How is it possible that a town like Tampa–whose diluted Cuban-American community largely pronounces the common last name Martinez as marr-tin-esz–could beat out the mecca of the Historic Cuban-American exile community for best Cuban sandwich? This is according to an article published by the University of South Florida (a Tampa area school, despite it’s name).
Unbeknownst to me, there has been a rivalry between Tampa and Miami on this issue for quite some time. I never would have thought of it, since Miami has long been the natural home of all things Cuban outside the island itself.
Of course, I know the strong ties that Tampa has to Cuba dating back to the final years of Spanish occupation of the island, how Tampa became home to many Cuban exiles fleeing the Spanish crown and made the city–particularly Ybor City–a large cigar manufacturing centre. But these days as far as Cuban sandwiches and overall cuisine go, Tampa doesn’t really have much to boast about other than maybe the Columbia Restaurant (which I highly recommend, by the way).
In Miami, on the other hand, there is a Cuban restaurant on just about every corner trying to outdo the others. And let’s not forget the unofficial social headquarters of the Historic Cuban-American Exile community and most famous Cuban restaurant in the world, Versailles Restaurant, which is also in Miami’s little Havana on the famed Calle Ocho.
This is all to say that I think the methodology used to settled this so-called Cuban Sandwich War might be a little flawed. I may be wrong, but I have a feeling anyone who’s ever tried a Cuban Sandwich in Miami’s Sarussi Cafeteria would agree.