Cuban Sandwich Shortlist

We’ve always been fans of a good cuban sandwich. Made with Cuban bread (think of it as Italian bread’s Caribbean cousin), the usual routine is to top it with roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard and to then press the sandwich. It’s a great meal—one so good, in fact, that there has been historical research done into its origins. Although Philadelphia’s Cuban population is relatively small, we still have our share of cubano-dealing esablishments. The sandwich’s massive popularity across Latin America doesn’t hurt either. After the jump, a guide to Philly’s best cubanos.

Most of our options are in Center City. Old City’s Cuba Libre makes a respectable take on the sandwich, though some might find the $12 price tag a bit steep. The brunch-only Cuban sandwich at Cafe Habana is easier on the wallet at $7, but adds mayonnaise, which is a bit too new school for us. Although we haven’t tried it, the Cuban sandwich at Mixto is highly regarded as well. The lunch-only Cuban sandwich Twenty21 departs even further from tradition with the addition of bacon and jack cheese (!) and the ever-present Marathon Grill offers them as well.

In South Philly, a revisionist “Cubano Italiano” at Gatta’s is made with homemade roast pork, prosciutto and sharp provolone. The Trolley Car Diner on the border of Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy includes a cubano on their expansive menu. Pan-American restaurant Sabor Latino in Upper Darby offers what’s doubtlessly Delaware County’s most traditional cubano, but Drexel Hill’s Pig Daddy’s BBQ fills their sandwich with pulled pork.

But the majority of restaurants serving Cuban sandwiches in this city are along the Fifth Street Corridor in North Philly. Although Philadelphia has never been a hotspot for Cuban immigration, our substantial Puerto Rican and South American population means plenty of Cuban sandwich goodness—a good meal knows no borders. Judging from their menu, Columbian restaurant Tierra Colombiana has some Cuban ties as well—there’s a full roster of specialties including (yup) cubanos—and even the elusive medianoche. The nuevo-Puerto Rican Isla Verde offers a respectable cubano and also some of Philly’s only PR-style pizza (a pie with chorizo and onions? definitely). Fast-food joint Porky’s Point occasionally offers Cuban sandwiches and Spanish Island, a 15-minute drive away in northeast Philly, offers a great sandwich as well.

Cuba Libre [MenuPages]
Cuba Libre [Official Site]
Mixto [MenuPages]
Mixto [Official Site]
Cafe Habana [MenuPages]
Cafe Habana [Official Site]
Twenty21 [MenuPages]
Twenty21 [Official Site]
Marathon Grill [MenuPages]
Marathon Grill [Official Site]
Gatta’s [MenuPages]
Trolley Car Diner [MenuPages]
Trolley Car Diner [Official Site]
Sabor Latino [MenuPages]
Sabor Latino [Official Site]
Pig Daddy’s BBQ [MenuPages]
Pig Daddy’s BBQ [Official Site]
Tierra Colombiana [MenuPages]
Spanish Island [MenuPages]

[Photo via Off the Broiler]

Cuban Sandwich Shortlist