The Restaurant Art Smith Says Has The Best Cuban Sandwich In Florida

Art Smith knows a thing or two about home cooking. The James Beard award-winning chef wooed Oprah Winfrey with his take on southern fried chicken — the same fried chicken his contemporaries described as "housewife food" back in the early aughts (via Tampa Bay Times). Smith got the last laugh when he built a restaurant empire on down-home cooking, showcasing variations of his specialty — fried chicken with dandelions, pommes purée, chicken gravy at Art & Soul, fried chicken with doughnuts at Homecoming — alongside other classic southern comfort combos like shrimp and grits or biscuits and gravy.

As a sixth-generation Floridian — Smith grew up in Jasper, Florida, a small town near the border between Florida and Georgia  — his appreciation for homestyle cooking extends way beyond southern tradition. His Florida roots are on display on the menu at Homecoming where there is a nod to the Sunshine State's beloved Cuban sandwich, which includes house-smoked shaved pork, country ham, pickles, yellow mustard, and Swiss cheese on fresh Cuban bread priced at $18. And we may have traced its inspiration.

Art Smith says the best Cuban in Florida is in Tampa

A few years ago, Smith sat down with a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. The wide-ranging discussion encompassed everything from Smith's gift of fresh eggs from his farm in Jasper to his relationships with a host of celebrities including Oprah Winfrey (he was Oprah's personal chef for 10 years), Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, and Martha Stewart. He recalled serving fried chicken, at Oprah's request, when the media maven celebrated her 50th birthday and shared his appreciation for Florida favorites like Key lime pie, fried grouper, Apalachicola oysters, and Seminole Pride beef.

He noted the growing influence of Cuban cooking on the Tampa food landscape, then he shared a secret. "Miami is going to kill me," Smith told the reporter, "but I think the best Cuban sandwich in the whole state is in Tampa."

What was that? Yep, it's true. Awarding-winning chef Art Smith chose a Tampa eatery over a Miami mainstay as his favorite Cuban-influenced restaurant in the entire state of Florida.

"It's a tiny spot, like a small square place," he said before divulging the name of the place: West Tampa Sandwich Shop. We checked the menu. The Cuban sandwich at Art Smith's favorite Cuban-influenced restaurant in Florida is a hearty feast of ham, pork, salami, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles. And you get all that for just $4.50.