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(my review of ) CUBAN CROCODILE

I love me some Cuban food. When I saw that CUBAN CROCODILE (26 East Park Ave, Long Beach, NY) was opening in Long Beach, I got very excited. When I saw the menu, I got even more excited. Being away on vacation, catching up with work and having some other personal issues kept me away from actually trying the place, until this week. So I finally went. What did I think?

DECOR: Do you want a cool looking place in Long Beach that mimics what’s going on in Brooklyn as far as decor goes? Well, this is the place. OUT with the fake Tuscan beige and IN with natural wood beams, exposed brick walls and tin tile ceilings. The decor at Cuban Crocodile really made me feel like we’re getting some “cool” places around here. My wife says it’s mission-style, if that means anything to you want-to-be designers out there.

(Interior photos taken from the Cuban Crocodile Facebook Group.)

SERVICE & BREAD: The service was excellent. We didn’t wait too long for anything (bread, water, ordering, drinks, food, check) and we didn’t feel rushed to eat and leave. I only eat bread when I go to a fancy restaurant, so almost all bread tastes good to me. This bread was especially warm and tasted great with the garlic butter that it came with.

SALAD/ APPETIZER: I started off with a Caribbean Salad which was out of this world. This salad was fruit (strawberries, mango, peaches) and lettuce topped with this awesome tangy vinaigrette. I love tangy. I love mango. I love fruit. I was in heaven. This salad was also nice and light; I didn’t feel like I ate a million pounds of food before my main course. I felt good. My stomach felt good. My taste buds were happy. So far soooo good.

ENTREES: Ropa Veija, which is spanish for old clothes, was everything but. Shredded flank steak, peppers, onions, wine tomato sauce with black beans and white rice on the side =  yummy goodness. There was a lot of flavor going on here. I was kinda hoping for some yellow rice instead of white, but no big deal. The rice and beans were a perfect combination with this dish. I mixed all three (shredded steak, rice, beans) together and it tasted awesome. The one thing I want when I go out to eat is flavor, but not compromised with sugar or salt. It’s all about the seasonings. The Ropa Veija was a perfect example of that – while most places count on salt, Cuban Crocodile used the right amount of seasonings. This was definitely a great dish.

We also got some Tostones (Green Fried Bananas) on the side and those were great too. I have no idea what type of sauce they came with, but it was so tasty – especially when a tostones accidentally falls into the bowl and gets smothered in it.

I loved this restuarant. The service was great, the decor looked awesome and the food was very tasty and fresh. I plan on adding Cuban Crocodile (26 East Park Ave, Long Beach, NY)  to my usual restaurant rotation, so I hope they stick around.  I do realize that the majority of comments in food reviews are generally negative. It happened with the Cafe Picasso review with tough meat being the number one complaint (I still haven’t tried the meat there, but I love their pasta). It happens when I mention SUGO on this blog (which I personally think is one of the better fine-dining places on the South Shore of Long Island.) And it happened with Cuban Crocodile when I posted the menu a few weeks ago. I give Cuban Crocodile’s owner props for reaching out to people and taking all the feedback seriously. That tells me that this owner really cares and is constantly looking for ways to improve the overall experience, even though some of us (like me) think it’s great already. If you went there after they first opened and didn’t have the best experience, definitely give them another shot. It’s only fair to give new restaurants some time to work out some kinks before they get their flow going.

Oh yeah, and the check came in a cigar box. How cool is that?

Cuban Crocodile 
26 East Park Ave
Long Beach, NY 

Various Foodie Updates (Red Mango, Cuban Food, Everything Delicious)

1. Red Mango is coming to 32 E. Park Ave.

Do we have room for another yogurt place? Everybody (including me) loves Tutti Frutti (28 West Park Ave). We love that place so much that we completely ignored Krazy Kiwi (151 E Park Ave ), which is now out-of-business.  So here comes Red Mango, which according to it’s website will be a self-serve joint.

2. Cuban Crocodile, a new Cuban Restaurant will be opening very soon – in as little as two weeks. They are taking the former Ay Caramba Bar & Grill space @ 26 East Park Ave. (Please note: Ay Caramba @ 6 W Park Ave is still open. Yep, there were two.) Welcome to the neighborhood Cuban food!

3. Remember that short-lived bakery/coffee/ice cream place EVERYTHING DELICIOUS? I just noticed that they still exist, but at their parent-restarant Avenue Cafe. Makes sense, who wants to pay two rents by selling the same product on the same block? (see Ay Caramba above) Still no word on the former-Everything Delicious location.