Cuban Sandwich Day is a day to celebrate the traditional pressed Cuban sandwich and its many variants, which have spread from Tampa, Florida’s Ybor City neighborhood to restaurant menus in all corners of the world.
- The Cuban sandwich is a history lesson pressed between two pieces of bread. Perhaps no other food represents the United States’ history as a melting pot at the turn of the century better than the Cubano, which combines elements from three different immigrant groups that came together.
- While an early cousin of the Cuban sandwich was born in Cuba proper, the Cuban sandwich as we know it today originated in Tampa, Florida’s cigar-producing neighborhood of Ybor City in the late 1800s (then known as Cigar City, the “cigar capital of the world”) and caught on by the early 1900s. It was popular among workers in the district’s many cigar factories.
- While it’s called a “Cuban” sandwich after the Cuban immigrants who settled in early Ybor City and influenced the sandwich the most, the ingredients are also a nod to the southern Italian bricklayers and the German cigar workers who also immigrated there.
- Salami was added via the Italian bricklayers, who found that placing a hot brick on top of the sandwich for a few minutes pressed it flat and made it taste better.
- Mustard was a condiment and flavor preferred by the Germans. It also didn’t spoil in the Florida heat. That’s why there’s no mayonnaise on a traditional Cuban sandwich–refrigeration was scarce in tropical Tampa in the early 20th century.
- In 2012, the “Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich” was designated as the “signature sandwich of the city of Tampa”
- It is believed by some that the sandwich was a common lunch food for workers in both the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba during the 1870’s. When the cigar industry in Florida shifted to Tampa in the 1880’s, the sandwich quickly appeared in workers’ cafés in Ybor City and (later) West Tampa,Fl.
- By the 1970s, the Cuban sandwich had spread to menus around the U.S., but in 2015, the Cuban Sandwich Factory opened in Belfast, Ireland, and in 2016, the Tampa Cuban Sandwich Bar opened in Seoul, Korea.
- The annual Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City attracts competitors from around the U.S. In 2015, participating restaurants joined forces to make a 105-foot-long Cuban sandwich, the world’s longest.