Bongos Cuban Cafe - Disney Springs - Review April 4, 2019
Posted by F S on
The Orlando Sentinel has reported that Bongo's Cuban Cafe at Disney Springs will be closing in August of 2019. I'm so sad to hear this as it's is one of our favorite places. But if you wanted to go please do so before August of this year.
Today we are going to review Bongos we were just here last Sunday again. A great cuban restaurant located at Disney Springs West Side. A little history on this restaurant is that it is owned by Gloria Estefan and her family. It opened in 1997.
Restaurant hours are:
Lunch 11:00 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. Dinner 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
This restaurant does not take Tables in Wonderland but does give a 10% discount for those using the Disney Visa card for payment.
This is one of the few restaurants that you can walk completely around and see from all sides. This is the front of the building. Which sits directly next door to the new Jaleo and across from the cigar shop and AMC theater.
In the front is a gift shop where you can purchase cook books, shirts, souvenirs, etc.
The right side of the building shows the two floors of outside seating.
The back side of the building houses the iconic pineapple that you see from the boats on the lake. There's a walk path behind this restaurant as well.
A close up of the sign on the back of the building is actually of a woman with maracas. The front of the building has a sign with a man playing bongos.
The left side of the building has my favorite water fountain.
Because it just falls over the side to the sidewalk but doesn't get in the way as the sidewalk is sloped back towards the water fountain keeping the water near the base.
In walking around the building I noticed that they have a new interactive directory at this corner. So if you get lost you can touch the map for help.
As you come back around to the front of the building before you get to the front doors of the Restaurant you'll see a little walk up window outside with some seating. This is a great place to grab a quick bite.
The menu outside is shown on the wall at the line or on a pedestal just before you enter the line.
Our favorites here are the Papas Rellenos or Breaded Stuffed Potatoes. Which are mashed potatoes shaped into a ball and filled with Picadillo (ground beef with olives) and breaded then deep fried. We could eat these by the dozen.
Their empanadas are a great as well.
Once you walk into the main dining room you see the bar off to the right.
And the main stairway that leads to the second floor seating area.
Behind those potted plants is a stage for the band that plays in the evening.
Today since it was the weekend they also had a Brunch menu when we were seated.
We had the Cuban Sandwich from this menu as there weren't any sandwiches on the regular menu that we were given.
The Cuban sandwich is a classic pressed sandwich, made with roast pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, mustard and Cuban bread and served with french fries.
Personally being from Tampa this to me isn't Cuban bread, it's close, but there's no shatter when you bite into the bread like real Cuban bread.
There was a lot of ham on the sandwich as you can tell and the taste was very much as a classic Cuban sandwich.
If you have the Estefan Kitchen cook book pictured here, I'll tell you after each item which page you can find the recipe...
The Cuban sandwich recipe is on page 169.
The other item we ordered was from the appetizers portion of the regular menu.
We had the Estefan Kitchen Cuban Combo Appetizer.
This appetizer consists of:
Bacon wrapped maduros with cheese (these are the ripe plantains) we liked these a lot, even though my husband doesn't like the ripe plantains. Bacon makes everything better.
Crispy pork bites, these weren't a favorite as they were a bit dry for us. I think frying them after cooking them does make them a little too dry. Recipe page 15
Breaded stuffed Potatoes which as I mentioned above are mashed potatoes, stuffed with Picadillo (ground beef with onions, peppers, and olives) then breaded and deep fried. Yum Yum! Recipe page 17.
Black Bean Hummus with Plantain chips. The hummus had the same Cuban flavor as their Black bean soup so it was wonderful. The plantain chip recipe is on page 21.
Ham Croquettes of Serrano Ham with béchamel sauce and a guava dipping sauce. What is béchamel sauce? You probably know it as white sauce and the basis of any good cheese sauce. Made from flour, butter and milk. It's typically used in pasta dishes as the cheese layer. Recipe on page 29
This appetizer is meant to serve two people but could easily be someone's dinner.
On your way out don't forget to really look at the walls of the restaurant. They are all done in very tiny 1/2" mosaic tiles.
We have dined at this restaurant at least 5 times that I have the actual dates for. In one of our previous visits this was the menu. There's no date on it but I'm figuring it was in 2015 as this was the time we had the Paella.
