My oldest, closest friend is a fellow food-lover and blogger, and since he still lives in Miami, the city of my birth and first 18 years on this big blue ball o’dirt, I defer to him on all things worth eating in South Florida. He is an authority on croquetas and writes a semi-regular Croqueta Diaries column on his blog. On the rare chances we get to visit each other, we try to introduce each other to our cities’ local favorite restaurants — not just our personal favorites, but the ones we are proudest of, that we think the other will appreciate the most.
It had been over two years since my last trip down to Miami to visit this guy (and also my family), thanks to the pandemic making social calls more fraught and long trips seem like less of a priority. But I missed everyone, so back in July, I schlepped down south from Orlando and tried to make the most of it. For my buddy and I, that usually meant hitting a few different restaurants to try to sample the best stuff in a limited amount of time.
Our ridiculous foodie day got off to the best possible start at one of Miami’s finest establishments, Sanguich De Miami (https://sanguich.com/). It has become famous in a relatively short time for featuring some of the finest Cuban sandwiches in the city that specializes in them — no, not Tampa, the other one! But my friend isn’t the only person who vouches for Sanguich — it earned a prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand Award earlier this year, which is a huge honor for any restaurant. Several of my Orlando favorites won Bib Gourmands in 2022 as well, and the Michelin website explains it best: “What Bib restaurants do have in common is their simpler style of cooking, which is recognisable, easy-to-eat and often something you feel you could attempt to replicate at home. A Bib restaurant will also leave you with a sense of satisfaction, at having eaten so well at such a reasonable price.” My regular readers know I’m not the biggest fan of “fine dining,” so these Bib Gourmand-rated restaurants appeal to me a lot more.
Anyway, this is the beautiful, fragrant, flawless pan con bistec sandwich ($13.59) that we split in the car. It contains thinly sliced sous vide steak, mojo rojo sauce, fried string potatoes, and Swiss cheese on pressed Cuban bread. I’ve had several similar sandwiches at Cuban restaurants in Miami over the decades, but I can tell you that I’ve never had its equal. Look at that cheese pull! I just wish you stalwart Saboscrivnerinos could smell it.
We also ordered the pan con lechon ($10.99) to eat later. This elevated take on another classic Miami sandwich contains shredded pork, pickled mojo onions, and garlic cilantro aioli on Cuban bread. I hate to even put this in print, but sometimes the pork in these pork sandwiches is on the dry side, and sometimes it is sliced so thick that you take one bite and pull huge chunks out of the sandwich, destroying the structural integrity. Well, that was not the case with this pan con lechon! Look at it!
Here’s the half I heated up back home, and it was glorious. The pork was so flavorful, and all the elements sang together in perfect harmony. Shredding the meat made it such a pleasant textural experience to eat, and everything held together, as it should. Of course the bread was pressed to perfection, even surviving a four-hour drive and a trip through the toaster oven.
Of course we didn’t leave well enough alone! We ordered a third sandwich too, but my friend is such a mensch, he sent me packing with the whole thing, since he could return to Sanguich de Miami a heck of a lot sooner than I could. We opted for a slight variation on the classic Cubano, for only 30 cents more: the croqueta preparada ($12.79).
It contains all the same ingredients as the Cubano: city ham, lechon (the same pork that’s on the pan con lechon), Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on pressed Cuban bread, BUT there is one more ingredient that is probably obvious by now: two croquetas de jamon! Yes, that’s right. For a double dose of delectable decadence, Sanguich added two of those crispy, cracker crumb-coated croquettes stuffed with finely chopped ham and creamy bechamel sauce, deep fried and then pressed onto the sandwich so they turn warm and melty and gooey, almost like a super-savory Cubano condiment. This wasn’t the biggest Cuban sandwich I’ve ever eaten (that was from the former owner-operators of Orlando’s College Park Cafe), but it was easily one of the best. Top Five, for sure. Top two or three, absolutely. Of course, the croquetas added a whole new dimension of deliciousness to the classic Cubano, just like how Tampa Cuban sandwiches (like the ones at Alessi Bakery and La Segunda Bakery) add genoa salami. But I’ve never had anything like the croqueta preparada sandwich from Sanguich.
So this place is worth every bit of praise and hype, trust me (or hey, trust a tire company that also rates restaurants, which makes about as much sense). Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana is full of wonderful, iconic restaurants, and I’m sure it is pretty hard to get a bad meal there. I’ve written about a couple of those establishments before, and I have one more Little Havana review from my most recent trip that I’m working on. But next time you’re in Miami, you’ll avoid a lot of damage and anguish if you practice your Spanish and manage to order a sandwich from Sanguich (or two, or three).