Chefs at La Cocina pick fresh ingredients sourced from the surrounding area to build Mexican and Cuban plates as colorful as the eatery's bright orange walls or a firework-filled piñata. After rounds of fresh ceviche or ham croquetas, rustic wooden tabletops fill with made-to-order rice dishes such as the palomilla empanizada—thin-pounded top sirloin steak breaded and pan-fried—or stone mortars known as molcajete filled with chorizo or seafood and fresh cheese. For dessert, chefs hand-craft creamy flan or natural shakes made with mango or tropical mamey fruit. A tiled chair rail runs along the restaurant's tangerine walls, which are studded with Mexican-style art and framed photographs of famous burritos that have visited the restaurant.
In the kitchen of Bella Cuba Restaurant, flames slowly sauté and season traditional Cuban dishes. Chefs season root vegetables with mojo—a sauce made from hot olive oil, lemon juice, raw onions, garlic, and cumin—before sautéing accompanying meats in citrus marinades. The smells of the sizzling pork steaks, meat pies, and yellow tail snapper sizzling in a coconut sauce infuse the whole restaurant with the smells of Cuba, helped along by the smoke of handcrafted cigars plucked from the dining room’s humidor. After a dessert of super-moist tres leches cake, guests can sip on Cuba libres and classic Cuban mojitos that, much like a splash in a neighbor’s bird bath, give relief on a balmy day.
El Criollo creolizes a menu of classic, authentic Cuban cuisine with a contemporary cast of flavorful influences. Test out the waters with a tamal cubano appetizer, a homemade yellow corn pork tamale delicately decorated with minced garlic and olive oil ($3.95). Exquisite Cuban entrees include the lengua guisada, beef tongue stewed in a fusion of fresh herbs and spices ($11.95), and the slow-roasted lecbón asado, a marinated pork leg cloaked in caramelized onions ($13.95). Diners can dive into the pescado sudado, boneless white fish steamed in a tomato-creole purée ($14.95), or the pollo en salsa de ajo, stewed chicken smoldered in a medley of garlic, white wine, olive oil, onion, and cilantro ($11.95). Wash down lingering spices with a glass of the house sangria ($6), or share a pitcher of beer ($16-$18) with a group of friends, Romans, and countrymen.