Cuban Sandwiches: A DC Food Challenge, Gone Awry

As a born-and-raised daughter of Tampa, FL, it is my birthright to fight about Cuban sandwiches and insist that my town has the best in the world. (Fun fact: Cuban sandwiches were invented in Tampa, not Cuba.)
Today's Cuban Sandwiches, Crosscuts (L to R: Fieri, Colada, Little Red Fox)

I understand that statement alone will raise some folks' blood pressure. 

Don't worry, it won't be the last thing to make you mad today.

I have a couple of friends (ok, it's mostly Jim and me, with Jen also joining today) that are on a constant quest to find any legitimate Cuban food in the District of Columbia. Listen. It's not necessary. Some things are just better at the point of origin. Perhaps Tampa should establish the terroir of the Cuban sandwich. 

Much like trying to get a New York bagel or pizza outside of New York... I just don't think you can find legit Cuban bread north of Carrollwood.

So, imagine #CubanSandwichDay 2021... when we gathered a posse together to do a DC Cuban Sandwich taste test, there were some decisions to make. 

First of all, we agree that Mi Cuba Cafe has the best Cuban food in Washington, DC. I'm willing to be proven wrong, but that's just a baseline. But, I couldn't get it when I needed it today. It was lunchtime in a pandemic. We had less than one hour until we all had to be back on Zoom meetings. Time was of the essence.
Picnic, Style and Quartered after this photo

I knew Colada Shop was one that we'd had before. It's good. I probably eat it most often because it's in easy locations for me and is on delivery apps. 

The others that I researched for consideration: Capo Deli (their delivery and pick up were nearly an hour so that didn't work today,) Duke's Counter (their delivery and pick up was not online by 11am,) and Wagshal's (just too far.) There are also some other great Cuban spots that are closed for lunch or just aren't in DC, including one I found in Maryland that has Elian Gonzalez's portrait, instantly making it more legit in my eyes. 

What was left?


Wait. For. It. 


I sort of ordered it as a joke. I mean. It's Fieri. I sort of live to hate Fieri. (Except for his incredible philanthropic work.) His DC presence is a ghost kitchen being run out of a Buca di Beppo for chrissakes. And, that hair. So. Annoying.

I met my friends in the park and unwrapped the bounty. I cut them into shareable pieces to make them easy to taste. 

And then, it happened. 

Fieri's was the most legit of the three. 

I know. I'm mad at myself. I shouldn't have included him on principle. But I did. And now, here we are. Total white-girl-bullshit. But look. Fieri was the only one using legit Cuban bread. There was not a drop of Donkey Sauce to be found. Just roast pork, ham, mustard, pickles, and Swiss cheese, pressed within an inch of its life. Crackling and crispy on the outside.

We gaped at each other with the gravity of this realization.

I'm not saying it's the best Cuban sandwich in the world. Gas stations in Tampa would beat it. But, damned if Guy Freaking Fieri doesn't have one of the top three (eesh, maybe top two) Cuban sandwiches in the Nation's Capitol. 

Guy Fieri's Flavortown Kitchen is on Door Dash. I think it's delivery only, and only during certain hours. I'm not sure why he calls it the Crazy Cuban Sandwich. The best thing about it was that it wasn't crazy at all. It's classic. Except for the weird potato sticks it comes with. Those should be swapped with plantain chips. 

PS. All of them were delicious. Just Fieri's was most legit. And I'm still mad I had to publicly admit it.

Got a Cuban sandwich we haven't tried and should? Leave it in the comments below or tweet me @tammy.

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