Finally, I know what Carlo from the Godfather felt like … because sometimes it’s pretty amazing to marry into an influential family. Sure he gets roughed up by Santino pretty bad … but isn’t it worth it for the hook-ups? … The connections? … The insider information? And so for this GRUB adventure we headed out to El Criollo, a Cuban-spot in the valley, with our passport to embargoed GRUB … the Berg Family. As I entered into the sleek, brick-exposed dinning room, took a healthy glance through the menu, there was one dish calling my name … but I think it was speaking Spanish, so I’ll just take it’s word that Ropa Vieja means “The Good Grub.” Okay so it doesn’t … they even have the translation (Old Clothes) right on the menu … but I don’t care what you call it if it comes out like this sizzling pan of shredded, crazy-marinated, tender strips of beef doing the back stroke in a pool of mouth-watering juices, peppers, onions, and peas. Bite after bite was like dancing to a flavor serenade with the Ropa Vieja taking the lead. And this was all before I started mixing it up with the rice and black beans … a side dish that isn’t sitting on the sidelines. The beans were just a different blend than your average variety … rich and flavorful, with a definite kick of spices that you’ll spend the rest of the meal trying to pin-point … I’m going to go with paprika … mainly because I wanted to say “paprika.” Matched up with the rice and beans were some sweet and savory fried plantains, perfect as an appetizer, desert, or mash it up with all the rest of the dish and let the party-in-your-belly rock on. Our meal came with a basket of fresh, let-the-steam-rise-as-you-tear-them-open, rolls … and who was I not to pile some of my marinated beef, rice, and beans onto said rolls and make my own free-style Cubano sandwich … pure heaven. So much to the point, that I might just go meat-on-roll for the rest of my next encounter. Our Grub-Tíos, Emmett and Caren, couldn’t veer far from their favorite, the Pollo Asada … a tender half chicken marinated … or do I dare say, infused … in a garlic and lemon “mojo” (their word, not mine … but I wish it was mine). After tasting just a bite, I could understand their hesitation not to drift far away from their first love (I mean, it’s part of the reason why I was at the restaurant with them to begin with) … the flavor was literally bursting from the crispy-outside, juicy-inside little morsel of deliciousness. 1 out of 1 doctors agree … this dish is amazing (and we’re talking about the Dr. Emmett Berg). But our tasting adventure through Havana didn’t stop there, because the Jefe … the Hu-steen … the Peach … the … um … Justin, went big and threw down for the Fricasé de Pollo. I’m always pretty big on any dish that combines the words “Fricasé” and “Stew” in the description… but this was just ridiculous. Stewed … see I told you … in a blend of Criollo wine sauce and Cuban spices, the taste from this guy was scratching an itch I didn’t even know I had. Now I know everything is relative, but I’m pretty damn excited to be welcoming El Criollo to the GRUB family. See you at all the major holidays … just make sure you bring the GRUB.