Are you ready to eat all the Cuban sandwiches? I sure am.
The time is coming for the 8th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival on Saturday, March 30th and Sunday, March 31st in Tampa, Florida. Tampa is home to the original Cuban Sandwich.
Competitors will arrive from around the world including countries as far away as South Korea to compete for the best traditional and non-traditional. New to this year is the Home Chef Competition.
The event is organized by Latin Times Media.
Taste of the Cuban Sandwich
Saturday will feature the Taste of the Cuban Sandwich at Centro Asturiano on the edge of Ybor City with 25 vendors serving Cuban sandwiches from 11AM to 6PM. The organizers will break the world record for the largest Cuban sandwich with a sandwich that will be over 175 feet long.
The sandwich will be donated to feed the homeless per festival tradition.
Taste of the Cuban Sandwich offers FREE admission for attendees and is family-friendly.
There will also be a KIDS Cuban Sandwich Showdown organized by Junior Chefs of America.
International Cuban Sandwich Festival
Sunday is the big affair with the International Cuban Sandwich Festival competition happening at Centennial Park (1800 East 8th Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605) in Historic Ybor City from 11AM to 6PM.
Over 100 food, cultural, and business vendors will fill the historic park for a day to remember. Live music and performances will occur throughout and their will be domino tournaments. Come hungry! General Admission is FREE.
VIP tickets are available and includes sampling of the Cuban Sandwich contest entries and refreshments as well as mingling with judges, red carpet access, and more. Tickets start at $25 for kids and $45 for adults. Family packages are available. Buy VIP: http://bit.ly/2HK8fxV
Event name: 8th Annual Cuban Sandwich Festival
Date & Time: Saturday, March 30th, 11AM-6PM and Sunday, March 31st, 11AM-6PM
Ready to enjoy some delicious Cuban Sandwiches in Central Florida and get that bread? The 4th Annual Kissimmee Cuban Sandwich Festival is this Saturday, March 2nd, at Kissimmee Lakefront Park located at 201 Lakeview Drive from 11AM to 6PM. The event is presented by Ford.
Festival goers will be able to vote for the Best Cuban Sandwich at the festival and participants will compete in both a traditional and non-traditional Cuban Sandwich competition.
What’s in a traditional Cuban Sandwich you ask? Ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and salami on Cuban bread will make a traditional Cuban Sandwich.
This sandwich was created in Tampa, Florida in the late 1800s and is recognized by entities such as The Food Network as the official Cuban Sandwich of the world. Miami can say what they want, but we know the truth.
Organizers and participants at the festival will be making one of the biggest Cuban Sandwiches in the world at the event at 163 FEET LONG, a spectacle to see. The sandwich will then be donated to the homeless.
General Admission tickets are FREE and the event is family-friendly. Live music and dance performances will be entertaining guests throughout the day and Orchestra Fuego will be there.
VIP tickets are also available for the 4th Annual Kissimmee Cuban Sandwich Festival and range from $30-$105 for a family of 4. VIP guests get to eat and schmooze with VIP attendees, media, and local celebrities. Seats will be available for VIP guests as well. The best part is that VIP gets access to the Cuban Sandwich contest entries and refreshments that are exclusively available there.
Tampa founded the Cuban Sandwich in the 1800s and is home to the annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival. it would be a mistake to visit Tampa without grabbing one. There are dozens of options on where to eat and each place and many options are great.
Here are some recommendations on 10 places to enjoy a Cuban Sandwich in Tampa:
No. 1 – The Floridian – Cubans don’t get much better than The Floridian. This is a classic, no frills, Tampa restaurant (originally from Treasure Island across the bay which is not affiliated) that has excited my taste buds over and over again. The way they press the bread hits the palate just right. The Floridian has won the International Cuban Sandwich Festival 3 times which is the maximum you can win. The award is well-deserved and The Floridian is well worth your time, plus the prices are great. 4534 West Kennedy Street Tampa, Florida. (813) 287-6622 www.tampasbestcuban.com
No. 2 – Palm Avenue Sandwich Shop – This is a dive in Ybor City that I have frequented many times with my Mom. They say mother knows best and Palm Avenue Sandwich Shop is truly a wonderful place to enjoy an authentic and flavorful Cuban Sandwich or any sandwich really (dear lord the steak). The deviled crabs are a nod to Tampa’s past and the Cafe con Leche is excellent. Finding parking can be a little difficult and you should certainly bring cash, but it is worth the effort. 2002 North Nebraska Avenue, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 223-5157
No. 3 – La Segunda – The shop that supplies Cuban bread to most restaurants throughout Tampa also opened a swanky new dine-in restaurant this past year and it deserves a look. La Segunda has been making Cuban bread since 1915 and lasted four generations as a family-business. Take an entire hand-made and freshly-baked Cuban bread loaf with you and enjoy some great eats. 4015 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida, 33609. (813) 540-9119http://www.lasegundabakery.com
No. 4 – Bearss Sandwiches – This is an old-school sandwich shop near Carrollwood that makes a ton of great things, but their Cubans are also incredible. The staff does have attitude by design, so be prepared for that and make sure you know your order before you get to the register. They stay busy because of their quality and history, but there are many people in Tampa who have yet to enjoy a sandwich at Bearss. 14022 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33613. (813) 961-9486.
