This week I reached out for a Miami Cuban, one of three new “Sandwich Legends,” at America’s No. 2 sammy maker, Arby’s, with 3,300 restaurants coast-to-coast. The other two legends are Texas Brisket and Double Reuben.
The silver medal goes to Double Reuben because Arby’s makes it on marble rye, the bread that Jerry Seinfeld stole from Schnitzer’s Bakery back in a 1996 episode (has it been that long?) but still airing 10 times a night on cable.
Arby’s clear standout is the Miami Cuban, so let’s put on some Jimmy Buffett music and head to South Florida, where Cuban cuisine arrived in the late 1800s (or early 1900s) and still rocks the restaurant scene.
Here’s the Miami Cuban breakdown: slices of slow-roasted pork loin, pit-smoked ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and dill pickles on toasted sub roll.
Total calories: 520. Fat grams: 20. Sodium: 1,520 mg. Carbs: 45 g. Dietary fiber: 2 g. Protein: 34 g. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $5.49 (your mileage may vary).
Of course, since Arby’s is a national chain (trails only Subway in the sandwich category), maybe a better, more accurate name would be Miami Cuban-Sort Of sandwich.
The Cuban sandwich’s origin is a bit muddled, but most food historians agree it was created in Key West or the Ybor City section of Tampa — both landing spots for early waves of Cubans emigrating to the U.S. Like the po’boy in Louisiana, the Cuban was considered a cheap lunch for the workingman. The sandwich caught on and stuck around. Now it’s practically a delicacy with long lines at the best Cuban sandwich shops.
The blueprint for Arby’s take on the Cuban is pretty accurate — pork, ham, Swiss, mustard and pickles — but Arby’s goes off the menu with its bread choice.
An authentic Cuban sandwich comes on crusty Cuban bread that’s lightly smushed and toasted on a panini press. One bite and everybody in the restaurant can hear what you’re eating. A true Cuban leaves a pile of bread crumbs on the plate, your lap, and the floor. Gonna need a broom and dust pan at Table 8! Eat a Cuban while walking and you’ll be easier to find than Hansel and Gretl.
Arby’s ditches Cuban bread for a standard issue sub roll that’s lightly toasted. It’s soft and fluffy … OK, I guess, just not the real deal. Still, Arby's Cuban is a meaty sandwich with generous slabs of pork roast and ham.
Since Arby’s cratered on the bread, that gives customers license to hold the mustard and substitute mayo. You can ask them to lose the pickles, too.
Personally, I not a yellow mustard guy, especially that bright Day-Glo yellow mustard favored by school cafeterias and vending machines. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, give me Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard, or give me death.
Okay, maybe death is too strong. I can live with mayo.
Ken Hoffman reviews a new fast food restaurant item every Wednesday. Have a suggestion or a drive-thru favorite? Let Ken know in the comments, or on Twitter.