Tampa’s Most Famous Food – The Cuban Sandwich

The City of Tampa is a very vibrant culinary destination. We have everything from the freshest day-boat seafood to a rich Italian and Spanish influence on our local restaurants. One thing not to miss is the many restaurants and shops that serve Authentic Cuban sandwiches.


There is some debate as to the origin of the Cuban Sandwich but most historians and especially local Tampanians agree that the Cuban Sandwich started in Tampa Bay as a traditional lunch for the many workers in the Ybor City cigar factories in the late 1800’s. The traditional sandwich consists of glazed ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, soft salami, thin sliced dill pickles, and a slathering of yellow mustard. These ingredients could be packed in the morning and kept without refrigeration until lunch time. The traditional Cuban Sandwich would never include lettuce, tomato, or especially mayo. The bread is what truly makes the Cuban Sandwich special. Tampa has its own version of Cuban bread that is crisp and crusty and baked in palmetto leaves. The bread is usually brushed with butter or olive oil and then the whole sandwich is toasted and pressed flat and oh so good.


There is a somewhat friendly rivalry between Miami and Tampa that has been going on for years as to which city has the best Cuban Sandwich. While I am of course biased, Tampa is hands down the winner of the best and most authentic Cuban Sandwich. The Miami sandwich differs slightly in that the bread is sweeter and not as crusty. The Miami sandwich usually doesn’t include salami as an ingredient. The idea is that the salami was added because of the Italian immigrant influence in Tampa at the time of the creation of the Cuban sandwich. Salami is a must for a traditional Cuban sandwich!


Check out these recommendations for the best Cuban Sandwiches that you should get out try as soon as possible.


  1. Brocato’s, 5021 E Columbus Dr. Tampa – This is the best in all of Tampa Bay and our highest recommendation. Be prepared for a long wait at lunch time, this spot is quite popular and there is limited seating. Get there around 11am to beat the rush.
  2. Carmine’s, 1802 E 7th Tampa – Right in the heart of Ybor City, where the sandwich originated. They have a full menu and everything is delicious.
  3. Michelle Faedo’s, 1218 Ray Charles Blvd. Tampa – Definitely one of the best sandwiches in town because of the bread. The bread is from the Faedo Family Bakery on N. Florida Ave is one of the last bakeries to serve traditional Cuban bread.
  4. Bodega on Central, 1120 Central Ave. St. Pete – If you are on the west side of the bridge check this one out. Definitely not to be missed.
  5. Larry’s Deli, 4526 Land O Lakes Blvd. Land O Lakes – This deli is a staple on the north side of the Tampa Bay area. Their Cuban sandwich is authentic and will not disappoint if you find yourself in the Land O Lakes area. They pile it high with meat and offer a garlic butter press that is highly recommended.


So where is your favorite?