Origins of a Classic Sandwich

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The Classic Cuban

Chef’s Choice: Bistro Cubano
By Active Media Staff

The origins of the Cuban sandwich, also known as a “Cuban mix” or “Cubano,” are unclear due to the frequent travel between Cuba and Florida in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cubans moved back and forth for work, pleasure, and family visits, leading to a blend of cultures and ideas. The sandwich’s exact origin remains undocumented, with some speculating it was a common lunch choice for workers in Cuban cigar factories and sugar mills by the 1860s.

Historian Loy Glenn Westfall suggests that the Cuban sandwich was “born in Cuba and educated in Key West.” The shift of the cigar industry to Tampa in the mid-1880s, particularly in Ybor City, played a crucial role in the sandwich’s development. The first recorded mentions of the distinct Cuban sandwich date back to workers’ cafés in Ybor City and West Tampa around 1900, solidifying the theory that the sandwich originated in this area.

As Tampa grew from a village to a bustling city, Cuban sandwiches became part of its culinary identity. By the 1960s, the sandwich had spread to Miami, fueled by an influx of Cuban residents following Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959. The Cuban Revolution led to a wave of Cuban expatriates settling in various locations, bringing their culture and cuisine, including the iconic Cuban sandwich, to places like New York City, New Jersey, Chicago and Puerto Rico.

A classic Cuban staple, the Cuban sandwich is a flavor-packed delight featuring roasted pork, sweet ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and yellow mustard. This delectable combination is pressed on a hot skillet to melt the cheese and infuse the sandwich with its memorable flavor. The artful blend of ingredients and the distinctive press create a culinary experience that has become a cherished tradition in Cuban communities and beyond.

For an authentic taste of the Classic Cuban, visit Bistro Cubano Caribbean Cuisine in Oregon City, OR, where the rich heritage of this iconic sandwich comes to life in every bite.