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Ask Aric Almirola: Who makes Tampa’s best Cuban sandwich?

The NASCAR driver and Hillsborough High alumnus still misses Cuban food.
Aric Almirola waves to the crowd during driver introductions prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at ISM Raceway, Sunday, March 10, 2019, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
Aric Almirola waves to the crowd during driver introductions prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at ISM Raceway, Sunday, March 10, 2019, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
Published Mar. 13

Like the rest of hometown, NASCAR driver Aric Almirola has a strong Cuban influence.

His grandparents gave up almost everything to flee Fidel Castro’s government more than 50 years ago. Eventually, his family settled in Tampa, where Almirola grew up and went to Hillsborough High.

Naturally, Cuban food was a big part of his childhood. The Tampa Bay Times asked the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford about Tampa’s famed cuisine in Ask Aric — a periodic feature where the NASCAR playoff contender shares his thoughts on racing, the season and his hometown.

Who has the best Cuban sandwiches in Tampa? If you’re not a Cuban sandwich guy, then what are your favorite Cuban dishes in Tampa?

First of all, nobody has better Cuban Food than Abuela. After her, West Tampa sandwich shop hands down. That place has a lot of sentimental value to me as well. I grew up always at my grandparents auto body repair shop just down the street on Armenia Ave. So several days a week I would go to West Tampa Sandwich shop for a Cuban sandwich and if I felt the need to mix it up I’d get a medianoche. Still to this day when I get back to Tampa I have to stop here for a Cuban and a medianoche. I eat half of each.

One other place that’s a must stop is Mr. Empanada. Beef n Cheese, and Guava n’ Cream Cheese are my favorites. If you can’t tell, I really love and miss the Cuban food from Tampa.

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