Cuban food is more than the Cuban sandwich.
In fact, that sandwich didn’t even come from Cuba; it premiered circa 1890 in the Tampa neighborhood of Ybor City thanks to cigar factory workers.
Traditional Cuban cuisine is influenced by the country’s history and location, with flavors from Spain, Africa, France and the Caribbean. Typical meals include beans, rice, plantains, yucca, pork, chicken and beef.
Here’s where to find authentic Cuban food on the Treasure Coast:
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INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
Las Palmas Cuban Restaurant
Luis and Edna Gonzalez opened their restaurant in 2009, originally on U.S. 1, but this year moved west to The Shoppes of Sebastian. He’s the executive chef; she’s the general manager. He’s Puerto Rican; she’s Cuban, from Old Havana. Their menu includes the couple’s take on the traditional palomilla steak sandwich. They cut the meat into strips and cook it with onions to make it easier to bite than one piece of steak. He also cooks some of his meat dishes in red wine, like the oxtail. There’s also a full bar.
Restaurant review:Authentic Latin food and friendly wait-staff
El Cubano B.Y.
Boris Nunez and Yaneis Borges opened their takeout café in 2017. The “B.Y.” comes from the couple’s first names. They’re both Cuban and moved from Miami to Vero Beach in 2009. They wanted to bring their Cuban flavor and experience to the area so other people could try it.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Mervis’ Café & Grille
Ivel Sierra’s parents and grandparents, all born in Cuba, moved from Miami to West Palm Beach in 1970 and opened a convenience store with Cuban food. His grandfather named it Mervis’ Grocery after Sierra’s mother. Sierra’s brother moved the cafeteria-style restaurant — that also includes a U.S. Post Office and Avon products — to Fort Pierce in 2001. Sierra took over in 2008, helped by wife Ivelisse and sons Evan and Ethan. The Cuban bread and pastelitos (sweet or savory puff pastries) come from a Miami bakery. Sierra created the Cubanada, with all the traditional Cuban sandwich ingredients stuffed inside an empanada.The shop is open weekdays, not weekends.
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Havana George Café
George and Zaida Quesada opened their well-decorated hole-in-the-wall in The Galleria of Pierce Harbor in July. He’s from the Santa Clara area of Cuba; she’s from Peru. The couple blends their cultures by using Peruvian spices, herbs and peppers in Cuban dishes. Plus, their spicy “Havana George Sandwich” is influenced by the Mexican chef at their former restaurant in Georgia. Only the croquettes and papas rellenas (meat-stuffed potato balls) come from a Miami bakery. Everything else is homemade, including fresh-baked Cuban bread, guava-and-cheese pastries, and sauces and dressings.
El Cubanito Restaurant
The Estrada family — Osmani and Nuris and their son Osmani Jr., all born in Bayamo in the southeastern part of Cuba — opened their full-service restaurant in 2006. It serves large portions of homestyle Cuban cuisine made from scratch. It’s popular for its specialty fruit sangrias. Try a variety of menu items with the Cubanito Sampler: fried green plantain chips, ham croquettes, chicken chunks, shredded pork and tamales.
Restaurant review:Large portions of homestyle Cuban cuisine
Port Saint Wich
A lack of Cuban restaurants in Port St. Lucie inspired Camaguey native Eduardo Garaeex to open his takeout restaurant in 2018, serving authentic Cuban coffee, sandwiches and traditional pastries from a Miami bakery. His Cuban sandwich is made to order, so the roasted pulled pork and Swiss cheese are always fresh.
Quetzal Super Bread Bakery & Café
Jose and Rosemary Medina, who could not be reached for this article, opened the small takeout cafeteria in a strip plaza in the Golden Gate area in 2013, according to state records. The bakery-café is popular for its fresh-baked bread.
TCPalm reporter Sommer Brugal and editor Cheryl Smith contributed to this article.
Laurie K. Blandford is TCPalm’s entertainment reporter and columnist dedicated to finding the best things to do on the Treasure Coast. Follow her on Twitter @TCPalmLaurie and Facebook @TCPalmLaurie. Email her at [email protected]. Sign up for her What To Do in 772 weekly newsletter at profile.tcpalm.com/newsletters/manage.