In honor of…I mean, response to…the man at the next table at Carmine’s in Ybor City last Sunday during lunch who asked, “What is a Tampa Cuban? Is it a local thing?”, the answer is not exactly a simple one.
The origin of the Cuban sandwich has been debated for decades. Some believe that it originated in cafes of Key West catering to the local Cuban workers; while others believe that it originated in the Tampa-community of Ybor City, a settlement of Cuban immigrants working for cigar manufactures founded in 1885 and annexed by Tampa in 1887. In both scenarios, the sandwich was called a “mixto” by the Spanish referring to the mix of meats and as a “Cuban” by the English speakers because of who they saw eating the sandwich.
Either way, the Cuban sandwich has taken on different characteristics and ingredients on its trip around Florida. Some have picked up mayonnaise and others have added lettuce and tomato. However, while true Cuban Sandwiches feature ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on local bread and pressed on the plancha, a flat-top griddle used in Spanish cooking, the Tampa Cuban also includes salami, probably as a nod to the Italian immigrants who also lived in Ybor City at the time.
A Tampa Cuban Sandwich
- Cuban Bread from La Segunda Bakery
- Roast Pork
- Swiss Cheese
- Dill Pickle Slices
- Butter to toast the bread on the plancha
Soooo…to the man at the next table in Carmine’s last Sunday, Yes, a Tampa Cuban is a local favorite layered in history and full of flavor.