It takes approximately one minute and nine seconds to walk the length of the world’s longest Cuban sandwich.
The 10th Annual Ford International Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City built what it claims is the world’s longest Cuban sandwich, coming in at a whopping 240 feet long. The sandwich will feed around 500 homeless people in the Tampa bay area, said Jolie Padilla, co-founder of the event.
Padilla and her husband, Victor, have made the Cuban Sandwich Festival a tradition over the last decade in Ybor City. In the past, they have held the event at Centennial Park, but after complications from the coronavirus, the Padillas held the free event Sunday outside of Centro Asturiano de Tampa, located at 1913 N Nebraska Ave.
“It’s always a struggle each year,” Padilla said about arranging the event and making sure it runs smoothly. “But it’s so rewarding in the end because we know where the food is going to go.”
The outdoor festival featured about 50 vendors, which is nearly half from previous years. Before COVID-19, the festival featured vendors from all over the world, including from France, England and South Korea., Padilla said. This year the event remained local, featuring some of Tampa Bay’s restaurants and food trucks.
The festival hosts a competition for the best traditional and non-traditional Cuban sandwich. This year there were 12 entries across the two categories.
For Tiffany Hamilton, the exposure has been too good to pass up the past four years. She drove her food truck, “That’s My Dog,” from Fort Myers to be there. She’s placed first and third in the year’s contest.
“I come back to keep up my reputation,” Hamilton said. “It’s good exposure, especially if you win.”
The competition is judged by Tampa Bay area chefs, like Rene Marquis, a member of the American Culinary Federation, and Gaston Meredith, a Tampa Bay caterer.
The winner for best traditional sandwich went to Datz, a popular Tampa Bay eatery with multiple locations. The winner for the best non-traditional Cuban went to Sabor With Love.
Aaron Williams has never had a Cuban sandwich before, but an entire festival dedicated to its existence seemed like a good place to try one.
Williams, originally from Maryland, moved to Tampa with his girlfriend, Shannon McGowan, last march to escape the cold. Now, a half year later, Williams is ready to try the city’s signature sandwich.
“I see what all the hype is about,” Williams said while eating the sandwich. “I’m a fan for life.”