By Lydia Martin
Bestselling authors Jane and Michael Stern have crisscrossed the country countless times to sample the best regional eats for their ''Roadfood'' franchise.
But with all their cred - the couple write an award-winning column for Gourmet magazine and are heard weekly on public radio's The Splendid Table - one does not easily buy that they managed to hone in on the very best Cuban sandwich in South Florida. After all, there are so many contenders. But the Sterns profess to have found the paramount example in their forthcoming book, 500 Things To Eat Before It's Too Late (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.95).
Nobody can beat the Cuban sandwich at the no-frills Las Olas Café on South Beach? We checked out the claim. From the first bite of hot, perfectly pressed sandwich, crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside with melted Swiss cheese, mojo-infused pork and salty ham, you learn to take the Sterns seriously.
''Cuban sandwiches have become like Buffalo wings,'' Michael Stern says from their home in Connecticut. ``They have gone way beyond their natural habitat, which is Tampa and Miami. I eat them whenever and wherever I find them.
``The Cuban sandwich at Las Olas is a great classic. What we've learned about sandwiches over time is that you can have all the same ingredients, but so much of it has to do with the way it's assembled. That's true of a Cuban sandwich, a hoagie, a grinder.''
What takes the Las Olas' Cuban ($4.50) over the top is the fresh pork loin, roasted and sliced on the premises each morning. Unlike most others, in this version the bread gets a slathering of real butter, not the fake stuff, before it goes in the press. And it goes in open-faced first so that the ingredients warm and meld and the cheese gets a bit of baked-on flavor at the edges. Pickles are plentiful and the yellow mustard isn't overpowering.
''Grilled long enough in the sandwich press known as a plancha for all the ingredients to sound a single, sensational chord of flavor, this is unquestionably among the greats,'' the Sterns write.
So is this the best Cuban sandwich in Miami? Tell us what you think.
The Cuban sandwich at Las Olas Cafe on South Beach