Differences between Tampa and Miami "Cuban" cuisine

Since moving from Tampa to Miami-Dade, I’ve noticed several differences between the “Cuban” restaurants in the two cities:

  1. In Tampa, arroz con pollo – chicken and yellow (saffroned) rice, usually topped with green peas – is a staple. I have yet to see it on a menu in Miami. Sometimes you’ll see “roast chicken” but it’s served with white rice and no peas; and, unlike with arroz con pollo, the rice and chicken appear to have been cooked separately.

  2. Garbanzo bean soup, or Spanish bean soup, is also a Tampa Cuban staple. I’ve only seen it on the menu of one Cuban restaurant in Miami and that was as a one-day-a-week special.

  3. Even the bread is different. In Tampa, the “Cuban bread” on which Cuban sandwiches (sliced pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickle chips and mustard – and sometimes mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato, but purists eschew these) is crusty stuff with lots of texture – like French bread only more so. In Miami, “Cuban bread” is like Wonder bread baked in a different shape with added sugar. It makes for a far inferior sandwich.

  4. Miami Cuban cuisine includes a lot of stuff I never heard of before, such as tamale soup (I ordered this once thinking it was like a Mexican tamale, and got a disgusting cornmeal porridge), and a baked-flaked fish dish called bacalao.

Why these differences? Tampa’s and Miami’s Cuban communities were founded at different periods (the 1880s and the early 1960s, respectively; the one group came to Tampa to work in cigar factories, the other came to Miami to get away from Castro), but they came from the same country.

The Wikipedia article on Cuban cuisine sheds no light on this.

I have no idea but I am in Tampa/St Pete for business a couple of times a year, in fact just got back. Recommend a cuban restaurant please? I asked co workers who used to live there but they didn’t really have any specific places for cuban food. The Crazy buffet for sushi on the other hand was great as long as I stuck with the sushi! I found Keegan’s grill for seafood and Mo’s /Spanky’s for blackedned grouper sandwiches and smoked fish spread (yum).

I have to say though I was going to try the place in Ybor city that has been there forever but it was a little too expensive for me. When I asked for recommendations for Italian or Cuban food from the trolly drivers they told me they eat at the Spaghetti Warehouse and some other big chain type places.

La Teresita on Columbus Drive (aka “Boliche Boulevard”) is highly regarded. And . . . there’s one on the north side of Kennedy, just west of the University of Tampa, but at the moment I can’t recall the name . . . Anyway, both are likely a bit cheaper than the Columbia in Ybor City, and the food is great.

Also, there are small and cheap Cuban restaurants all over Tampa which are good for a lunch. Drive up and down Dale Mabry and you’ll spot several, if you’ll keep an eye out for the signs.

And I just found out the Silver Ring Cafe, a long-time Ybor fixture that closed/relocated a few years ago, is coming back (to Ybor)! :slight_smile:

If I didn’t make this clear enough in the OP, I consider Tampa Cuban cuisine far superior to Miami Cuban.

Also in Ybor: The historic La Tropicana. (Scroll down to the June 18 entry.) And Carmine’s. (Both are rumored to have Mob ties, but that does not detract from the quality of the food.)

Hillsborough and Columbus are also good for Cuban places. Over on this side of the bay, we’ve got an excellent La Teresita of our very own at Park Blvd and 66th St in Pinellas Park.

And I know the Columbia can seem expensive, but try lunch there. It’s just as good for about half as much. Get an empanada for God’s sake, so you can die a happy eater.

Another reason I like you. Miami’s good enough for Puerto Rican and Dominican, but for Cuban come to Tampa Bay.

I’ve heard that in Tampa the food is more keyed to the tastes and customs of the immigrant community that had been there for a hundred years, while in Miami it is more in tune with the, shall we say, post-1953 crowd.

I can’t say I know for sure but I was going to say pretty much the same thing RTA said. The Tampa Cuban community is a more cohesive group, even though they’ve been here longer they are less affected by outside influences because they came around the same time and are centered around the cigar industry. Their traditions stayed more intact because they were a tighter group.

The Miami community is younger and you’d think they would be closer to their food roots but they are also in a big mixing pot of other immigrants and are more likely to be influenced by those others. They may have their own Cuban communities but I doubt they are as cohesive as the Tampans (that word doesn’t look right).
I’m glad I heard about the difference between Tampa and Miami Cuban food so if I visit Miami I’ll know not to order one of their Cuban sandwiches - the bread sounds icky. I don’t eat a lot of Cuban food but all these Cuban food threads lately have been making me want to visit the La Teresita again.

I can’t say as I’m overly familiar with Tampa cuban, but every latina I’ve ever dated, in Florida and beyond, has made me arroz con pollo…it’s just not a particularly cuban dish. I’d classify it as general latin food. Not with…the peas though. Peas?

South Florida cuban food is meat, usually prepared over open flame and with citrus/onion overtones, or guava/papaya. Side dishes are always black beans and rice, and fried plantains. Note also that the vast majority of restaurants focus only on the meat, their sides are usually crap. I’ve not a drop of cuban blood but I’ll pit my black beans against anything served down here.

The bread you had should have been real cuban bread though, so I don’t know what happened with that.

Pigeon peas. Gandules. Absolutely essential in my opinion.

I’ve always seen it served with green peas. Just a few, on top.