Tampa Airport Food

Laura Madden

6 mins read

May 08, 2024


4 Dish Recommendations for Airport Food in Tampa

Airport food can often feel like a gamble. When you crave something that tastes like a genuine reflection of the city you’re in or heading to, airport food can give you a glimpse of the food culture in the city. But not always. That’s the inspiration for this blog post.

Speaking of Tampa, it has a vibrant mix of cultures and flavors and offers a unique opportunity to turn your layover or pre-flight wait into a delicious exploration.

In this blog post, I explore four iconic dishes that are not just safe bets but also quintessential Tampa tastes. Let’s begin!

The Cuban Sandwich

Ah! The Cuban Sandwich. It is a hallmark of Tampa’s rich cultural legacy. An original Tampa sandwich combines ham, roasted pork, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard.

These ingredients are tastefully tossed together and pressed between slices of fresh Cuban bread.

It’s so representative of the Tampa Bay area that it’s part of most Tampa food tours. Now that’s saying something!

But what’s so special about the Tampa Cuban sandwich? Its secret ingredient is Genoa salami, a nod to the influence of Italian immigrants and Tampa’s melting pot.

You can’t go wrong with choosing this as your go-to airport food in Tampa, whether you can’t wait for an early taste of Tampa food tour or are just passing through.

Its History

The Cuban Sandwich has a rich history. Some say the stories of its origin are as interesting as its flavors. It was first cooked in kitchens in the 1800s and early 1900s. The sandwich symbolizes a cultural symphony between Cuba and Florida, particularly Tampa and Key West.

A crucial element of this sandwich is the Cuban bread, and Tampa takes great pride in it. The bread’s crispy exterior and tender interior are foundational to the sandwich’s authentic taste.

Its Ingredients

A traditional Cuban Sandwich in Tampa starts with that iconic Cuban bread, lightly buttered or brushed with olive oil. The layers of roast pork, glazed ham, and salami are topped with Swiss cheese and dill pickles. The sandwich is then toasted in a plancha, crisping the bread and melting the cheese to perfection.

The Friendly Culinary Rivalry of Tampa vs. Miami

The Cuban Sandwich is a testament to the rivalry between Tampa and Miami. Each city claims that its version is the best. Tampa fixes its version of the sandwich by including salami. People of Tampa consistently take this recipe as a point of local pride.

In Pop Culture

The Cuban Sandwich in Tampa is a cultural icon. It has inspired festivals and competitions and even made its way into films and national news stories to symbolize diverse heritage and cooking inventions.

 It was even fcelebrateseau’s 2014 movie, Chef, where he travels cross country selling, you guessed it, Cuban sandwiches.

Spanish Bean Soup with Salad

As far as airport food in Tampa goes, ordering the Spanish Bean Soup with Salad is a safe bet. This is also a specialty at CookinGenie – our local chefs love to prepare this local delicacy.

The dish is part of the essence of the city’s culinary heritage. It’s deeply rooted in Tampa’s history and offers a comforting and flavorful experience that reflects the area’s rich cultural tapestry.

This simple yet savory soup, made with garbanzo beans, potatoes, and savory sausage, bursts with flavors that are both comforting and invigorating.

The History of Tampa’s Spanish Bean Soup

Originating over a century ago in Ybor City, the Spanish Bean Soup represents Tampa’s diverse culinary influences. It involves a long stewing process that thickens and enriches the broth, allowing the flavors to meld and intensify. The dish is a perfect representation of Tampa’s Spanish and Cuban culinary heritage.

A Safe Bet Anywhere

While the traditional recipe is revered, many in Tampa have put their own spin on this classic soup. So, you’re sure to enjoy this no matter where you order it from.

Some versions use chorizo and ham, while others might opt for different types of smoked sausage, showcasing the versatility and adaptability of this beloved dish. The essence of the soup remains, but these personal touches add unique flavors that reflect the individuality of Tampa’s cooks.

Pairing the Soup and Salad

Pairing the Spanish Bean Soup with a fresh, crisp salad creates a balanced meal. The warmth of the soup complements the cool freshness of the salad, making it an ideal combination for a nourishing and fulfilling meal, especially for travelers looking for a quick dining option.