Here's the Paella we had. Reading the two menus I see there is now a difference in the Paella that they serve now and the one we had in 2015. This one in 2015 was massive. And I do mean massive. It was supposed to serve 2 people but could easily have fed 4.
Here's the differences in the two Paella dishes.
First of all originally the price was "market price" so it varied depending on what they put in it. I know it was upwards of $75 but cannot remember the actual price. Today the Paella is a set price of $75 for two people.
Here's what the original one consisted of:
Paella made with a whole lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, fish squid, chicken and Spanish chorizo sausage, sautéed and served on a bed of yellow rice and green plantains.
Today the menu reads this way:
Sautéed saffron rice with a lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, little neck clams, fish, black mussels, Spanish chorizo and chicken, topped with peas and roasted peppers.
I have not seen the new version of the dish to say how it compares in size to the one we had in 2015.
In the past we've also had the following dishes from this restaurant.
Black Bean Soup - it's a traditional Cuban style black bean soup and satisfies that known flavor. The recipe is on page 143.
The Cuban Tour (now called The Tour of Cuba)
Originally this consisted of Roast Pork (Lechon Asado) recipe page 99, shredded seared beef (ropa vieja) recipe page 91, shredded chicken (vaca frita de pollo) recipe page 101, green plantains (tostones) recipe page 137, white rice (arroz blanco) recipe page 147, black beans (frijoles negros) and three sauces. It no longer includes green plantains now it's the sweet plantains (maduros) and no black beans at all.
This is a great dish if you want a little taste of everything.
Shrimp Cuban Criolla (camarones enchilados) now called the Cuban Crillo Seafood Gumbo. This is shrimp sautéed in cuban criollo sauce and served with white rice and green plantains. Criolla sauce is a sauce of onion, red bell pepper, tomato, vinegar and oil. The recipe is on page 117.
I did find in our memorabilia a give away conga picture frame that was in a special bag we received when Disney Springs first reopened changing it's name from Downtown Disney.
I cannot share the recipes from the cookbook without permission and I'm working on getting that permission for future posts but will share with you my recipe for roast pork that I use in my Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Roast Pork.
- 2-4 pounds of pork roast, you can use pork shoulder or boston butt for this. If you get pork shoulder it's usually got a bone as this is actually a ham that hasn't been smoked yet. I just cut the shoulder into 2 pieces so that it fits in my Instant Pot. But however much meat you want to use just make sure it does't go past the fill line in your instant pot. The flavor is better when you use the shoulder because of the bone but either will work.
- 1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces. This will be removed later and is only for flavor
- 2 cups water
- Salt and Pepper
Turn your Instant pot on to Saute, salt and pepper the pork all over and sear the pork on all sides about 3 minutes per side. You want each side to hav a lot of color as color means flavor. But don't burn it. My pieces of pork are usually about 1/2 to 3/4 pound each. They are still pretty big.
After the pork is browned move it to a plate so that you can deglaze the pot. Keep the Instant pot on Sautéed and pour in the water and with a spatula or square wooden spoon scrape up the bits on the bottom. You should have a nice brown stock forming and this will keep the Instant pot from giving you a burn notice if you scrape all of this up before cooking the pork.
Once you have that done I put a trivet in the pot either the one that came with your Instant pot or a silicone one if you have them. This is to keep the meat from sitting directly on the burner and burning.
Put the pork and onion back into the pot and change the setting to Pressure Cook. Cook on high for 12 minutes per pound of pork. So if it's two pounds it's 24 minutes and so on.
At the end of cooking let the steam release on it's own to get the most flavor from the meat. But if you are in a hurry you can release it, it won't hurt anything.
Serve the meat with white rice and a veg and you have a great meal.
I save the juice in my freezer for using to flavor rice or make gravy.
So remember above when I said that the pork we had on our appetizer plate was a little dry. I actually took it home and put it in some of the left over au jus I had from making my Instant Pot roasted pork last time. And it was awesome once rejuvenated in the juice.
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- Tags: Bongos Cuban Cafe, Disney Dining, Disney Dining Plan, Disney Food, Disney Restaurants, Disney Springs, Eating at Disney World, Orlando Restaurants, Tables in Wonderland
Enjoyed reading your review. Next time we are in Orlando, we will make sure to visit this restaurant. The cuban sandwich looked really yummy.