El Criollo

By Joshua Lurie

With more than three decades of restaurant experience, the Sera family clearly has a handle on Cuban cuisine. Most recently, El Criollo Cuban Bar & Grill landed in Burbank, spreading the fun beyond their original Van Nuys location. At night, the sun goes down as the up-tempo music kicks in. Order a daiquiri or mojito (Mondays in Burbank means $2.95 mojitos!) from the full bar and start the meal with a Cuban tamal, arriving wrapper-free in a bright yellow slab, slathered with minced garlic and olive oil and littered with peas. Hearty entrées include rabo encendido—oxtail stewed in a rich, well-spiced wine sauce that coats every morsel of short rib–like beef, now falling from the bone. No matter the plate, expect white rice, black beans, and caramelized plantains or fibrous steamed yucca root. Of course, no Cuban meal would be complete without espresso, and El Criollo has Cubanos and cortaditos to spare.

the crowd

Couples and families ranging from their late twenties to late forties, as well as first date couples in their twenties.

... on the side

beans to spill
William Sera hails from Marcané, on the eastern end of Cuba; his wife and chef, Niurka, is from the nearby town of Las Tunas.

Low on weeknights, medium to high on weekends.


Tue–Wed 11:30 AM–8 PM; Thu–Fri. 11:30 AM–9 PM;
Sat 12 noon–9 PM; Sun 12 noon–8 PM

price range

$7.95 (media noche pressed sandwich) to $17.95 (rabo encendido)