Best Cuban Sandwich In Tampa

No Baloney, It Needs Salami

The Cuban Sandwich, and it's cousin the Deviled Crab, is a Tampa institution.

The Cuban Sandwich is a deceptively simple but integral culinary dish in the cultural fabric of Tampa.

While Miami, our very coutre neighbors to the south might try and lay claim as the originators of this most delicious of sandwiches, make no mistake: it originated here in Tampa.

In the late 1800s, Tampa and specifically Ybor City became the center of all things cigars.   

Vicente Martinez-Ybor founded Ybor City as the new location for his cigar factory after running into problems trying to find the room to enlarge his operation in Key West.  At the time, Tampa was a depressed village of about 1,000 residents.  But within 20 years, Ybor’s cigar factories were shipping hundreds of millions of cigars per year and had transformed Tampa into a thriving city.

All of these factory workers needed three things:  An ample supply of great tobacco to roll into fine cigars, someone to read the news to entertain them while rolling those fine cigars, and a delicious and filling lunch that can be eaten without a lot of fuss or mess.

From this culinary forge was born both the Deviled Crab, which we’ll talk about in another article, and the almighty Cuban Sandwich

 

 

 

In addition to the Cuban immigrant cigar factories, there was another key ingredient to the perfect cuban sandwich, and that was the large number of Italian immigrants that moved to the area in the 1880s.  These immigrants open businesses and catered to the cigar industry, capitalizing on Tampa’s new found wealth an prosperity.

And thus, all the necessary components for one of the greatest sandwiches came together.

You see, salami is critical to the story of Tampa and the Cuban Sandwich.  It is the story of a city being built in a relatively inhospitable place (remember, no A/C back then!), with immigrants from Europe and the Carribian comng together to seek their success and a better way of life. 

It is from this mix of Italian, Jewish, and Cuban communities being pressed together in what then was a southern frontier that gave us…

The Cuban Sandwich

Ham, roasted pork, salami, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard served on cuban bread.  Pressed (prefferably).

The Best Cuban Sandwich in Tampa

While the list below is by no means comprehensive, it is a list of restaurants, bakeries, dives and other Tampa spots that do the Cuban Sandwich the justice it deserves.

As an added bonus, there’s a map at the bottom of the article detailing where all these delicious places are located.  If you’re far from home or simply want to find the closest spot to you, take a look!

01

West Tampa Sandwich Shop

Parking is cramped and it’s in a strange location, but that’s how you know it’s delicious!

The West Tampa Sandwich Shop is highly acclaimed, and tucked into an unassuming corner of Armenia Avenue, just before you get to Cacciatore and Sons (another awesome Tampa spot you should check out).

Just know that if you show up for lunch, you may be faced with daunting lines and street side parking.

But with West Tampa Sandwich Shop, that’s part of the fun.

02

Bodega

Bodega St Pete, started by Debbie and George Sayegh, is a long serving staple on St Pete’s Central Avenue, though recently they have opened their second location on Florida Avenue in Seminole Heights in Tampa.

This St Pete original was known for one thing:  it’s BIG flavors packed into a tiny footprint.

It’s not as easy to get to Bodega as it once was.  The surrounding area of the EDGE District has caught up to Bodega’s vision of fun casual spaces with amazing food and drinks.  Chances are you won’t get a spot right out front, so make sure to check street parking on 1st Ave N and 1st Ave S, there’s usually more than enough spots there.

But Bodega’s loyal (some would say fanatical) following and delicious sandwiches should be the incentive you need to make the trip.

And if you’d rather not make the trip across the bridge, their other location at 5901 N Florida Ave has a little easier parking.

03

Brocato's

Brocato’s is a long standing Tampa tradition.

Brocato’s originally started in 1948 as a grocery store, then a meat market, and finally a sandwich shop. on a little corner tucked between 50th St, I-4 and Columbus Drive just east of Ybor City.

My first experience with Brocato’s was as a kid.  My dad, you used to work at CSX on 60 nearby, would on occasion pick up one of their world renowned Deviled Crab.  And while this article is indeed about Cuban Sandwiches, it’s worth mentioning that Brocato’s deviled crab is the best in the area (and massive!).

Brocato’s was recently redesigned, making ordering much easier.  This might be because of the new generation taking over the reins after decades of Brocato’s deliciousness.  The best way to describe the experience before the redesign is:  pandemonium.

You’d open the door, and be faced with a mass of people waiting to order.  There were no numbers and certainly no queues.  You usually had to elbow around 4 or 6 people to get a bag of chips or a drink while you waited on your number to be yelled out.