Ropa Vieja

Another excellent option for travelers who are craving a mix of something Cuban and Spanish airport food in Tampa, is Ropa Vieja. This dish has its roots in the traditions of the land of Cuba and Spain- a flavorful yet comforting dish on the plate. One shouldn’t give a second thought while ordering it for a quick savory lunch.

The Story of Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja translates to “old clothes” in Spanish. The dish’s origins can be traced back to Spain; today, it is one of Cuba’s national dishes.

The name is believed to have emanated from the dish’s appearance, which seemed like shredded old clothes. Though the look is entirely different, the taste of the course will surprise you, as one bite into Ropa Vieja will reveal that you have just dug into something extraordinary.

This dish hails from Sephardic Jewish heritage and is traditionally slow-cooked for the Sabbath on the Iberian Peninsula. This culinary tradition was carried to and settled into the Caribbean and Cuba with the Spanish immigrants to the Americas, long before it reached Tampa.

Its Flavor

The recipe for Ropa Viejas is easy enough. It is a delicious stew of shredded beef and tomatoes cooked in a sofrito base. The beef is simmered to marry the flavors, and it comes forth tender and succulent.

In Tampa, this dish is usually served with white rice, black beans, and maduros (sweet plantains) on the side, making a pretty complete dinner.

The Cooking Process

Usually, Ropa Vieja is prepared by first searing the beef to capture the flavor, then slowly braising the meat in a sauce with lots of spices, tomatoes, and a sofrito of onions, peppers, and garlic. The result is a hearty, aromatic dish that fills the air with tantalizing smells, which promises a good eating time. 

Chicken and Yellow Rice

Savoring Chicken and Yellow Rice, or Arroz con Pollo, should be at the top of our recommendations for airport food in Tampa. But it’s last on the list only because it’s available everywhere.

This dish is deeply rooted in Latin American culinary traditions, offers a delightful blend of flavors, and is a testament to Tampa’s diverse food culture. 

What is Arroz con Pollo?

Chicken and Yellow Rice is a beloved recipe in Tampa and combines tender chicken with fragrant, saffron-infused rice. It reflects the city’s strong Latin American influence, particularly from Cuba and Spain.

In Tampa, it’s a staple that has been enjoyed for generations. The recipe often includes a sofrito base, a flavorful mixture of onions, peppers, and garlic, combined with chicken, rice, and a blend of spices. This creates a hearty and comforting dish, perfect for any meal.

Its History

The origins of Chicken and Yellow Rice can be traced back to Latin America and Spain, where it is known as Arroz con Pollo.

This traditional dish typically includes saffron, which gives the rice its characteristic yellow color. The dish’s popularity has spread across various cultures, each adding its unique touch to the recipe.

Its Preparation

Preparing Chicken and Yellow Rice involves a careful balance of flavors and techniques. The chicken is typically seasoned and browned to perfection, then simmered with the sofrito and rice, allowing the flavors to meld together.  

The addition of saffron or turmeric not only imparts a beautiful yellow hue to the rice but also adds a subtle earthiness to the dish. 

The Perfect Airport Food in Tampa

An order of Chicken and Yellow Rice can be just the fitting farewell for travelers at Tampa’s airport. This dish encapsulates the warmth and diversity of Tampa’s food culture, which we have discussed all along.  

In a bowl, it brings comfort and joy, making the locals and visitors feel at home even when they’re miles away.  

It’s a straightforward preparation that takes immense effort to get wrong, so it can easily be your go-to airport food in Tampa

Airport Food in Tampa is as Good as It Gets

Tampa’s diverse food scene is so exotic that you can enjoy it even in the confinements of an airport. The dishes that we have recommended are cooked as a celebration of Tampa’s history, culture, and community.

When you’re at Tampa’s airport, remind yourself that the delicious part of the city is just an order away.

And if you want this taste to last a little longer as part of your stay, you can hire a personal chef through CookinGenie.

So next time you find yourself at Tampa’s airport, remember that a delicious exploration of the city’s flavors is just an order away.

And if you’re here for slightly longer, consider hiring a personal chef in Tampa from CookinGenie to make your dining experience unique.

Laura Madden

Partnerships & Events Manager

With a flair for creating meaningful connections through food, Laura excels in crafting unique and engaging human experiences. Her calm and friendly approach makes complex problems look like a piece of cake. When she's not forging and fostering partnerships in hospitality, she's out trying new restaurants in town.

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