No. 5 – Michelle Faedo’s Tampeño Cuisine – During the great food truck battles of the early 2010s, Faedo’s constantly reigned supreme knocking out hundreds if not thousands of Cubans throughout the Tampa Bay area and now the owners have settled down into a restaurant. Their Cubans are absolutely loaded with ingredients and buttered on-top, they are quite tasty and many of the inspiration that the Faedo couple draws on comes from growing up in Tampa and being influenced by the immigrant foundations of the City of Tampa. Michelle Faedo’s is also a champion of the International Cuban Sandwich Festival and has won the maximum number of awards available for a business to compete. 1218 Ray Charles Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 284-6106
No. 6- Riverview Fresh Market – Living in the Tampa suburbia of Riverview for years caused me to go looking for a quality Cuban and Riverview Fresh Market, known before as Bori-Mex, serves excellent sandwiches and has a mean Cuban. It may not be superior to some of the titans of Tampa Bay, but for a neighborhood shop and bodega it does pretty well at satisfying all my taste buds and making me happy. 9613 US-301, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 374-2353
No. 7 – Columbia Cafe – Although Columbia is not my favorite place to get a Cuban, they have been serving one for longer than anyone else in Tampa Bay and opened with the Cuban on their menu in 1905. The views on the Tampa Riverwalk and a Cuban Sandwich in hand with freshly baked La Segunda Cuban bread and a glass of sangria is an ideal day for me in Tampa. 801 Old Water Street #1905, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 229-5511.
No. 8 – Cafe Hey – This was one of the first restaurants to be established in what is now known to most people as Tampa Heights. When the area was just developing I was regularly making trips to Cafe Hey for a quality Cuban Sandwich and it did not disappoint. 1540 North Franklin Street, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 221-5150
No. 9 – Bodega – Many people swear by Bodega and the upstart founded in 2013 has managed to successfully appear in both Tampa and St. Petersburg in just a few years. The owners call it “Latin street food” and their flavor profile is more of an interpretation rather than rooted in history like most Tampa Cuban powerhouses. The lines don’t stop forming and for a town where people bounce from one place to next easily, Bodega has become a household name. 5901 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33604. (813) 533-3333 http://www.eatatbodega.com
No. 10 – Don Pan Bakery – If you haven’t noticed yet, there is a correlation between bakeries and great Cubans and Don Pan is no exception. Their Cuban Sandwich is solid and a contender for the area. Don Pan was rapidly expanding around Tampa for some time, but seems to have scaled back and is focusing more now on operations. 202 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33609. 813-350-0500
I was born and lived in San Francisco until I was 8 years old. During my childhood Caribbean restaurants were far and between. Caribbean culture in general was mostly hidden from public view.
Most food media was limited back then as well since it was the 1990s and media did not have the multicultural voices of today. My exposure to Caribbean cuisine growing up was mostly from home cooking until we moved to Florida where it thrives.
Now that I am back in San Francisco I see a number of restaurants taking root in the direction of this food and I welcome it.
Today I decided to check out Isla Vida (Island Life) after finishing an article about The International Cuban Sandwich Festival and making myself crave a Cuban nearly 3,000 miles from home. Isla Vida has a Miami-like vibe to its interior with floral features (without the house music) although there is still room for growth in the interior. It has only been around for a few months.
The menu is fairly simple with Cuban and Jamaican influences and Isla Vida proudly refers to itself as Afro-Caribbean. The signature items are the smoked chicken and sandwiches as well as the Guava BBQ Ribs.
The restaurant is fast-casual but feels similar to a sit-down restaurant. If it was in South Florida, there would be a DJ inside spinning music, but the playlist was pretty enjoyable regardless.
Chef and Co-Owner, Jay Foster, and Co-Owner, Matthew Washington, are one of the only black business owners in the Fillmore which is a historically black neighborhood once called “Harlem of the West”, according to KQED.
