The newest addition to the Cuban Family of Restaurants in Glendale.
An old gas station on the border of Burbank and Glendale? It’s not where you’d expect to find good Cuban. And yet, here is Mambo’s, doing exactly that. Yet another addition to the long, and seemingly proud line of Cuban joints in that bedrock of the Caribbean known as beautiful downtown…Burbank?
Did I really type that? Burbank?
(Yeah, I did type that…only to realize later that Mambo’s is actually just across the border in Glendale.)
First off, don’t let the Gas Station fool you. This is a nice place. If I was looking for my happy place, this would probably be it. We in the food blogging game sometimes give lip service to ideas like the Wait Staff making you feel warm and welcome, but these guys made me feel warm and welcome. It was my first time inside, and they made me feel like a regular. Despite its outward size, Mambo’s has got a goodly number of tables inside (and a few out), and a diner right in view of the kitchen, where I had my lunch.
And yes, what a lunch it was. I was scanning the menu, looking for what I knew and what I wanted. Strangely, if Cuban Restaurants were a Venn diagram between Porto’s and Versailles, Mambo’s would exist in the sweet spot, overlapping the two. It has Cuban Sandwiches, just not as many as Porto’s. It has Cuban Dishes, just not as many as Versailles. That’s all beside the point.
The point is…are you going to leave happy? Well, hell yeah! (You’ll see what I mean when we get to the What Should I Get portion of our story). First of all, I was able to get a Potato Ball (joy!), they serve Matvera my favorite Cuban Soda (more joy!) They even have Jazz on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I’m so adding this place to the rotation.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: My search of the menu was long and hard. I found many, many blissful items I would have easily ordered. I looked at the Empanadas, but I wound up going with the Potato Ball. It was a tasty bit of fun, prepared a little differently that its counterpart at Porto’s. The potato was lighter and fluffier, and it seemed to have been dipped into the fryolator. (The insides were a little cool, but it was still good). Did I look seriously at the Roast Pork dish with longing and desire? Why yes, yes I did. But in the end, it was the Pan Con Chorizo that caught my heart.
You heard me right, Pan Con Chorizo.
While my favorite all time Cuban dish (Ropa Vieja – Old Clothes) was not on the menu, I have never EVER seen a Cuban Sausage Sandwich before. Sausage and roasted onions, in between two pieces of Cuban Bread.
Now do you understand why I’m happy?
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: For those of you who are watching their calories (as I am allegedly doing myself) just be aware that instead of the fried Plantain Chips you get at Porto’s, you’re getting fries. How much of a Calorie difference the two make I don’t know. For me, it took a little of the edge off the meal, but…not enough to stop enjoying it.
PARKING: Tricky. Mambo’s has their own lot…which, due to their popularity fills up real quick. Coming for Lunch may be a hit or a miss affair, because by 12:06 all the spots may be gone, yet coming at 1pm seemed to leave open a few spots. This is also the first place that I’ve been to where even the street parking was all full up at lunchtime, due to the large number of businesses in the area. But again, soldier on. Work to find that space, and if that fails…come another day. It’s worth it.
1701 Victory Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91201
Tel: (818) 545-8613
Monday-Friday: 11:00am – 9:00pm
Saturday: 12:00pm – 9:00pm
Sunday: 12:00pm – 7:00pm