Cuban Sandwich Throwdown founder Marcia Weaver of Frita’s Cuban Burger Cafe organizes the ‘blind’ entries. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

The Green Parrot Bar’s lunchtime crowd on April 29 had a lot on their plates — 11 different versions of Cuban sandwiches, to be exact. 

The 2nd annual Cuban Sandwich Throwdown, coordinated by Marcia Weaver of Frita’s Cuban Burger Cafe on Southard Street was held to benefit The Learning Center of Key West preschool, 201 Truman Ave., in Key West’s Bahama Village. 

The inimitable drag queen Q Mitch emceed the event, and a panel of “esteemed” local judges (Weaver’s word, not ours) included Donie Lee, George Fernandez, Nick Doll, Juan Llera, Jill Llera, Mandy Miles, Ted Lund and others.

“This year there were a lot of tied votes, which attests to how consistently good the restaurants are in Key West,” Weaver said. “A big thank-you to all the restaurants who participated. It’s a lot to ask to make 40 sandwiches for guests and judges to devour.”

The throwdown included two categories — traditional and non-traditional Cuban sandwiches. Winners were chosen in each category. 

Contestants in the traditional category included: Sandy’s Cafe, El Siboney, Big Cheezees, Eaton Good,  Rams Head Southernmost, Havana Cabana and Key West Cuban Coffee Shop.

The judges named Key West Cuban Coffee Shop as their first-place winner. Big Cheezees and Sandy’s Cafe tied for second place with the judges.

But in addition to the judges, everyone at the Green Parrot who chose to donate to the Learning Center to taste the sandwiches also got a vote. The Key Weekly’s own resident astrologist and horoscope writer Chris McNulty broke a 3½ year stint as a pescatarian (eating fish, but no other meats or poultry) to partake in the throwdown. And he was glad he did. “We’ll see how it all agrees with my stomach later on, though,” he said, laughing.

The people’s choice votes awarded first place to Havana Cabana, while Sandy’s Cafe, Eaton Good, Big Cheezees and Rams Head Southernmost tied for second place.

In the non-traditional category — Kaya Island Eats, Frita’s Cuban Burger Cafe and Nugshak — 

“The judges’ votes tied all three,” Weaver said. “The people’s choice votes had Kaya as first place and Frita’s a close second.”

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.