Seeking the Perfect Cuban Sandwich in NYC

Each month, New York City Chowhounds are choosing a Dish of the Month, trying as many versions as they can, and reporting back. Check out September's Dish of the Month discussions on the best queso fundido in Manhattan and the Outer Boroughs.

Gather a dozen Chowhounds around a table and you'll hear at least a dozen different opinions on food. That's certainly what happened in last month's New York City Dish of the Month conversation, which revealed disagreements over just what makes a real Cuban sandwich. Purists insist on Cuban-style pan de agua bread. Some like it with mustard, others don't. But pretty much everyone agrees that a Cubano contains ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, and pickle, and that it's toasted and pressed. And unlike too many sad specimens around town—as jen kalb laments, "standards are down down down since the glory days"—a Cubano should never be bland or dry. Here's what the hounds uncovered:

Manhattan: Old-line Latin American diners still turn out a great authentic Cubano, generally for no more than $4 or $5. Two uptown survivors are Flor de Broadway and Floridita, which adds an extra hit of garlic, strangemd reports. Downtown favorites include El Castillo de Jagua, and sgordon gets his sandwiches loaded with crispy pork skin. Near the Theater District, Margon makes a satisfying Cubano (left)—at a Midtown premium of $7. Even the Sophie's minichain has its fans; strangemd singles out the location on Lexington near Grand Central.

Two high-end entries, as Cubanos go, are the $12 sandwiches at The Cannibal, a past hound favorite, and Epicerie Boulud. The Cannibal's (made with pig's head and Gruyère) is "awesome (as is a lot of their other fare)!" jerico says. Epicerie Boulud's has luxe ingredients (suckling pig confit, jambon de Paris, Gruyère, and house-made pickle) and is delicious, Riverman500 says, "though perhaps a bit overstuffed to be a true Cuban sandwich. Not that I'm complaining."

Outer Boroughs: Brooklyn's best Cubanos include those at Pilar Cuban Eatery, a hound hangout whose menu boasts "Cuban bread," and Lano's Coffee Shop on the edge of Boerum Hill. In Queens, hounds recommend Latin Cabana in Astoria and, with reservations, El Sitio. This Roosevelt Avenue landmark is "inconsistent, but when they're on, they are still the best around"—at least in pynchoff's corner of the borough.

See the full Manhattan and Outer Boroughs threads for more reviews.

Flor de Broadway [Harlem]
3395 Broadway (between W. 137th and 138th streets), Manhattan
212-281-1556

Floridita [Washington Heights]
4162 Broadway (at W. 177th Street), Manhattan
212-928-0653

El Castillo de Jagua [Lower East Side]
113 Rivington Street (at Essex Street), Manhattan
212-982-6412

Margon [Midtown]
136 W. 46th Street (between Sixth and Seventh avenues), Manhattan
212-354-5013

Sophie's Cuban Cuisine
Multiple locations

The Cannibal [Kips Bay]
113 E. 29th Street (between Park and Lexington avenues), Manhattan
212-686-5480

Epicerie Boulud [Upper West Side]
1900 Broadway (at W. 64th Street), Manhattan
212-595-9606

Pilar Cuban Eatery [Clinton Hill]
393 Classon Avenue (between Greene Avenue and Clifton Place), Brooklyn
718-623-2822

Lano's Coffee Shop & Restaurant [Boerum Hill]
107 Third Avenue (between St. Marks Place and Bergen Street), Brooklyn
718-643-3617

Latin Cabana [Astoria]
34-44 Steinway Street (between 34th and 35th avenues), Astoria, Queens
718-729-3900

El Sitio [Woodside]
68-28 Roosevelt Avenue (near 69th Street), Woodside, Queens
718-424-2369

Main photo by Flickr member David Berkowitz under Creative Commons; photo of Margon's Cubano by Margon / Facebook