Rincon Criollo Restaurant - Corona & Huntington Station, NY
My husband and I are huge fans of the show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” If you’ve never watched the show, it is hosted by Guy Fieri on the Food Network Channel. Viewers watch Guy as he travels to the best diners, drive-ins and dives throughout the United States. Guy brings awareness to relatively unknown restaurants and highlights a couple of their best dishes.
When my kids are older and my husband is retired, our goal is to travel the United States and visit as many of these restaurants as possible! We were very excited that we didn’t have to hold off on our journey until retirement because one of the restaurants featured on the show now has locations in Long Island and Queens!
Rincon Criollo was founded in the early 1950’s by the Acosta brothers in Havana. The restaurant was a huge success and everyone from celebrities to dignitaries came to dine at Rincon Criollo. Unfortunately, in 1962 the restaurant was seized by the government during the communist revolution. Instead of giving up on their dreams, in 1976 the Acosta brothers decided to re-open Rincon Criollo in Corona, Queens. The restaurant did so well that in 2015, the brothers decided to open a 2nd location in Huntington, Long Island.
My husband and I visited Rincon Criollo on a Saturday night with another couple. The place was packed and the restaurant does not take reservations. We knew it was going to be quite a wait for the table but did not mind spending time chatting at the bar. The cocktail menu is pretty basic and we quickly learned that when you visit Rincon Criollo, you are there for the food. My friend ordered a glass of Sangria but it didn’t really have any fruit and was served without ice. I have never seen Sangria served without ice before! I ordered the mojito which was fine but nothing to rave about. When we sat down at our table we ordered cocktails off the special drink menu and those were much better. Unfortunately, I did not write down the name of those drinks and can’t find it online, but next time I would definitely select a drink special as opposed to the classics.
While we were at the bar we noticed that lots of birthday celebrations were being held at this restaurant. To celebrate birthdays at Rincon Criollo, one of the Acosta brothers wears a birthday hat with glasses, puts on music with lights and does a funny dance. It is quite entertaining and definitely not something you see at most restaurants. It is this type of behavior that makes Rincon Criollo such an enjoyable place to dine. Everything about this restaurant is warm and inviting – from the attitude of the employees to the décor- you just feel right at home.
After over an hour wait, we were starving and seated. I recommend going early to this restaurant if possible because it is small, very popular, and without reservations there is no guarantee as to how long you will wait for a table. I must say that the wait was definitely worth it as the food was some of the best Cuban I have ever had!
We started our meal with chorizo and plantain chips served with a side of garlic sauce. The chorizo was delicious and the perfect amount of spiciness. The plantain chips were nice and crisp and I preferred to eat them without the sauce. My husband and my friend’s husband both enjoyed the garlic sauce so it all depends on your flavor preference.
Rincon Criollo is known for their Ropa Vieja and that is one of my favorite Cuban dishes. Ropa Vieja is shredded beef, peppers and onions in a tomato sauce. Rincon Criollo’s Ropa Vieja melts in your mouth. The sauce that the beef and vegetables stew in has been masterfully created to have just the right amount of sweetness and tanginess. I watched the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” episode after we dined here and the secret ingredient for this dish is ketchup! The beef is soft, falls apart in your mouth and soaks up this sauce perfectly. All entrees are served with your choice of two sides. I selected the sweet plantains and the rice with beans combination.
Another dish that was ordered at our table was the Bistec Enrollado or Rolled Steak. The inside of the steak was filled with ham and cheese. The steak was fried on the outside so the different textures between the crunchy outside and soft inside balanced each other out nicely. My friend ordered this dish with fried potatoes and decided to continue snacking on the appetizer of fried plantains as well.
If you are looking for a new restaurant to visit and are up for a lively, casual evening with authentic Cuban food, Rincon Criollo is the place for you! Since dining at Rincon Criollo a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I have already visited again but this time ordered take out! The food travels well and is just as delicious at home if you are looking for a quieter evening.