DIS Contributors review meals and entertainment that they have paid for during their own vacations. They only utilize discounts and special offers if they are available to the general public, such as annual passholder discounts, Tables in Wonderland, or DVC membership discounts. They receive no additional compensation for dining experiences or events, so that they may give their honest opinions about price and value.
When dining at Walt Disney World, options for unique experiences are abundant. From eating inside Cinderella castle, to eating in the heart of Italy, I would consider it impossible to get tired of the dining at WDW. However, many people don’t normally consider all of the wonderful dinner options at Disney Springs. One of my favorites is Bongos Cuban Cafe, a boisterous and immersive restaurant with unique and delicious food. My mom and I have been there twice now, and in the following review I will assess our most recent dining experience in a variety of categories.
As I stepped inside the dimly-but-appropriately lit dining space, I was immediately transported out of Disney Springs and into a tropical environment. Hispanic music rang about the room as women in salsa dresses and men in tuxes danced about the room. The hostess led my mom and I to our table, which was on the second floor looking out over the balcony to the spectacle below. The dancers migrated up the stairs and danced their way around the second floor as well. For a giant extrovert such as myself, this loud and sometimes interactive experience (the dancers stopped at tables to say hello to guests) was a dream come true. This being said, this experience may not be for those who are more introverted and prefer a quieter, more intimate dining experience.
At the risk of giving too much praise, our service was excellent. Our server, Jan, perfectly fit the atmosphere; he was energetic and clearly happy to be there. He was attentive, checking in on us frequently but not to the point of annoyance, and helped us with all the menu questions we had. We asked a variety of questions concerning the appetizers and dinner options, all of which Jan was able to answer with ease; he was even able to help us figure out what we ate the last time we were there! All in all, our service was phenomenal. Even though the restaurant was insanely busy, our server still devoted an appropriate amount of time to my mother and I to ensure a pleasant dining experience.
We started off with the Baked Cuban Empanadas as an appetizer. There are four types to choose from, and you can decide the ratio of which you would like for a total of four empanadas; we opted to get one of each.
The first was beef. It was very flavorful ground beef, with almost a sweet flavor embedded in it. It tasted amazing with the dipping sauce that accompanied the appetizer, which can only be described as a sweet barbecue sauce with a bite of spice. The second empanada was filled with chicken. When asked what sauce the chicken had been immersed in for this empanada, Jan told us it was Corilla sauce, which he explained was a “tomato broth-based sauce.” So far, both empanadas were exceptional. The third we tried was filled with pork. There was nothing special about this empanada; however, it did taste exceptionally good with the dipping sauce. Lastly, we tried the spinach empanada. Inside this one was sauteed spinach and caramelized onions. While this one did not taste very good with the dipping sauce, it was arguably both my mom’s favorite and mine. The spinach was perfectly tender and slightly sweet, and paired perfectly with the flaky crust of the exterior of the empanada.
For our entrees, I decided on grilled chicken topped with sauteed onions, with white rice and black beans on the side; my mom ordered a steak topped with chopped onions and parsley, also with white rice and black beans. My chicken was, disappointingly, kind of dry though still good. My mom’s steak, however, was deliciously juicy, though thin. All in all, the meat was good, but could use a bit of work. The white rice and black beans were basic but very tasty, and possibly my favorite part of the entree. While our dinner was good, both my mom and I favored our empanada appetizer.
Overall, the experience was lovely, and there is no doubt in my mind that my mom and I will go again. The atmosphere was perfectly suited to our shared outgoing and boisterous personalities, the service was excellent, and the food was delicious. I recommend this dining experience to any adult looking for a fun night out complete with a wonderful and slightly adventurous meal. I would not, however, recommend Bongos to families with small children, as it is better suited for adults. The menu is filled with typical hispanic dishes, and there are no typical kids options (burgers, fries, or chicken nuggets)*. So unless your six-year-old has an unusually diverse palette, I would take them to a character dining meal instead.
Until this restaurant, our typical Disney dining experience revolved around character meals and intricately themed park dining; think ‘Ohana‘ and the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. While these experiences are amazing, more adult experiences are fun in their own right. As I grow up, I look forward to adding more of these dining experiences to my Disney vacations, alongside the more stereotypical Disney dining.
*Editor’s Note: The current lunch and dinner menus for Bongos Cuban Cafe do show additional kids’ menu options available for ages 9 and under, with standard appetizers and entrees such as those mentioned.