I spent an entire winter looking for best Cuban sandwich in Tampa. It is one of the most renowned and best sandwiches around. Although it wasn’t created in Cuba, but rather in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa. This area was a melting pot of mostly Cuban, Spanish, and Sicilian immigrants working in the cigar industry. And this sandwich, originally called the “Mixto” reflects this population.
The menu at the famous Columbia Restaurant describes the Cuban sandwich like this:
The city of Tampa was like the sandwich, a mixture of cultures and food. The Spanish brought the fine ham, the Sicilians the Genoa salami, the Cubans the mojo-marinated roast pork, the Germans & Jews the Swiss cheese, pickle, and mustard. Put it all together between sliced, freshly baked Tampa Cuban bread from La Segunda Central Bakery and life is great.
And with that, these are my picks of where to find the best Cuban Sandwich in Tampa, the birthplace of this sandwich.
West Tampa Sandwich Shop
The West Tampa Sandwich Shop might have been a hidden gem in the past, but that moniker certainly came to an end when former President Obama stopped by for a Cuban sandwich in 2012. He ordered the Cuban sandwich with a honey drizzle, that they have now named “the Obama Sandwich.” For about $5, this is one of the best values you will find in town. I thought maybe the honey was an unnecessary addition to an already great sandwich – until I tried it, that is. It adds a touch of sweetness that really works, and now it’s my choice for the best Cuban sandwich in Tampa – a city filled with great options.
It would be pretty easy to miss The Floridian if you weren’t looking for it, as it’s located in a very small and unassuming strip mall. But similar to the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, the casual and homey feel somehow makes it a perfect spot.
They offer both 7” and 10” Cubans, so you can grab a light lunch with the smaller costing $6.50. Throw in a cafe con leche which is sweet just how I like it and you’ve got a perfect quick and inexpensive lunch for under $10. This is easily the best Cuban sandwich in Tampa for the price, and absolutely makes a valid claim to be the best Cuban in town.
I was doubtful that I could find a great Cuban sandwich in downtown Tampa. Afterall, I’ve worked in downtown Manhattan where most lunch spots are overpriced, generic, and catered towards getting office workers in and out as quickly as possible.
Luckily, I listened to some advice and stopped into Michelle Faedo’s anyway.
Michelle Faedo’s specializes in local Tampeño cuisine such as Cubans, deviled crab, and empanadas. She originally opened a deli stand in her husband’s grocery store north of Ybor city and then changed to a food truck before ultimately moving into its current downtown location. So, she has some street credit and over 20 years of experience behind this shop.
One thing that makes this one of the best Cubans in Tampa, is that garlic butter is spread on the outside before being pressed which looks almost like a seasoning has been baked into it. And then there is a healthy amount of mustard on both slices of bread.
They also offer a Hybrid Cuban that has lettuce and tomato. Both sandwiches come in 5” or 10” lengths.
I’m not sure what Wright’s Gourmet House was like when it opened in 1963, but it is now a well-oiled machine. You give your cell number when you order so they can text when it’s ready and let you know which of the several windows to pick it up from. I got the Cuban pressed, as I prefer the toasted bread and cheese a bit melted, but you can get non pressed as well.
By about 11:15 am it starts to get busy for the early lunch crowd and then gets slammed by about noon. If I worked in the area, I’d probably come here a couple times a week because Wright’s makes some of the best sandwiches in Tampa.
Recommendation: The Cuban is good, but the Beef Martini sandwich (roast beef, mushrooms, and bacon on basic white bread) with the garlic and herb spread became my go to order. I would have loved it slightly toasted, but hey we can’t get everything we want.
The first Cuban bread may have been made at a bakery in Ybor City called Ferlita Bakery (also known as La Joven Francesca Bakery), but La Segunda is the undisputed king of Cuban bread. Since they opened in 1915, locals have been stopping in for café con leche and Cuban toast.
In fact, La Segunda is Tampa’s largest supplier of Cuban bread to Tampa’s local restaurants, sandwich shops, and even grocery stores. And market share is only going to increase now that they have bought the Faedo Family Bakery in Seminole Heights. So, it’s not surprising that the maker of the bread also makes one of the best Cuban sandwiches in Tampa. For more about La Segunda and also the Columbia Restaurant read my article about The Three Most Iconic Restaurants in Tampa.
I lived about two blocks away from the La Segunda Central Bakery in Ybor City for several months, so I visited this bakery often and mostly for their breakfast sandwiches. And somehow, I never took a picture of the Cuban sandwich. So, I’m sharing one of their Instagram posts instead. Oops! La Segunda may make perhaps the best Cuban sandwiches in Ybor City, but also some of the best sandwiches in Tampa. Afterall, they make the bread!
The Columbia Restaurant isn’t just a Tampa favorite, it’s one of the most famous restaurants in Florida. It has been open since 1905 and is the state’s oldest restaurant. The Columbia Restaurant’s Original Cuban Sandwich is still made using their original recipe from 1915, which you can read about on the bar placemat.
Recommendation: Also order the 1905 Salad, which is tossed tableside with crisp iceberg lettuce, julienne baked ham, natural Swiss cheese, tomato, olives, grated Romano cheese, Lea & Perrins® Worcestershire sauce and their famous garlic dressing
If you’re visiting Tampa, you will probably have to drive a bit to find Brocato’s. It’s located east of Ybor City in an industrial section of town, but well worth the drive. And the location certainly doesn’t seem to affect is popularity as it has been around for over 70 years and can be busy throughout the day. The deli sandwiches are huge, so you can easily split one for two people.
Although they make some of the best sandwiches in Tampa, Brocato’s is also the most controversial on this list though, as there have been recent changes to the sandwiches. And currently (as of summer 2022) they are not pressing or toasting any of the sandwiches, including the Cuban sandwich. I’m not sure if this will change but it has been a topic of discussion among long time patrons for a while (in a negative way). Furthermore, their new style Cuban is served with what seems to be a mayo-based sauce and also with lettuce and tomato. It’s definitely not a traditional Cuban, but I’m leaving it on this list for now because I still think Brocato’s is worth the drive to try.
Recommendation: Other than the Cubans and other deli sandwiches, Brocato’s is known for having perhaps the best deviled crab in Tampa. If you don’t know what deviled crab is, it’s basically Tampa’s version of a Maryland crabcake, shaped sorta oval like a football. They aren’t cheap here, but as long as you’re ok with the price you should definitely try an order.
Other Best Cuban Sandwiches in Tampa
The Flan Factory: Although it has been around since 2016, I still feel like it’s a hidden gem. The Mojo Pork sandwich is perhaps my favorite here, but the Cuban (named El Tampeño) is one of the best in town. Get a side of tostones and a flan for a complete meal. www.flanfactorytampa.com
Bread on the Bay: The newest spot on this list opened in 2022. This self-labeled “Sandwicheria” located just on the eastern outskirts of downtown Ybor jumped into the conversation for best Cuban sandwiches in Tampa almost immediately. But the Prosciutto caprese of house baked focaccia is pretty damn good too.