Trying out the flavorful, tropical-inspired dishes at Creole Cabana

On an easy Sunday afternoon with no desire to get in the kitchen, our crew headed to Burbank Drive to check out Creole Cabana.

The restaurant is adjacent to The Oasis, a recreational development with plenty of beach volleyball courts and an indoor golf simulator planned for the fall. Diners at Creole Cabana have the option to eat in the well-lit and air-conditioned dining room, or on a massive covered patio complete with a bar, band stage and full view of all the volleyball action.

The menu, which runs the gamut, seems to artfully combine the cuisines of the Caribbean with Creole cooking. With salads, sandwiches, tacos, burgers and composed entrees, anyone should be able to find a taste to satisfy their palate.

We first bypassed the many enticing raw and chargrilled oyster offerings to enjoy the Ahi Tuna Poke Tostada appetizer. Two tostadas each held a sizable portion of mild chopped tuna with onions, peppers and a large scoop of creamy guacamole. It was a light starter.

For an entree: A succulent half chicken smoked and jerked, served alongside fritters with a zesty cream sauce.

On left: The Sweet Potato Coconut Curry offers sweet and spicy flavors in a creamy and comforting soup.

On right: The main dining area offers a quiet respite for a meal. Outside, a massive covered patio provides a view of The Oasis’ volleyball courts, a bar and space for live music.

To supplement the tostadas, we ordered two soups. I adore pozole, so the Pozole Roja was an obvious choice. There was discernible hominy and pork in this tasty version’s chili broth, but it lacked the gusto of pozole soups I’ve experienced in the Southwest. We were all pleased with the Sweet Potato Coconut Curry. The creamed soup was both sweet and spicy and had plenty of coconut milk.

Having worked in Jamaica, my partner zeroed in on the Jerk Chicken and Dumpling. The chicken was appropriately darkened by the abundant dry rub. Beneath this layer of skin and spice lay smoky succulent meat that was hard to resist. Though the menu claimed the dumplings were sweet potato, they were in fact Jamaican festival dumplings: a light and airy fried cornmeal fritter better suited to the origins of this chicken specialty.

There are several taco choices at Creole Cabana, and the top two among my friends were Smoked Pulled Pork and Smoked Portobello. Served three to an order, they included fried plantains and your choice of dirty rice or coconut rice and black beans. My friend’s serving of dirty rice was unlike any Cajun dirty rice I’ve tasted. It had a mild spice, but the components had cooked down in such a way that it was hard to discern between rice and meat.

However, the pork taco was incredibly flavorful, with lots of fresh crunch from shredded cabbage and pickled red onions. Cilantro and pineapple pico de gallo added pungency. As tasty as the pork tacos were, the portobello tacos are reason enough to make the trek to this outpost. Lots of smoke was evident in the mushrooms, balanced with raw shredded vegetables. A smear of avocado ranch created a mix of smoke, cream and crunch that was superb.

The Ahi Tuna Poke Tostada is a light and spicy starter with fried corn tortilla chips.

The Grilled Catch of the Day came with Gulf shrimp coated in a seasoning that was like a moderated version of a blackened seasoning. My large filet of fish was nicely grilled and exceedingly juicy. I was excited by the prospect of the side of coconut black bean rice but was disappointed in the bland, overly sweet reality.

For dessert, a seasonal Cobbler of Mango and Peaches sounded fresh and Southern with a tropical flair. It wasn’t exactly that—the “cobbler” was more a fruit compote served with a lagniappe side of churros, presumably for dipping in the fruit. Upon second bite, we did make a wonderful discovery, though: the scrumptious, surprising churros were stuffed with what tasted like an apple purée. A side serving of vanilla ice cream was, well, vanilla.

With the Trés Leches Bread Pudding, the dulce de leche and milk sauces offered some much-needed moisture and flavor. Though the menu said the included ice cream was supposed to be Creole cream cheese, it was just plain vanilla again. But our initial disappointment was quelled—the mild vanilla was a better foil for the rich sweetness of the sauces in this dessert.

Some things at Creole Cabana were a bit of a miss for us, but definite hits like the sweet potato soup, jerk chicken and tacos make this a worthy lunch or dinner stop. It also serves a variety of interesting adult beverages perfect for a summer evening.

A final added bonus: Should you find you’ve overindulged, there’s always the option of working off those extra calories at the restaurant’s adjacent sand volleyball courts. It’s your serve.

THE BASICS: The anchor restaurant for The Oasis on Burbank Drive opened in summer 2018, offering island-inspired food to the volleyball enthusiasts or just those looking to hang out on the expansive patio.

WHAT’S A MUST: If you’re seeking comfort, start with the creamy Sweet Potato Coconut Curry. If you’re looking for a light starter, go with the fresh and spicy Ahi Tuna Poke Tostada. For an entree, try the smoky and succulent Jerk Chicken and Dumpling or a trio of flavorful tacos.

7477 Burbank Drive

Monday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.

This article was originally published in the May 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.