When I have a friend come in from out of town they ask me about the sandwiches available at Cuban restaurants and cafeterias. There is always an extensive sandwich selection at 99% of Cuban places.
I grew up around this and have never really given it a second thought. It’s easy for me to zero in and order but I can imagine it would be overwhelming when you don’t know what these sandwiches are.
Plus, not speaking Spanish doesn’t help.
How to know when you’re in the right spot for sandwiches?
ANSWER: They have a dedicated and visible to the public sandwich station where all the magic happens.
The number of questions I get on this topic made me think, I should write something about it.
So here it is, a guide to help and educate folks a little about the more popular sandwiches on the Cuban restaurant menus across Miami.
It’s almost like a dummies guide but since this is Miami, it’s for mongos.
You will find different variations of this sandwich around town.
Normally sweet ham, Swiss cheese and ham croquettes on Cuban bread make up the Croqueta Preparada BUT you may find roasted pork, a different kind of cheese, mustard, pickles, different croquetas, different sized bread, julienne potatoes, plantain chips and Medianoche bread in some places.
My personal favorite is ham, Swiss cheese, ham croquetas & mustard on a Medianoche roll. Most frita joints have killer versions of this sandwich.
This is going to be the most obvious and known sandwich on this list.
The Cuban Sandwich (not a Cubano unless you speak great Spanish or want to sound like a tourist) includes sweet ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese on toasted Cuban bread with mustard and pickles.
This sandwich must be pressed to get that important crunch on the outside of the bread.
If you’re in Tampa, salami is also part of the equation.
CUBAN SANDWICH ESPECIAL
What’s so Especial about this Cuban Sandwich?
Well, it’s a larger version of the Cuban Sandwich. It’s for those of you who can’t get enough of the Cuban Sandwich but don’t want to order two.
What’s a Disco Volador? It’s a sandwich made on this special contraption.
You put your sandwich together, cut the crust off (well at least I do), brush the buns with butter, close it up and toast over burners on your stove.
The two most popular Discos to make are ham & cheese (most of the time it’s Swiss) and guava & cream cheese.
This is probably the most difficult of all the sandwiches on this list to find on a restaurant menu because of its preparation time.
Right off the bat let’s correct a problem I see on many restaurant menus it’s Elena Ruz NOT Elena Ruth.
You can read about Cuban socialite Elena Ruz, the creator of this sandwich here.
The original version is cream cheese, strawberry jam, slices of turkey on Medianoche bread.
I’ve seen variations where the Medianoche Bread is replaced for anything white or Cuban bread to even a Cuban pastry.
My standard Frita Cubana explanation:
It’s a mix of ground beef (sometimes Chorizo or pork is added), seasonings (paprika for sure), julienne cut potatoes or potato sticks, diced raw onions and ketchup (rumored to be tomato paste not ketchup in Cuba) on a Cuban roll. It’s cooked on a flat top and not grilled over an open flame.
A bunch has changed since I wrote about the Frita over 10 years ago and chefs are now running wild with their own interpretations.
To eat a great Frita check out my Top 10 Fritas in Miami list.
Also, adding American cheese is optional but frowned upon by folks who fritas in Cuba. It’s akin to a slap in the face.
WARNING: Do not eat them at Cuban Pizza places, 9 times out of 10 they are horrible.
FRITA CUBANA A CABALLO
You may not see it on the menu so it’s almost like a secret menu item addition.
If you ever see a Caballo on a menu, it means the addition of a fried egg to the dish.
You never say No to a Caballo, you got that?
What is the literal translation of caballo? It means horse.
How does this make any sense? Beats me, I’m just here to eat.
I’m gonna have to agree and say, yes this does look ridiculous.
How can a cracker withstand the weight of all of those ingredients (roast pork, sweet ham & Swiss cheese)?
ANSWER: It’s a marvel of Cuban food engineering.
The name Galleta Preparada translates to a prepared cracker in case you were wondering.
You’ve had the Cuban Sandwich and want something similar but yet different.
I get you, you need a Medianoche in your life.
Same ingredients BUT on a sweet egg dough bread. It’s my personal favorite.
Medianoche translates to midnight and this guy is the perfect midnight snack.
It is also known as the Calle Ocho Sandwich by Versailles & La Carreta restaurants.
The Miami Sandwich is ham, turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese & mayo on Cuban bread.
I eat mine without the Lettuce and Tomato.
This sandwich is even better than it sounds.
PAN CON BISTEC
Pan con Bistec is a Steak Sandwich and its preparation varies from restaurant to ventanitas. The common prep is with grilled onions, lettuce, and tomato.
You will find ketchup, julienne potatoes, potato sticks, and mayo added at some spots. I personally dig the grilled onions, julienne potatoes, and mayo combination if you can find it.
PAN CON LECHON
The ingredients in this one are limited to roast pork, onions and Cuban mojo (sour orange-based marinade) on Cuban bread.
You might find chicharrones added as a topping on the sandwich in some places. Do not fight it, lol.
PAN CON MINUTA
The Pan con Minuta is most easily described as a fried snapper sandwich. Pan is bread, con means with and minuta refers to how they cut the fish during preparation, it’s a butterfly cut.
The sandwich still has its tail attached and it adds to the integrity of the sandwich. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that some people eat the tail (actually I know they do).
PAN CON TORTILLA
Pan con Tortilla or an Omelette Sandwich are generally not pressed. Most spots will have you add the ingredients you like to the omelet.
The standard being ham, Swiss cheese, and onions but may also include peppers, potatoes, and chorizo.
All are good options and you need to find what the right combination is for you.