When it comes to sandwiches, every region has its penchant. Take a trip to Louisiana and a po’boy may tickle your fancy. Near the northeast coast, a lobster roll may be your craving. In Tampa Bay, the Cuban and grouper sandwich may be what we are known for, but local tastebuds love to be tantalized by many other heroes, hoagies and handhelds.
This year 19 eateries entered their best into the 2022 Sandwich Hunt in hopes of gaining the title Top Sandwich. Voters went with a staple Tampa Bay grouper, an exquisite wagyu melt and an Italian sub with a bit of everything between its buns. Read about this year’s winning sandwiches and you’ll see that when it comes to sandwiches, Tampa Bay’s tastes are as diverse as the cultures of its culinary landscape.
Big Ray’s Grouper Sandwich – Big Ray’s Fish Camp
This savory sandwich is an ocean-to-table classic that captures the essence of Tampa Bay’s seafood-rich region on the Gulf Coast. Chef Raymond “Nick” Cruz sources fresh grouper whenever it’s available. (Because of fishing bans, this is about 45 weeks of the year.) The grouper is grilled, blackened or fried and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and homemade tartar sauce. It’s all packed inside a fresh bun from local staple La Segunda Bakery.“
Every single ingredient plays its part,” Cruz says. “We care as much about the tartar sauce that we make in-house daily as we do about the freshness of the grouper and all the other ingredients. We’re dedicated to putting out the best product every single time.”
Award-winning, quintessentially Tampa – when it comes to grouper, voters say Big Ray’s knows best.
6116 Interbay Blvd.,
Tampa | (813) 605-3615 | bigraysfishcamp.com
Fat Boy – Frankie’s Italian Deli
The Fat Boy has proven itself as a formidable heavyweight contender in this year’s contest and as its namesake implies, it is indulgently packed with Italian meats. Rich prosciutto di parma, dry-cured capicola and soppressata, spicy, tangy pepperoni and smooth mortadella are sliced to order. Stacked on top are fresh mozzarella, sweet or hot peppers, arugula and balsamic glaze. It’s served on semolina bread that’s baked and delivered fresh every morning.“
We’re really proud of our deli and how far we’ve come since opening last fall,” says Francesca Leo, owner of Frankie’s Italian Deli. “We’re serving food that you’d have if you came over to our house for Sunday dinner. The Fat Boy is special because it represents our Italian American heritage and is built in the style of a true New York Italian American deli.”
3930 U.S. 301,
Riverview | (813) 776-6777 | frankiesitaliandeli.com
Homage to Bern’s – Èlevage
An ode to the iconic Bern’s Steak House, it’s no wonder Tampa takes to this sandwich. Shaved beef tenderloin from Bern’s is the cornerstone, but other flavors combine in explosive force between slices of spongy mezzo doppio. Seared tenderloin is hit with blackening spice, tamarind and Worcestershire. Caramelized onions are folded in and the bread is prepped with mayo and melted alpine cheese.
“Here at Élevage we’ve created a strong bistro feel with a fine-dining edge – a refined neighborhood restaurant without the stuffiness,” Epicurean Hotel executive chef Jon Atanacio says. “It’s probably the juiciest sandwich you’ll have in Tampa, even before you dip it in the au jus.
”Inspired by a “hidden menu” sandwich served to the limo drivers at Bern’s Steak House, diners are glad that Élevage decided to reveal an old secret.
1207 S. Howard Ave.,
Tampa | (813) 999-8726 | epicureanhotel.com
Voters Also Loved
BBQ Chicken Sandwich – Rome+Fig
Good barbecue brings out the flavor of the meat, cooked low and slow, and enhances it with a flavorful sauce. Rome+Fig has mastered this combination with its sandwich.
Chicken is doused in house-made apple bourbon barbecue sauce and cheddar is melted over the top. Next, a brioche bun is smeared with a generous portion of herb aioli. Arugula and tomato create a fresh, juicy bed for the chicken, topped with bacon and fried shallots. A steak knife through a pickle spear holds it all in place.
“I combine different textures and taste sensations like sweet and tangy barbecue, peppery arugula, salty bacon and herby aioli,” explains the sandwich’s creator, sous chef Brendan Clasen. “I incorporated all the elements I’d want in the perfect grilled chicken sandwich.”
317 N. Rome Ave.,
Tampa | (813) 253-3353 | romeandfigbistro.com
Wagyu Truffle Melt – American Social
This year, locals melted for a hearty, rich steak sandwich made with wagyu steak tips, maitake mushroom, caramelized onion, Havarti cheese, artisan sourdough, black truffle aioli and butter.
It’s an elevated take on a traditional, comforting melt you would find at your favorite local diner, and executive chef Ryan Leonard says the key is in the way the sandwich is constructed entirely on the griddle, perfectly timed to bring together the ingredients and flavors.
“The meat is just cooked through, but tender and juicy, and the bread is toasted just enough, but not too much, to create that perfect bite on melted Havarti,” he explains. “The black truffle-infused mushrooms and onions just help push it over the edge.
”A new take on a nostalgic classic, American Social struck gold with this indulgent, reinvented classic.
601 S. Harbour Island Blvd., #107,
Tampa | (813) 605-3333 | americansocialbar.com
BBQ Brisket Sandwich – Aussie Grill By Outback
Inspired by the bold flavors of the Australian outback, this sandwich begins with a succulent and flavorful, 12-hour slow braised beef brisket. The secret seasoning blend brings out the meat’s beefy, bold flavors complimented by tangy, house-made pickled jalapeños, aged cheddar cheese, house-made bacon onion jam and bold barbecue sauce. It’s all placed inside a light, crispy French baguette slathered with smoky mayo.
“Our recipes are developed to create cravable, addictive flavors,” says Efrem Cutler, vice president of research and development, and corporate executive chef. “When you take a bite of this sandwich, you experience an explosion of flavors and textures that are harmonized through every magical ingredient working well together to create a symphony of flavor.
”With 35 years of restaurant experience, attention to detail and an unrelenting vision to blow guests away, Cutler’s culinary creation is a slow-cooked classic.
Brandon | Carrollwood | Wesley Chapel/Lutz | Raymond James Stadium
Voters Also Loved
Blackened Grouper Sandwich – Pool Bar & Grill At Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Grouper is often fried or grilled, but Pool Bar’s award-winning blend produces a cut of grouper that’s bursting with flavor from the blackened rust, yet still soft, tender and juicy with every bite.
“Our team goes to great lengths to source local, high-quality products,” chef de cuisine Evan Leutwiler says. “The freshness of ingredients, particularly the grouper, is key to the success of this sandwich. Each cook strives to implement proper technique throughout each step of the process in order to ensure amazing results.
”It’s no wonder that locals love this handheld made with locally sourced Florida grouper that is blackened with Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic Seasoning. The flavorful, tender fish is cooked with clarified butter and served with house-made remoulade sauce, pickled red onion, sliced tomato and arugula. It’s sandwiched between a toasted sliced brioche bun, perfect for enjoying poolside in the Florida sun.
5223 N. Orient Road,
Tampa | (813) 627-8142 | seminolehardrocktampa.com
What does the rest of our city have to offer? Check out the best of the best in our Best of the City 2022 List