I went for the Cuban Sandwich or Cubano ($13) as they call it. The Cuban Sandwich is originally from Tampa so I wanted to compare and contrast how people in San Francisco are enjoying their Cubans compared to my home city.
The Cuban Sandwich at Isla Vida comes with oven-roasted and wood-fired pork, ham, manchego, mustard, and a pickle on bread and comes with a helping of mixed greens, dressing, and shoestring fries.
The first thing I noticed is that the sandwich does not have salami. Salami is included in a traditional Cuban in Tampa due to influences from Italian immigrants that goes back to the 1800s and a is a foundation of the sandwich. Although I did find myself missing my salami, I was quite happy with the additions added by the chef.
The second thing I noticed is the swap of dijon mustard which is something that might have people from Tampa fuming, but for me the dijon mustard worked really with the smoked pork stacked on top of the sandwich. The swap of Swiss cheese for Manchego wasn’t noticeable in my opinion due to the bold flavors throughout the sandwich.
I admit that I am much more open-minded than some of my fellow diners in the East Coast who expect their roots to be maintained exactly that way, but to me food is always evolving and chefs should be respected for taking risks and rewarded when it works well.
One of the biggest differences is the addition smoked pork. Isla Vida is not the first place to use smoked pork in the country, however restaurants in Tampa move towards pulled pork as a topping on their Cuban. The smoked pork really worked on Isla Vida’s Cuban and it has a very unique and flavorful finish that is perfect when you hit the aftertaste of ham, mustard, and crunchy bread as you take each bite.
The only thing I would add is more ham to the sandwich to better balance the smoked pork, it is great but personally I would add more ham to taste it more.
The smoked pork almost made me want Guava BBQ sauce on my sandwich, but I feel I would have completely betrayed my sandwich and roots if I fully entertained that so I ruled against it.
The portion size was generous. I could have easily have split the sandwich with someone and ordered some more sides, but I hardly can ever finish a Cuban in general. Your mileage may vary. The salad and fries were plentiful.
I would like to try the tostones and maduros in someday to see how they line up to my experiences. Isla Vida is also offering brunch and I am interested in giving that a shot in the future as well.
Hopefully they also add some cocktails in the future as that would be a major add. I also found myself craving a Cafe con Leche with my sandwich and I think it would be a powerful addition to the menu if done right.
I will return to Isla Vida in the future for more food and am happy to recommend it as a former judge to the International Cuban Sandwich Festival.
Restaurant Name: Isla Vida
Cuisine: Caribbean, Cuban, Jamaican
Address: 1325 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
The International Cuban Sandwich Festival, held annually in Tampa is seeking home entries for this year’s festival which will occur on Sunday, March 31st, 2019 at Ybor City’s Historic Centennial Park. The festival is now in its 8th year.
The organizers of the festival are seeking home chefs or someone with an incredible Cuban recipe to enter their competition. The new category is officially called: “Homestyle Cuban Sandwich Smackdown Contest!”
There will be cash prizes and media packages for winners of the new category.
Interested participants can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hurry because entries are limited.
For those who don’t know, the Cuban Sandwich was created in Tampa by immigrants in the last 1800s who worked in Ybor City’s cigar factories. Ybor City was home to a number of immigrants during this era with community buildings such as the Cuban Club and Italian Club. Those buildings can still be seen today in Ybor City.
Despite some controversy with Miami, Tampa is the home of the Cuban Sandwich and has been served since at least 1905 in restaurants there.
I visited Miami a few weeks ago and have been craving a Cafe con Leche since then. I asked around and tried some recommendations such as La Segunda and Bodega, but neither of them had that bold coffee that I grew to like during my trip in Miami.
Sabor A Cuba is a little house on the north side of Downtown Dunedin that sells Cuban cigars, coffee, and sandwiches. The owners give you that mom and pop vibe. No pretentiousness. I knew I was going to need to have a coffee the minute we stepped inside.
The Cafe Con Leche? Excellent. Bold coffee flavors going down my throat. I had a nice rush of energy right afterwards and the Cuban Sandwich? I LOVED it. This isn’t a Tampa Cuban Sandwich, but Miami style (no salami folks). I understand that some people in Tampa will not appreciate that, but I am a man that enjoys the variety in life.
What makes a good Cuban Sandwich to me? It’s not a specific thing inside the sandwich, but the combination of everything together. When you take a bite there should be crunch and as the ingredients move around in your mouth, you should feel some happiness and pleasure on your taste buds. This Cuban did that.
The sandwich will run you $8, but it’s a purchase I would make in the future again.
If you haven’t stopped by Sabor A Cuba, I recommend giving them some love. They regularly have live music outside and this is the real deal.