Bongos Cuban Cafe Review (Downtown Disney)

Working two internships this summer, I haven’t has a much time as I’d like to explore in and around Orlando. Throw in record-breaking temps, higher than high humidity, and the usual unpredictability of Floridian weather, and it’s clear why my adventures have been few and far between.

Waiting for a free weekend to get out and simply enjoy a day on the town, I knew that I wanted to explore Downtown Disney (a.k.a the new Disney Springs). 

Since my last visit in March (Raglan Road and Erin McKenna’s Bakery), Downtown Disney has definitely been making some big strides towards becoming Disney Springs. Deciding to catch a movie at the AMC theater there, I decided to try lunch not at a new installation, but at a Downtown Disney staple: Bongos Cuban Cafe.

Opened in 1997, Bongos has been a restaurant I can remember in the entertainment district as long as I can remember, but I have never tried. A big fan of Cuban food from authentic local restaurants I’ve tried around the state, I arrived with some pretty big expectations. 

When I arrived, there seemed to be a lack of hosts/hostesses, as there were several people ahead of me in line. Luckily, I had made a reservation online and was seated right away when I made it to the front of the line. Upon looking over the menu, I was glad to see that gluten-free options are marked with a “GF” symbol, which made reading the menu easy. You can read the full menu here to see which items are gluten-free.

Once I identified what I wanted to order, I inquired with the waitress to see if my intended selection would be dairy-free as well. She seemed really unsure and wanted to double check with a chef to make sure everything was clear.

Given the green light, I ordered the Cuban slow roasted pork, which comes with moros rice and sweet plantains. It arrived in a timely manner, and I was wowed by the abundance of food before me, but here is where my experience went down hill. 

Honestly, I could barely eat even a few spoonfuls of the entree. The rice was dry as a bone and completely flavorless. The pork was really greasy and fatty with non of the mojo magic I was hoping to taste. The only good part of the plate was the plantains, which were sweet and caramelized on the edges, but even those paled in comparison to other restaurant’s take on the sweet fruit. I had to stop eating altogether when one unfortunate mouthful of port fat was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I will not be returning to Bongos on any return visit to Downtown Disney, and hope my experience is not the norm. It’s really hard to reconcile the exorbitant prices for the subpar food and mediocre service. I can report that I did not get gluten-ed or dairy-ed, but my stomach ached from the few bites I did take. I wanted so much to like Bongos, and am disappointed in what I found.

The Basics

Address: 1498 E Buena Vista Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Cuisine: Cuban, Spanish
Ideal For: Lunch, Dinner
Accessibility: Easily wheelchair accessible

Special Feature: Shorten your wait by making reservations in advance on Open Table here.

Disclaimer: This review is based upon the information I have at the time of the review and does not reflect changes in ingredients or availability of items. Please contact the restaurant directly for up-to-date information and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.

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