5 Great Cuban Sandwiches In Austin
photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
We write about a lot of sandwiches—from banh mi and tortas to po’boys—but no sandwich directory (is that a thing?) would be complete without one of the most classic of them all, the Cuban. It’s a simple sandwich, typically consisting of just five ingredients—ham, roast pork, pickles, mustard, and Swiss cheese—making its execution all the more important. But we wanted to find out what makes the perfect Cuban sandwich, so we consulted the closest thing we know to a Cuban sandwich expert: Infatuation Miami editor, Ryan Pfeffer.
”I think a Cuban sandwich is made or broken by how well it’s pressed. When you get one that’s perfectly crispy, it just contrasts with the tender pork and melted cheese so beautifully. On the flip side, there are few things sadder than a soft, floppy Cuban sandwich.” - Ryan
With that knowledge under our belt, we decided to seek out the best, non-floppy Cuban sandwiches in Austin. Here are a few of our favorites.
The folks at Cuba 512 certainly know how to make a Cuban sandwich. The menu lists all the standard components - roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and pressed Cuban bread - but where they excel is in the ratio of these ingredients and how well they all work together in balance. The roast pork here is juicy and tender and we really liked how finely-pulled it was - it allows for all the flavors to shine through while still getting an even distribution of everything in each bite. And the Cuban bread is pressed just enough to add a crispy textural contrast to all the soft wonders that lie inside.
No sandwich embodies the balance of crispy bread, melted cheese, and tender pork quite as well as the one at Cuba Bakery & Cafe in Round Rock. Our first bite led to an audible gasp; our second, to some kind of excited frenzy about what we had just eaten. The bread is baked just a few feet away - this is a bakery, after all - and lends itself to a shatteringly-crispy crust after it’s been pressed. The ingredients here are about as traditional as they come, and they don’t try to overstuff the sandwich with a mountain of roast pork - something we appreciated and found made for a very well-balanced Cuban sandwich.
The Sandwich Cubano at Habana - near South Congress and Oltorf - is a hearty one, packed with enough slow-roasted pork to make yourself a second sandwich or some kind of tiny meat-based snowman. There’s also a very generous amount of Swiss cheese, which we really liked as it began to ooze through all the crevices left open from the Tetris-like stacking of chunky roast pork, pickles, and ham. It’s all sandwiched between pressed Cuban bread that adds yet another layer of texture to a really great sandwich. The maduros here are also excellent - make sure to throw in an order (or two, or three).
Tropicana is another spot on our list that bakes their bread in-house, and it was certainly one of our favorite parts of this sandwich. The Cuban here is a little heavier on the ham - something we’re not complaining about - while still managing to pile in quite a bit of roast pork, leading to a very meaty sandwich. But despite all of that, every part of it is packed with flavor. The yuca con mojo here is really good too - we recommend grabbing a side of it to round out your meal.
If you’ve driven down East MLK at any point in the past few months, you may have noticed a converted school bus painted like the Puerto Rican flag parked outside a seemingly-abandoned gas station. Turn around, because that former school bus also happens to make a really tasty Cuban sandwich. They specialize in Puerto Rican food at Lechonera El Pachango, but Cuban sandwiches were invented in Florida anyway, so who’s keeping track? The roast pork here is a little less fall-apart, with a little more bite - something we enjoyed more than we thought we would. This sandwich is also very well-pressed, with a beautifully-crispy exterior.