Ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. While the ingredients for a Cuban sandwich remain the same, every restaurant has its own variation. We tried them all and are here to report who gets a gold star and who failed to understand the assignment.
A true Cuban establishment, it comes as no surprise that Havana Harry’s ended up on top. Their portion size is massive; two people could split one sandwich. For less than $8, this is a great deal. They also use lechon instead of sliced pork, which gives it a robust flavor. Everything is sandwiched between authentic Cuban bread. $7.95
Tinta y Café
If getting a Cuban sandwich (called the Patria here) “right” is all about balance, this is a great example. No element, including the Swiss cheese, is overbearing. Excellent flavor, great bread and not sloppy. It may not be on Havana Harry’s level, but it’s definitely a close second. $11
Vicky Bakery also uses lechon on theirs, though not as much as Havana Harry’s does. They put the sandwich on a Panini press before serving, so the cheese is warm and melted. A little heavy on the mayo, but you can order it without. This is your basic, utilitarian Cuban. $7.50
They’re not as generous with the ham at Chandlers Place, and the Cuban bread was thinner and less substantial. On the other hand, it came with a side and a small piece of ginger cake. A fairly standard Cuban sandwich. $8.95
They use quality meats and the roasted pork is very flavorful. Just the right amount of cheese and mustard. The entire sandwich is nicely toasted and not overdone. Worth a mention despite the very non-Cuban setting on the edge of the Biltmore’s golf course – and despite costing $16!
OFF THE MARK
Is this a Cuban sandwich or a ham sandwich? This one is way out of balance with a thick wad of ham that makes it feel more like something you’d order at a Jewish deli. They also missed the pickle memo. They do, however, win the prize for best price at $6.95.
Chef Sucre Café
The “Mr. Cuban” comes between thick slices of white bread, toasted, panini style. What do you expect from a French joint? But the ham is good, and though the roasted pork is sliced, the mustard is mixed with mojito. What sets them apart from the competition is a guava dipping sauce on the side. Not bad, but the panini style takes them out of the winner’s circle. $9.50
Who uses turkey breast instead of roasted pork? And who uses prosciutto cotto and porchetta instead of ham? Plus, it’s way too salty and costs $17. It shouldn’t be called a Cuban. Can’t wait to see what they do with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Books & Books
In an attempt to be upscale, Books & Books destroyed everything that a Cuban sandwich should be. The portion is small, cut into four, finger sandwich-sized pieces. It also comes with a side of guacamole, which just doesn’t fit in. Not only was the sandwich disappointing, the service was abysmal. Not worth the $12 or the 50-minute wait.