Which city’s food wins game day?

Amanda M. Rye

For some folks, even die-hard football fans, Super Bowl food is as essential to game day as the game itself. And like many Floridians, Andy Hesman and Kenny Nadeau will be rooting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend. But when it comes to snacking, the two part ways, and voted quite differently in our city-centric Super Bowl Food Showdown.

Hesman, owner of AJ’s Press in Longwood, has Tampa roots. Years ago, he and his former business partner had a sandwich shop in Cigar City. Though it closed after sustaining serious damage during Hurricane Irma, its sister shop in Longwood still showcases Tampa love via its Cuban sandwich.

Nadeau, best known as the Kenny behind Uncle Kenny’s BBQ & Catering in Clermont, was born and raised in St. Louis, and though he’s been a proud Floridian since 1999, he’s just as proud showcasing the flavors of the Midwest via the barbecue for which it’s famous.

“There are so many great things about barbecue,” says Nadeau, who was bitten by the competition bug back in 2005. “Sometimes there’s controversy about which style is best — Carolina, Texas and so on — but none of that matters. Everyone loves being around the grill and the smoker and nothing brings family together like barbecue.”

As such, in our impromptu Super Bowl food matchup, Nadeau falls squarely on the KCQ side.

“In Missouri, we’re known best for our ribs, with that nice, sweet tomato-based sauce with molasses and honey and brown sugar…”

And he ought to know. Not only has Nadeau competed in the World Series of Barbecue — held annually in Kansas City — his sauce took home a First Place ribbon in 2012. This out of 280 entries in his category.

“It’s sweet with a little back-end bite to it,” he notes. You can get yourself a bottle at Uncle Kenny’s — when I spoke with Nadeau just after the playoffs, folks were already getting their orders in for wings, ribs and even St. Louis-style pizza. But for our polling purposes, we’re limiting the choice to Kansas City Q.

“I love a good Cuban sandwich,” says Nadeau, “but KC barbecue wins for the better Super Bowl food. It’s a crowd favorite for tailgating and nothing beats the smell of a barbecue pit to bring people together and get them in the mood to chow down!”

Hesman, of course, might have something to say about that. The New Jersey native is a die-hard football fan, but without his beloved Giants in the mix, he’s happy to go all-in for Tampa — its team and its signature sandwich.

“There are so many textures in a Cuban,” says Hesman. “Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, the crunch of the pickles… Our version is Tampa-style, with a twist.”

Every sandwich starts with good bread, he opines (we agree), but Hesman forgoes the Cuban bread for fresh-baked Telera bread from Apopka’s own Panaderia la Mexicana.

“The twist starts with the torta and then we use a mayo-mustard mix that allows for really great flavor. We use giant-slice pickles that cover the whole roll,” he explains. “I’m a big believer that everything has to be coast-to-coast on a sandwich.”

Chorizo replaces Tampa’s signature salami, along with pit ham from Pennsylvania Dutch country and house-made mojo pork.

“Tampa is where the Cuban really got its notoriety and the game is in the home team’s stadium for the first time ever,” says Hesman. “For this matchup, you have to go with the Florida food… Ours isn’t traditional, but it’s an awesome sandwich!”

Orlando’s own Earl of Sandwich, Anthony “Biggie” Bencomo, is not a stickler for tradition at all. In fact, the founder of sandwich-themed clothing line Deli Fresh Threads suggests combining the best of the two — between two slices of bread, of course.

“And since I am Cuban, why not make a Super Bowl LV version!”

Bencomo suggests using barbecued pork instead of the traditional lechon.

“Tom Brady is the classic. Mahomes is the new flavor. Creating a hybrid sandwich that incorporates the Cuban flavors and the Kansas City flavors — the barbecued pork with the pickles and the Swiss and the ham…? That’s going to be delicious.”

Which city’s food are you rooting for? Vote now! And have a delicious Super Bowl Sunday.

Want to reach out? Find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @amydroo or on the OSFoodie Instagram account @orlando.foodie. Email: [email protected]. For more foodie fun, join the Let’s Eat, Orlando Facebook group.

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