Cuba: The Great Cuban Sandwich Debate

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We didn’t exactly plan our Cuban experience but when the opportunity came to have a good Cuban meal there was no turning back.

In the time that Matt and I have lived in DC we have eaten at close to every Cuban restaurant in the DMV (that’s DC, Maryland, Virginia). And after every meal we both agree that ‘it was good but it wasn’t great.’ The culprit: unauthentic Cuban bread. That sounds snobby I know, but my fellow south Floridians will nod their head in understanding. You can’t just run to Publix up here and grab a loaf of delicious and fresh Cuban bread. When we started this challenge we knew we weren’t going to have access to an exceptional Cuban meal up here so we didn’t even bother planning to scratch the small island nation any time soon.

Then we we flew to Fort Lauderdale for one of my oldest friend’s wedding. A few blocks from where we were staying was a small hole in the wall Cuban cafe that I had been to a few times before moving to DC. As a last minute decision we decided to have lunch there before heading to the airport for our flight home.

Being from Fort Lauderdale and Miami, respectively, Matt and I know a good Cuban sandwich. And like many of our friends and family in south Florida, we crave a good Cuban sandwich. So we decided to break our rule for this challenge.

A Cuban sandwich is a bit of a misnomer. Cuban sandwiches as we know them – roast pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and dill pickles heaped on Cuban bread – are actually a dish made popular by Cuban immigrants in Miami.

If you were to ask anyone that grew up or lived in the Tampa Florida about the origins of a Cuban sandwich they would say Cuban immigrants in Tampa popularized the dish (not Miami) and thus own the claim to fame.

Truth is (I did some digging) a Tampa Cuban sandwich is slightly different from a Miami Cuban. In Tampa they favor bread and butter pickles over dill and Dijon mustard over yellow; sometimes they’ll even add salami (gasp!).

For more reading on the debate check out this story: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/04/21/151050107/the-cuban-sandwich-crisis-tampa-v-miami-for-the-win

We were just looking for a taste of home so it was dill pickles and yellow mustard and definitely no salami anywhere near our Cubans.

Our little hole-in-the-wall was no disappointment. The sandwiches were delicious and so were the moros (beans and rice) and yuca.

Now we just need to plan another trip to get our next fix, or open up a sandwich shop in DC.

-Bridget

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