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Best Cuban sandwich in Tampa: Michelle Faedo's On the Go food truck

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn speaks over his sandwich decisions with Mariella Gonzmart, 9, great-great-granddaughter of the founders of Ybor’s famed Columbia restaurant, at Ybor City’s Cuban Sandwich Festival.
Published May 27, 2012

TAMPA — The Cuban sandwich may have been invented in Ybor City, but that doesn't mean it makes the best.

Instead, a food truck claimed the title Saturday at Tampa's first Cuban Sandwich Festival.

Michelle Faedo's On the Go, a mobile kitchen serving Cuban sandwiches and deviled crabs throughout Tampa Bay, won first place in the traditional category.

What makes their version so good?

"We use the best honey ham, roast our own pork and make our own pickles," said owner Michelle Faedo. "And we use La Segunda bread. It's the best."

About 20 judges gathered in Ybor City on Saturday morning to find the area's best traditional and nontraditional Cuban sandwiches among 26 entries.

For the competition, a sandwich was considered traditional if made with mustard, pickles, swiss cheese, roasted pork, ham and salami. Any departure from that landed in the nontraditional category.

Each judge had his own opinion as to what ingredient mattered the most.

"The bread is what makes the sandwich," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Casey Gonzmart, of the Columbia Restaurant, agreed. Next, he said, there's the ratio of condiments to meat.

"I taste every ingredient separately to make sure nothing is missing," he said.

Tampa police Chief Jane Castor said she gave several sandwiches perfect scores.

The Stone Soup Company in Ybor City earned second place for traditional sandwich. Gaspar's Grotto, also in Ybor, got the title for best nontraditional Cuban for its mixture of mayo and mustard.

While most of the contestants came from the Tampa Bay area, one came from South Florida, where Miami's mayor has balked at Tampa's ingredient list.

Isaac Sklar, owner of Cuban Guys in Hialeah, knows Cuban sandwiches because he grew up in Cuba. His version left out the much contested salami and added a skewer of guava and cheese through the center. He won third place in the nontraditional category, edging out several sandwiches from Tampa, which lays claim to being the sandwich's creator.

Before the award presentation, Tampa council member Yvonne Yolie Capin declared the Cuban as the city's "signature sandwich."

"It's not named after the island,'' she said, "it's named after the people who constructed it, the workers in the cigar factories of Tampa."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

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