Post by: Amy Butler, Atlanta Eats Intern
With Cuba being just around 100 miles from Key West, Florida, its cultural history has intertwined with the United States for over a century. As tobacco and sugarcane workers traveled back and forth between the large Carribean island and the Florida peninsula, they brought with them their culinary traditions – specifically, lunch. When most people think of Cuban food, they immediately think of the classic Cubano, or Cuban sandwich. The sandwich, a variation of the traditional ham and cheese sandwich, also includes roasted
pork, swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami, all between two pieces of Cuban bread. In celebration of this historically important (and delicious) lunchtime snack, we’re celebrating National Cuban Sandwich day at four of our favorite spots in Atlanta.
First off, we visit Taco Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in Old Fourth Ward. Yes, I know you wouldn’t typically expect to find a Cuban sandwich at a Mexican restaurant, or you may believe a cuban sandwich in a Mexican restaurant can’t really taste THAT good. But, the Torta Cubana here is actually award-winning and extremely delicious. This sandwich is stuffed with slow cooked pork, black forest ham, swiss cheese, pickled relish, mustard, and chile de arbol mayo. The pickled relish adds a great kick of acidity, and the mayo perfectly coats the meat and grilled bread.
Check out our visit to Taco Cantina, where they build their Torta Cubano, here.
The Havana Sandwich Shop originally opened in 1976, 30 days after the Benedit family came from Cuba. After some setbacks along the way, the next generation of the Benedit family is now cooking up the Cuban classics, inspired by their older family members. They focus on quality, consistency, and affordability, as well as keeping it simple. They use sliced pork and ham, white american cheese, sliced dill pickles, and yellow mustard. Their take on the dish excludes the usual Swiss cheese because they believe the cheese overpowers the flavor of the meat. Their sandwich is so good that they have had some customers coming back for 40 years that haven’t ordered anything else.
El Super Pan, which literally means Super Bread, takes their sandwich in a completely different direction: no meat. You might think that a Cuban sandwich can’t really be a Cuban sandwich without the classic ham and pork, but El Super Pan’s unique combination of veggies in their Farm Cubano will have you completely forgetting that the sandwich is vegetarian. Seasonal veggies such as cauliflower, carrots, eggplant, and squash are pickled and adobo-roasted and then covered in mustard and melted tomme cheese. This gooey combination is all pressed in between olive oil bread. If this variation isn’t for you, they also have a more authentic Cubano Mixto with the usual mix ins of pork, ham, salami, pickles, and swiss cheese.
For some truly genuine Cuban vibes, go to Lazaro’s Cuban Cuisine in Roswell. They have a diverse menu and upbeat music that transports you straight to a cafe in Cuba. The walls are filled with Cuban artwork and vibrant colors, and Cuban antiques are featured throughout the restaurant. The Cuban sandwich here for the most part is very traditional, except their pork is shredded instead of sliced; there were no slicers in South Cuba, where the chef of the restaurant grew up. Additionally, they had a touch of butter to the sandwich to help tie the whole sandwich together. No matter which Cuban restaurant you choose to dine at, you will be sure to Havana good meal!