The Tampa Sandwich Bar opened in Seoul, Korea in October. At the core of Geunmin Kang and Hyunmin Cho's menu, naturally, is a Tampa-style Cuban sandwich. While the couple aims to compete in the sixth annual Cuban Sandwich Festival in 2017, as of now they have not visited Tampa, much of their sandwich know-how gleaned from YouTube. Earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times' volunteer "foreign Cuban sandwich correspondents" Scott and Heather Peisner assessed the restaurant's verisimilitude.
The couple traveled to the Mapo district of Seoul, northwest of the Han River, to investigate. (Actually, the Tampa residents and former Raymond James employees are doing cool things like traveling and working at an ape sanctuary.) Without revealing their identity, our correspondents ordered a Tampa Cuban (with salami, no pickle) on ciabatta and a Miami Cuban (pickle, no salami) on a baguette.
Our agents filed their report from the Seoul sandwich bureau:
"The sandwich was slightly unconventional, mostly because it was pressed with a panini-type sandwich maker and they understandably used ciabatta instead of Cuban bread."
Bread issues aside, the correspondents reported the sandwiches had the essence of a Cuban.
"Crispy, pressed bread filled with the tangy meat, cheese and a mustard-based sauce was close to the many we have tried before. This was a positive surprise, given they have never, well, actually had one before."
The correspondents dispatched their sandwiches with suitably Tampa-style beverages — a mojito and a banana bread beer — before revealing their identity.
"They were very kind people and we offered to help them when they visit Tampa next year."
During their investigation, four other Americans visited the Tampa Sandwich Bar, including one woman from Temple Terrace whose sister had sent her the Times' initial story on Kang and Cho's venture.
The correspondents were reluctant to speculate on whether the Koreans have a shot at winning top Cuban next year, but they did say the Tampa Sandwich Bar had earned its spot on the Tampa tourists' Seoul train.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.