Arby’s, like many fast food places, occasionally rolls out limited-time, special-edition menu items to drum up excitement (see: Arby’s venison sandwich from last fall). It’s no big deal.
But when Arby’s started advertising a new a Miami Cuban, our ears perked up, partly because calling it a “Miami Cuban” was inflammatory to Tampa to begin with, and partly because people are pretty particular about their Cuban sandwiches around here.
The Cuban sandwich family tree, from which all other Cuban sandwiches branch, is planted in Tampa, where the Ybor City melting pot of Spanish, Italian and German immigrants gave birth to the Cubano around 1900.
In 2012, the Tampa City Council approved a resolution establishing it as the city’s official sandwich, and even included a very specific list of ingredients in the wording: Cuban bread, ham, roasted pork, swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, a slice of salami and nothing else. It should be flattened on a hot press, the flatter the better.
No surprise, Arby’s $5.49 Cuban didn’t include the salami, which has proved the most contentious ingredient over the years.
To their credit, the Arby’s sandwich scientists did do a good job of following the nothing else part. They didn’t jack up their Cuban with any verboten lettuce, tomatoes or mayonnaise.
The Miami Cuban is part of Arby’s new Sandwich Legends line that also includes a New York Reuben and a Texas Brisket. We’ll leave it up to the good people of Austin and Brooklyn to weigh in on how those stack up, but we did order a half dozen of the Cubans up to the Times newsroom for a taste test.
Here’s what staffers had to say.
Christopher Spata: It’s hard to tell if this sandwich has been pressed, or just smooshed. Somehow the bread is tough like an overcooked steak. This is like when you want a hot dog, but you don’t have hot dog buns so you try using a piece of wheat bread. It’s just not right.
Alexa Volland: I dated a guy in college who worked for Arby’s. He always smelled like gravy. Didn’t go there then, won’t go there now. I love mustard, but the Cuban was drowning in it. This sandwich should be called ham on a hoagie roll. Call it what it is.
Caitlin O’Conner: It was not as horrible as I expected but also not right.
Kelly Stefani: It’s like a ham sandwich with pickles and entirely too much mustard on a stale, flattened hot dog bun. Not worthy of the name “Cuban.”
Sara DiNatale: Not the worst fast-food sandwich I have ever had. But it was more like a ham sandwich with soft bread than it was a Cuban.
Martin Frobisher: It tastes like a Cuban sandwich, until the bitter aftertaste kicks in. The soft bread and slippery meat are unlike any other Cuban sandwich I’ve ever tasted.
Chris Tisch: It’s an okay meat sandwich, but not a very good Cuban.
Stephanie Hayes: Roast beef and curly fries, please, I’ll Venmo you.
Nick Saffan: I just want to say that not pressing it in butter is really doing the concept a disservice. Also, way too much mustard.
Maggie Duffy: I am very picky when it comes to Cuban sandwiches, so I wasn’t expecting much. I was right. The bread was mushy and too sweet, the meat was also too sweet, the cheese had no flavor and the pickles and mustard overwhelmed the sandwich.
Ellen E. Clarke: It looks very brown.