It’s the 2014 Latin Billboard Week in Miami, and one of my favorite restaurants I always make sure to dine at is the famous Bongos Cuban Cafe. Located at the American Airlines Arena in Downtown Miami (now closed), this landmark restaurant, owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan (Miami Sound Machine), has the best Cuban | Latin Cuisine in the city, not to mention one of the most amazing restaurant atmospheres I have ever experienced.
During this particular visit, I had the privilege of being greeted by Leo Adames, General Manager of Bongos, and Restaurant Manager, Dania Perez. Where I was able to share what we do at Latin é and discuss some of their favorite dishes at the restaurant.
After only a few minutes, I came away with a winning recommendation; Vaca Frita de Pollo. Now Vaca Frita is traditional Cuban dish which literally translates to “Fried Cow”. This dish typically consists of fried and shredded skirt or flank steak. It is often topped with sauteed onions and served with rice and black beans. However, Emilio and Gloria came one day and asked the chef to created a spin off recipe where it is prepared with chicken instead of beef. So this specialty unique to Bongos was something I knew I had to try.
Before we talk about this tasty dish, lets start off with what my bootcamp Drill Instructors used to call a beverage of choice. So, in Miami Mojitos are everywhere, however there’s one Mojito that Bongos is known for, called the “Calle Ocho”. This signature beverage made with Botran Rum, Muddled Lime, Mint and Azúcar (sugar) was the smoothest Mojito I’ve ever had.
For an appetizer, I had the Bongos Combo. Now this combo was large enough to be its own meal. It is a sampler of their appetizers which included:
- Papas Rellenas (Fried Stuff Potatoes)
- Tamal de carne de cerdo (Pork Tamale)
- Masitas de Puerco (Cuban Jojo Marinated Fried Pork Bites)
- Croquetas de Jamon (Traditional Cuban Ham Croquettes)
- Tostones Rellenos de Picadillo o Camarones (Green Plantains Cups stuffed with Shrimp Cuban Creole or Minced Beef)
Now it was hard not to eat the entire sampler in one sitting but I had to leave room for the the Vaca Frita de Pollo which consisted of Cuban style fried shredded chicken breast topped with grilled onions. The dish is served with white rice, sweet plantains and black beans. I was also able to sample the Pollo a la Plancha, grilled chicken Breast marinated in Garlic and Lemon and then topped with grill onions, as well as the classic I was brought up on, Arroz con Pollo (quarter chicken) which cam served on a bed of yellow rice with Maduros.
Oh wait there is more, Bongos Cuban Cafe was still serving up desert!
After this entourage of dishes, which was served in large portions and tasted as if I was at my Abuela’s (Grandmother) for dinner [Teary eyed], Bongos served up still more surprises with the their desserts. One of the team members mentioned to the management it was my birthday and, in true Latin fashion, they brought out a huge Tres Leches Cake with fireworks. Tres Leches Cake literally translates to “three milk cake”, a butter cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream covered in whipped cream or icing. Though, tres leches happens to be one of my favorites, we also had the opportunity to taste their flan. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this treat, it is a custard tart covered in caramelized sugar.
As if the food wasn’t enough, Bongos Cuban Cafe also has live entertainment and dancing. The band playing that evening covered some many Latin music classics to include songs by Luis Enrique and even Miami Sound Machine. So if you ever find yourself in Miami or on South beach, head downtown to the American Airlines Arena and enjoy some of the best Cuban food, 2nd to none atmosphere and great music at Bongos Cuban Cafe. Tell them The Don sent you.
Though the American Airlines Arena Location has closed you can still enjoy their amazing cuisine at their Hollywood and Orlando Locations. Reserve your table today at www.bongoscubancafe.com.