Sandwiches kick ass. We all know it. Portable food is THE FOOD OF THE FUTURE (and/or the neolithic era, according to that liar Wikipedia). So when I heard about a place that sold BOTH reubens and Cubans, I was PUMPED to check it out. And I was even more pumped when I found out what a creative name this place had been given:
Yeah, that’s right: Ruben’s Cuban Cafe. This little place, located on Busch Boulevard (near 50th Street), serves up a smattering of dishes, primarily Cuban in origin. Cuban food has been a staple of my family dinners for generations, so I was delighted to find this place. Although I was somewhat offended when I found that the “reuben” portion of the menu was limited to… I dunno a reuben sandwich and that was about it. My friend and I figured that perhaps the name really did come from the owner, but when my friend asked if he was “THE” Ruben, he seemed both scared and confused. The jury is still out on this one.
You could order up front for take out, or enter the dining portion of the restaurant. The inside was small, but not so much that I had an anxiety attack. There was an awesome mural on the wall, but I managed to take pictures of everything but that. Whoops.
And then came the food…
A pork empanada, and a ‘devil crab‘ in the background.
Okay, so we went WAY overboard. We wanted, nay, needed to try it all. “It all” includes a basic yet delicious Spanish bean soup, a “devil crab” (I can’t say much about this, as I am not a huge seafood fan), a pork empanada (perfect, flaky crusty shell, with a nice warm pork center), and a potato ball. I love potato balls… they are so simple, but so awesome. This particular one was not the best, but you just can’t go wrong with potato balls. And along with the meal came a basket of buttered Cuban bread toast. Excellent.
Also on the menu was a sandwich that featured “Miami bread”, something neither I nor my friend had ever heard of, so we ordered a bit of the bread, toasted:
This bread was fantastic. It was just the slightest bit sweet, but it still had a crust similar to Cuban bread. It was sliced thin, and the center was a bit chewy, but it still retained its crisp toastiness. I would love to go back and try a sandwich on this bread. But of course, the sandwich that won out today was the traditional Cuban.
Tampa, especially the Ybor area, has a rich Cuban history, so there are many restaurants that claim to have the “best Cuban”. This is a difficult claim to test, but by god, this place will give just about any other restaurant a run for their money. This Cuban was perfect – a lot of juicy, tender ham, some nice slices of salty salami, and Ruban’s Cuban’s incredible cooked pork. The meat was all so juicy and flavorful, it was a real delight. The swiss cheese was just enough of a presence to make itself known, and to provide the melty texture we all love. All served on perfectly pressed, crispy Cuban bread. My only complaint is that the sandwich comes standard with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, so if you want it traditional, you’ll have to request they leave those items off. But really, however it comes out, as long as it has the meat and the bread, you’re gonna walk away happy.
The two of us finished up our lunch by splitting an order of flan. It wasn’t the best in the world, but it did have its own unique charm. There was quite a bit of cinnamon flavor to it.
And of course, by the end of our meal, my friend had died from carb poisoning. I was forced to drag her corpse out to the car myself, and let me tell you, after such a filling meal, that was no easy task.
Okay, no more gushing about this restaurant. Bottom line is, we got a crap load of amazing food, an iced coffee, and one of the sweetest teas I’ve ever tasted, all for around fifteen bucks each. Totally worth it. If nothing else, stop by just for the Cuban. you’ll want to go back.