Of all the greatest sandwiches across the United States, few inspire such passionate debate as the Cubano, or Cuban sandwich.
Its exact origins are often disputed, but as its name suggests, the deli classic does, in fact, come from Cuba. Many Floridians will argue this fact, as both Tampa and Miami claim to have invented the meat-heavy handheld. But, according to the definitive book on the subject, "The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers," it was born out of Cuba's mixto, which translates to mixed sandwich.
"Ultimately, the Cuban sandwich is an immigrant story," the book's co-author, Barbara Cruz, told NPR in 2022.
Many Cubans immigrated to Florida in the 1940s and 1950s, and that's where the sandwich evolved, according to the book's authors. Tampa's version often includes turkey and salami, while Miami's introduced the iron press, which transformed the sandwich into a thin, crispy delight. And though the classic ingredients typically include ham, pork, mustard, pickles, and Swiss cheese, different riffs on the sandwich keep it current and popular even today.
Carnivores looking to get their hands wrapped around some of the best Cubanos the country has to offer need not look further than these prevalent chain restaurants that know how to do it best.
Earl of Sandwich
This franchise business was started by descendants of the actual inventor of the sandwich: John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich (hence the name). TripAdvisor even bestowed Earl of Sandwich as one of the top 10 "Quick Bites" of 2023. At 34 locations in the U.S. and 16 internationally, customers can order the chain's Cuban sandwich, which contains tender carnitas, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and a Cuban mustard sauce.
A fun and meaty spin on a classic Cuban sandwich, Jason's Deli's new-to-the-menu bacon Cubano is made with nitrite-free ham, Swiss cheese, crispy pickle chips, bacon, and mustard, all pressed together between slices of telera bread. With over 250 locations around the country, Jason's is a great option when searching for a sandwich because of its commitment to serving natural food, free of unnecessary additives.
It churns out sandwiches as fast as Amazon delivers packages, but that doesn't mean the quality suffers at Jimmy John's. With fresh bread baked daily and freshly sourced ingredients, this sandwich conglomerate is known for its quality handheld meals. The Jimmy Cubano is the chain's take on the classic sandwich, made with hand-sliced smoked ham, applewood smoked bacon, and provolone cheese. Customers can even customize their sandwich by incorporating additional add-ons.
The Cheesecake Factory
While The Cheesecake Factory is obviously most well known for its namesake cheesecakes, many diners frequent the restaurant for its hearty dinner options as well. Among its many entrée options is its Cuban sandwich. This iteration is made with slow roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mayo, and mustard, all sandwiched together on a grilled roll. The sandwich has even spawned many copycat recipes that can be found all over the internet.
With nearly 50 locations across eight states, California-based Lazy Dog recently launched a Cuban sandwich as part of its new seasonal menu. This chain's fun take on the Cubano incorporates slow-cooked pork shoulder, shaved hickory-smoked ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles, along with Liquid Blanket IPA mustard. This all comes sandwiched between slices of fresh sourdough bread.
This casual American tavern debuted in Ohio back in 2002 and has since expanded to 21 locations, with plans to continue growing. The chain's El Cubano sandwich comes with tavern ham, braised pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, as well as house mustard. It's safe to say there's nothing rusty about this sandwich.
Beef 'O' Brady's, the beloved sports bar and restaurant, might be praised for its award-winning wings and Irish fare, but customers also rave about the chain's Hot and Pressed Cuban. Served on authentic Cuban bread, this sandwich is comprised of salami, ham, Swiss, lettuce, tomato, and pickle, along with mustard and mayonnaise, making for quite a mouthful.
Voted as the best Cuban sandwich in New York City, Cafe Habana's Cubano is something all sandwich lovers should try to get their hands on. The Cuban-Mexican café has locations not only in New York, but in Malibu, Calif., and Tokyo, Japan, as well. The restaurant's classic Cuban comes on a toasted roll stuffed with citrus marinated roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickle, and chipotle mayo.
With locations throughout the state of Florida, this family-owned Cuban restaurant certainly knows what it's doing when it comes to classic Cuban cuisine. Its uncomplicated Cubano sandwich is pressed and stuffed with ham, sliced roast pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles. TripAdvisor ratings for the sandwich speak for themselves, with one customer commenting, "I ordered the Cuban sandwich to go…and that was the icing on the cake." Another customer succinctly put it, "the Cuban sandwich was delicious."
Sophie's Cuban Cuisine
Sophie's El Cubano comes with slow-roasted mojo pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and mayo, plus mojo sauce, all served on crispy Cuban bread. Customers can opt for additional add-ons like green sauce or mojito sauce, too. The popular chain has over 10 locations scattered across New York City and Yelp reviewers have described the sandwich as "simply delicious" and "pressed to crispy, buttery perfection."