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The Best Cuban Food in Southwest Florida

Cuba Libre!

BY June 20, 2016


Our island neighbor, once a haven of mystique, has developed a following for its food this side of the 90-plus-mile separation by sea. Here are some great takes.

Cuban Sandwich
This humble indulgence that’s normally pork, ham, Swiss, mustard and pickles has become Naples-ized.
• Sea Salt: An upscale European play relies on Italian parma cotto ham and Gruyere complemented by a tangy spread made from Dijon, mayo and lemon.
• Ridgway Bar & Grill: Roasted onions and yellow peppers find themselves wedged between focaccia and the traditional fillings.
• Fogg Café: Its emphasis on greens is felt through its side dish, trading French fries for a slaw of whatever is fresh that day, like Napa cabbage, carrots and mint.

The starchy veggie is usually boiled, but it can end up a tad too chewy. The American chef’s answer? A trip to the fryer. 7th Avenue Social’s planks melt in your mouth with currents of pimento cheese and have a bright finish from a pico de gallo, and the Nauti Mermaid serves the logs with an aioli appropriately spiked with cilantro.

For perhaps the most authentically Cuban dish possible, the island’s version of potato chips, do it the right way with Fernandez the Bull’s razor-thin plantains with a garlic dip so strong it will clear your sinuses. 

Cuban “Nachos”
Although Rumba Cuban Café prides itself on food that has been passed down for generations, that’s not to say they haven’t had some fun reinventing classics, such as a picadillo with melted cheese and house-fried potato chips (so perfect they almost could pass for Lay’s).

Arroz con Pollo
The dish is big on the Colonial boulevards of Havana, where chef Gloria Jordan was born. Her La Trattoria Café Napoli is Mediterranean, but she makes room among the Spanish plates for her relatives’ island-tinged yellow rice.

Every self-respecting Cuban place serves meat croquetas. For an upscale twist that comes from the original motherland, Spain, head to Lamoraga (a global tapas spot) for a choice of three types: jamon, cuttlefish and crab. (While you’re there, do also save room for the violet ice cream—it’s not Cuban, but it is unique and delicious.)


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