, specifically. Anything else would not be a "true" paella...


                        But on the subject of NYC Cubanos - I'm quite partial to the one at Cibao on Clinton & Rivington. That said, I've been going there for some time and they usually load me up with crispy skin the way I like it, so it's a bit personalized to my taste.

                    2. re: makko

                      I agree. If this was a best sandwich thread, or best Cubano interpretation, I'd be interested, but I read this thread as "Best Cuban" and we should be going for authenticity here.

                      1. re: evdiner

                        Well, here's an idea - how about those who find that all Cubanos in NYC fail the "authenticity" test just stay out of the discussion? Let the rest of us who aren't as conservative of opinion weigh in, since obviously none of you are going to offer any thoughts on what the best Cubano in NYC is, as none of you believe we even have Cubanos to begin with.

                        It's a bit like asking a roomful of creationists to weigh in on a discussion of evolutionary biology...

                        1. re: sgordon

                          Hi all,

                          Glad to see there is lots of enthusiasm about Cuban sandwiches. Please remember to keep this discussion focused on food. I personally would love to read a report on an authentic Cuban sandwich, and details about why that particular sandwich is authentic are always great. I'd also be interested in hearing about any Cuban sandwich that New York hounds find delicious, whether it's authentic or not. Everyone is very welcome to be part of the discussion.

                          It may be worth pointing out now that the idea of Dish of the Month is to actually go eat and report back....always helpful to hear where people's favorites are, but I'd love to be reading up-to-date reports (ideally with pics) of the best Cuban sandwiches that you're eating now.

                          1. re: Dave MP

                            This is information which is over a year old, but El Castillo de Jagua on 113 Rivington Street makes a nice Cuban sandwich. Not sure how authentic the bread is, but good

                    3. I once had a deep fried cuban sandwich somewhere in the Village, but I can't remember where. I enjoyed it more than the authentic versions in South Beach.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: MrGrumpy

                        That would've been Carteles - the egg-dipped / deep fried one. Good stuff.

                        1. re: sgordon

                          I'm not gonna be able to stand up for a minute or two....

                          1. re: sgordon

                            Sadly, it's closed. I went looking 'cause it sounded delicious, though I suppose it's not "authentic."

                            1. re: strangemd

                              The deep fried cuban sandwich was coma-inducing but memorable. RIP.

                        2. My favorite Cubanos in Manhattan are from:
                          El Castillo De Jagua

                          1. I went to A.G. Kitchen (269 Columbus AveBtwn 72nd & 73rd St) a couple of weeks back just for their Cuban sandwich. On the menu, it is self-proclaimed as "NYC's Best Cubano". It certainly may be New York's most expensive, weighing in a $15.00 at lunch. At first bite, I was surprised to find how sweet it was. I'm not sure of the source, but the sweetness was almost cloying. The roast pork, when tasted on its own, was quite yummy, but it was lost in this unexpected sweetness. I won't be back for the cubano.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: skinny cook

                              I think that's the place I went to.

                              Maybe you had it on a bad day, or I had it on a good one.

                            2. There's a relatively new place in the west 70s that had a really good Cuban sandwich. I think it was on Columbus,on east side of avenue. Can't remember the name of place.

                              1. Cafe Cito on Ave C makes a good Cubano Sandwich

                                1. Just as an FYI: The Cuban Sandwich at Sidecar on 5th Ave in Brooklyn, was amazing. (And the kitchen is open till 4am.)

                                  1. For those who don't care about tradition, the cuban croissant at Mmomofuku Milk Bar is perfectly delicious.