Sitting in the courtyard of an old house in Havana, I hear the soft sound of paddle fans and the kick of Latin music in the distance. I am sipping on a Mojito and munching on sweet fried Plantains. Dreaming of my grandparent’s house in Cuba, I open my eyes and I am right in the middle of Downtown Disney at Bongos Cuban Cafe.
This Cuban restaurant and nightclub is owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan and is located on the West Side of Downtown Disney. This restaurant by day and a Latin nightclub by night is a popular choice for many visitors and locals to Orlando. The restaurant is themed after an old Cuban house with a courtyard in the middle of the house. In Cuba, many of the house feature huge courtyards with tables where you can relax and dine. Bongos features a courtyard inside with lots of seating and an area for a live band in the evening hours and plenty of space for dancing. You can sit downstairs or walk up the open stairway to the second floor or balcony seating. Everywhere you look, you have a beautiful view of the lake, the Disney Springs strip, mosaic tile artwork (all made by hand), or tropical trees. Bongos Cuban Cafe is certainly a restaurant where you can relax or in the evening party…Latin style!
Bongos feature some the best Cuban cuisine in Orlando. Their menu is quite extensive with over 60 items featuring soups & salads, appetizers, sandwiches, seafood, chicken, meats, and even vegetarian dishes.
For Sopas y Ensaladas or Soups & Salads, you can choose from the Soup of the Day, Chicken Soup, Black Bean Soup, Bongos Salad, Caesar Salad, Tomato Salad, or Fruit Salad. The most popular soup and salad dishes are the Black Bean Soup and the Bongos Salad (with mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, carrots, and topped with a house vinaigrette or ranch dressing). The soups range in price from $5-6 and the salads range in price from $7-13.
The are several Aperitivos or Appetizers to sample, while you drink your beverage of choice. The appetizers include Pork Tamale, Fried Stuffed Potatoes, Stuffed Green Plantain Cups, Fried Green Plantains with Cuban Mojo, Traditional Ham Croquettes, Cuban Mojo Marinated Fried Pork Bites, Ceviche, Bongos Famous Black Bean Dip, Fried Cod Fritters, Fried Calamari, or Fried Cassava Bites. We decided to try the “Bongos Combo” that servers 2-4 people including a six of these appetizers to sample. My favorite appetizers were the Cuban Mojo Marinated Fried Pork Bites , Stuffed Plantain Cups with shrimp, and Fried Stuffed Potatoes (fried breaded mashed potato stuffed with Cuban creole minced beef). The appetizers range in price from $6-21.
There are so many entrees to choose from, it may take you a while to browse the menu. If you are looking for a lighter meal, you may want to try one of the sandwiches including Cuban Sandwich, Midnight Sandwich, Cuban Style Steak Sandwich, Cuban Club Sandwich, or Chicken Sandwich. All of these sandwiches are served with french fries. The Bongos specialties include the Cuban Sandwich with roasted pork, ham, pickles, swiss cheese, and mustard on Cuban bread or the Midnight Sandwich with roasted park, ham, pickles, swiss cheese, and mustard on Sweet Egg Dough Bread. The sandwiches range in price from $8-9.
If you are looking for a more hearty meal, you can choose from Mariscos (Seafood), Pollo (Chicken), or Carnes (Meats). For seafood, the menu items include Grilled Fish Fillet, Fish Bites, Fish Cuban Creole, Shrimp Cuban Creole, or Shrimp with Garlic Sauce. The Bongos specialties include Fish Cuban Creole and Shrimp Cuban Creole. The Fish Cuban Creole is fish bites sauteed in Homemade Cuban Creole Sauce served with white rice and maduros. The Shrimp Cuban Creole is shrimp sauteed in Homemade Cuban Garlic Sauce served with white rice and fried green plantains. The creole sauce is a little spicy!
If you are feeling like chicken for your entree, Bongos does offer several entrees for you including Bongos Famous Shredded Chicken Breast, Grilled Chicken Breast, Cuban Style Breaded Chicken Breast, Cuban Style Milanese Chicken Breast, Bongos Famous Roasted Chicken, Chicken Bites, and Chicken with Yellow Rice. The Bongos Famous Shredded Chicken Breast and Bongos Famous Roasted Chicken are the two most popular chicken selections. The Bongos Famous Shredded Chicken Breast is Cuban style fried shredded chicken breast topped with grilled onions served with white rice and maduros. The Bongos Famous Roasted Chicken is a half chicken seasoned and marinated in a lemon juice, garlic, white wine and light tomato Cuban Creole sauce and served with moro rice and maduros.
If you are more interested in Carnes (Meats), you can enjoy Bongos Famous Fried Shredded Beef, Cuban Style Steak, Cuban Style Breaded Steak, Cuban Style Milanese Steak, Shredded Beef, Cuban Style Skirt Steak, Roasted Pork Loin, Bongos Famous Masitas de Puerco, Pork Chops topped with Grilled Onions, and Cuban Creole Minced Beef. Bongos has several specialties for meat entrees including Bongos Famous Fried Shredded Beef, Cuban Style Steak, Cuban Style Skirt Steak, Roasted Pork Loin, Bongos Famous Masitas de Puerco, and Cuban Creole Minced Beef. The Bongos Famous Fried Shredded Beef is Cuban mojo marinated fried shredded flank steak topped with grilled onions served with moro rice and maduros. The Cuban Style Steak is thin tenderized steak seasoned with garlic salt and mojo topped with onions and served with white rice and fried green plantains. The Cuban Style Skirt Steak is tenderized skirt steak grilled to perfection and served with chimi-churri sauce, white rice and fried green plantains. The Bongos Famous Masitas de Puerco is Cuban mojo marinated fried pork bites topped with grilled onions and served with moro rice and maduros. The Cuban Creole Minced Beef is a Cuban creole minced beef with onions, peppers and onions served with white rice and maduros. You can also choose this entree with eggs. The entrees range in price from $14-23.
If you have room after all of this amazing Cuban food, you may want to try a Cuban coffee and their most popular dessert Flan. Bongos serves lunch and dinner. This restaurant is not on the Disney Dining Plan. If you are looking for a relaxing dinner or a evening entertainment for adults, think about Bongos during your Disney World vacation. In Bongos own words, Que Siga La Tradicion!…The Tradition Continues! Enjoy this amazing recipe at home for Chicken and Yellow Rice, always a popular entree at Bongos.
- 1 small jar pimientos morrones (roasted red peppers)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 whole chickens, bone in, skin on, quartered and cut into pieces
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed (using a garlic press)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp Bijol powder
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- Pinch of cumin powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 4 cups parboiled rice, thoroughly rinsed
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup canned or frozen peas
- Finely chop the pimientos morrones and reserve the liquid
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Then lightly brown the chicken pieces. Remove the chicken and set aside.
- Add the onions, green peppers, and garlic, and stir-fry until the onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes
- Add the chopped pimientos morrones and the reserved liquid, salt, pepper, Bijol, dried oregano, cumin powder, bay leaf, tomato sauce, and parboiled rice, and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the chicken stock, water, white wine, and browned chicken. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken and the rice are fully cooked. Add the peas and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.