Luckily nowadays there is order to be found at Brocato’s.  Queues are short and tidy, there is plenty of seating both inside and out since they have added some additional structures to the property.  And it’s not usually too warm out there thanks to ample fans.  If you’re inside, keep an eye out for all the news stories about the place, signed memorabilia, and the photograph of a car that smashed through the front window!

You can also watch them prepare their world famous Deviled Crab out there!

Yes, yes, you say, but how is the sandwich?

Massive, is the first word.  They may say it’s foot long, but it eats like 1.5 feet of deliciousness.  The roast pork is especially a stand out, adding a very well rounded bottom tastiness onto the pickles, ham, salami, and mustard.  Highly recommended!

Every time I go to Brocato’s it’s a dilemma.  Cuban, or deviled crab?  I usually end up getting both, eating half of each, and making my wife very excited when I bring the remainder home!

04

La Segunda Central Bakery

La Segunda is one of the hidden gems in Tampa, hiding in plain site.  It’s a place locals rave about, but few find by accident.

That’s probably because of it’s long standing location in Ybor City.  

The recipe for that Cuban bread was brought back by Juan More during his time fighting in the Spanish-American War.  He eventually opened La Segunda Central Bakery, located at 2512 N 15th Street.  If you’re having trouble picturing where that is, it’s pinched between I-4 and Columbus Drive on 15th St just north of Ybor City.  It’s also a one way street, so check your GPS before making the turn!

La Segunda has recently opened a new location at 4015 W Kennedy, perfect for many commutes home.

Started in 1915, La Segunda is now on it’s 4th Generation of owners, producing close to 20,000 loaves of Cuban bread daily.  These loaves make up the delicious exterior of many cuban sandwiches created throughout the area.

Funny enough, in my younger days I used to provide computer support for La Segunda.  And it was torture, working in their back office on the computer while the intoxicating aroma of baking goods nearly overpowered me.

But make no mistake, La Segunda make a mean Cuban themselves!  And as an added bonus, you can grab a delicious pastry baked that morning as well!

Do yourself a favor and stop by one of their two locations.  Grab a sandwich.  Or a cake.  Or a bearclaw. Or some coconut macaroons.  You won’t be sorry!

05

Strawberry Hut

Strawberry Hut was my first experience with Cuban Sandwiches, and it was always a treat to go there as a child.

I grew up in Dover, Florida, and it took about 20 minutes to get into Plant City.  So going to Strawberry Hut was always a bit of a treat.  

We’d arrive at an unassuming sandwich stand on the east side of town, after driving through the old downtown (which back then was mostly empty).  We’d pull up, get out, and place our order.  The most pressing question for me at that age then was….. well, to press or not to press?  Hint… always press if you can!

Strawberry Hut has another location in Lakeland if you’re a little further east and in the mood for a delicious cuban sandwich.

06

Stone Soup Company

Stone Soup Company is an astounding option if you find yourself on 7th Ave in Ybor with a need for a cuban sandwich.

Started in 2009 by Chef Ilya Goldberg, the Stone Soup Company does quite a bit more than deliciouis soups!  Though that is how they got their start.

Their cuban sandwich is as good as other sandwich shops that have been around 5 times as long.  The sides, fixings, other entrees and drinks available ensure that everyone at the table is going to be happy.  Hey, not everyone likes Cuban Sandwiches.  I mean, those people are wrong, but they exist!

And on top of that The Stone Soup Company takes all of their unused produce, make it into a vegetable soup, and then donate it to Tampa Bay Harvest.

It’s hard to find another restaurant this tasty and charitable, so if you’re in the area, be sure to pop in and try their Cuban!

07

Hemingways

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08

Interbay Meat Market - The Green Store

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09

Gaspar's Grotto

One of the newest contenders in the ring of bread based food products, Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop is not to be trifled with.

But don’t imagine that only being around for a few years has affected SSSS’s

10

La Terisita

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11

Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop

One of the newest contenders in the ring of bread based food products, Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop is not to be trifled with.

But don’t imagine that only being around for a few years has affected SSSS’s impact on food and sandwich loves.  Everyone raves about both the wide selection and the high quality of thier sandwiches.

It’s hard to go wrong here.  Chef Keith along with wife Vanessa Walson has built a enviable position just north of the Hillsborough river on Florida Ave.  Blazing trails in a part of the city that, while not necessarily forgotten is frequently skipped by those seeking higher delicious delights.

My advice?  Get off at the old dog track, turn west and then north onto Florida Avenue, and try a sandwich that will more than likely blow your mind. 

12

Simply Delicious

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West Tampa Sandwich Shop

Bodega Tampa

Bodega St Pete

Brocato's

La Segunda Central Bakery

Strawberry Hut

Stone Soup Compnay

Hemingway's Tampa

Interbay Meat Market - The Green Store

Gaspar's Grotto

La Terisita

Simply Delicious

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