Tangy, crispy, juicy

The Cuban sandwich at The Herb Cafe and Market in Dickinson is made with a slice of grilled Black Forest ham, slow roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on a French baguette.


Considering how many local specialties our area produces, from barbecue to gumbo to surprise burritos, it’s not easy for an item associated with another region to land on many menus here.

Somehow, the Cuban sandwich has managed to do just that, suddenly showing up in at least 10 casual-dining spots all across the county.

Not long ago, it was rare to find a Cuban sandwich outside of southern Florida.

The sandwich, which is made with ham, roast pork and Swiss cheese on a roll, was a favorite of the cigar-factory workers both in Cuba and later in Florida. As more Cubans emigrated to Florida, the sandwich became a staple.

The sandwich stayed in Florida for decades. At some point in recent years, however, the sandwich accomplished what Fidel Castro never did — a full-scale invasion of America. Even Hot Pockets now sells a “Cuban Sandwich” flavor.

Maybe it’s the high profile of Cuban-American politicians like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz or the Cuban-influenced beat of performers like Pitbull that brought the sandwich to the forefront, but maybe it’s just the right combination of tangy, crispy and juicy.

“It’s by far our most popular sandwich,” Mickey Wooten, owner of the South Shore Grille in League City, said. “We make dozens and dozens every day.”

The South Shore Grille, which calls itself “the American grill with a Cuban flair,” is no newcomer to the sandwich. “It’s been on our menu since we opened nine years ago,” Wooten said. “When we started the restaurant, we had a chef from Argentina who made some South American dishes, and now all our Cuban items are mainstays.”

Wooten has researched Cuban cuisine and said there is no definitive history of the Cuban sandwich.

“We’ve been to Miami’s Little Havana and traveled the coast of southern Florida to learn more about Cuban cooking,” he said. “There are various stories about the origin of the sandwich, but the important thing is just that it’s got good flavors.”

Miami also played a part in bringing the sandwich to The Jungle, a Galveston sandwich spot.

“We used to live in Miami, and we loved Cuban sandwiches there,” Vicky Morley said.

When she and her husband, David Morley, opened The Jungle three years ago, Cuban sandwiches were on the original menu and have remained there ever since.

The Morleys also are serving the popular sandwich at their recently-opened second Galveston location, the Jungle West, on Jones Drive near Schlitterbahn and Moody Gardens.

“We use fresh-cooked pork roast and serve it on a hoagie bun that’s pressed like a panini,” she said.

Roasting the pork also is an important step in making the Cuban sandwich served at The Herb Cafe and Market in Dickinson, where it is one of eight sandwiches on the permanent menu.

“Our chef, A. J. Robicheaux, just seasons it with salt, pepper and garlic,” Herb Café owner Adam Folden said.

The Herb Cafe’s Cuban gets an extra kick from specially-made mustard.

“We make our own mustard just for the Cuban sandwich,” Folden said.

Cuban Sandwich


1 hoagie or ciabatta roll

Olive oil

2 tablespoons yellow or Dijon mustard

4 ounces sliced ham

4 ounces sliced cooked pork loin

6 ounces sliced Swiss cheese

6 dill pickle slices

Preheat a panini pan to medium-high heat.

Spread the inside of the bread with the mustard and arrange the remaining ingredients on top.

Cover with the remaining roll.

Brush the top and bottom of the sandwich with olive oil and place on the panini pan.

Cover with a press and cook until the bread is slightly crispy and the sandwich is hot

(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy

Marzetti Kitchens)

Cuban Black Beans


1 pound black beans, rinsed and picked

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons salt

1 bunch cilantro, minced


Soak the beans overnight in a large pot. In the morning, drain the water and set aside the beans.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute for about 6 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add two cloves of the garlic and continue cooking for another 30 seconds.

Add the beans to the onion and garlic mixture and enough water to cover everything by an inch. Bring the beans to a boil then cover — leaving a small crack open. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

After an hour, stir the beans and add the remaining two garlic cloves and minced cilantro. Return to a simmer and cook another hour until the beans are tender and the cooking liquid is thick. Stir occasionally while cooking.

Once cooked, add salt and additional minced cilantro if desired. Serve beans over rice, purée and serve as black bean soup or save for additional uses.

(SOURCE: Recipe from “The Cuban Kitchen,”

by Raquel Roque)


(5) comments

Ron Shelby

The absolute BEST cubana sandwich is at El Gusto in Galveston where they've sold it for years. I'd get it every time I was there.

Steve Fouga

Thanks for the tip, Ron. I'll give it a try. Sunflower serves a Cuban, but IMO it's not one of their better items -- so many other good things to choose from. Cubans are pretty big in Fort Worth; don't know how they got started there.

Ron Shelby

I still haven't found a good one here in GA, while at school.

Jose' Boix

As a Cuban born American citizen, I enjoyed the article about the El Cubano Sandwich, which was often called "Media Noche" or "Mid-Night" as it was a staple food item late at night and before returning home.
The key and "a must have" is having sliced Cuban styled (using garlic, cumin and oregano plus salt and pepper mixed with sour orange juice) roasted pork - loin, shoulder or butt and not the popular "pulled pork" The other is having a good crusty bread, and while I have not had one at El Gusto, the bread used at the South Shore grill was my recent best.
Thanks for the tips about El Gusto and Sunflower - will try both!

Kevin Lang

I don't know how authentic the South Shore Grille Cuban Sandwich is, but I agree with Jose that it is quite tasty.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.