We take the subject of Cuban sandwiches very seriously. If there is anywhere except maybe Havana, that should be able to deliver a classic Cubano, it's Miami. Yet we find that some of the most popular joints on South Beach serve up a surprisingly lackluster version. So we keep searching for a better version.
It seems so easy - pork, cheese, pickles, mustard, bread. Not so complicated, but it's the quality and quantity of those ingredients that can either make or break a "sandwich Cubano."
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Let's start with David's Cafe, a Miami historical landmark considering they have been in business for over thirty years. This is a skinny sandwich ($7.95), which would be okay, except for the fact that it's all ham. What happened to the slow roasted pork? There're a few thin layers of something dry that more resembles roast beef, but it is completely lost among the other flavors. They douse this thing in yellow mustard and/or mayo, depending on preference, and it makes the inside of the bread too moist, which is a shame since the bread is a highlight; sweet and crisp. There are plenty of pickles, which is great, and cheese oozes out the sides. Very appetizing on the plate.
Now moving on to Bernie's LA Cafe. Clearly, they've overstuffed the sandwich here ($8.95), but it is pressed properly and tastes of the grill. There is one thick slice of ham, and a ton of melted cheese, which we applaud. The pork is tender, juicy, and piled high. A coarse grain mustard is non-traditional, but we like the texture. Pickles were a bit light on this one; we had to move them around a lot in order to ensure a salty bit in each bite. The bread is crisp and has more heft, stands up to the sandwich throughout the eating process. Very appetizing on the plate and on the tongue.
Winner: Sorry David, but it's Bernie, hands down. For only one additional dollar, you'll get a load of meat and cheese layered perfectly in proportion. David's sandwich satisfies the Cubano craving, but Bernie's makes you want more.