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By Diva Vida

My husband is Dominican, so he knows Caribbean food, Latin music, and fun.  When we were booking restaurants on the Dining Plan at Disney, his first choice to try was Bongos Cuban Café.
Bongos is certainly fun.  Just walking up to the restaurant is exciting as part of the building’s exterior is a giant Pineapple and there are bright lights and loud Caribbean music emanating from the front doors.  There is also a large porch surrounding much of the building that allows for the dinners and music to be seen by everyone passing by.  It certainly makes you want to go there!
The first floor has an open area in the middle for dancing.  Every night has music, but some nights the dance floor is more popular than others.   On some Friday nights they offer Salsa Classes and often there are full Conga Lines that dance through the restaurant, as dinners join in (check the Downtown Disney Times Guide for more specifics).  We went on a Sunday night which a typical night out in Caribbean counties, and there were many local Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban couples out for a night of Latin dancing.  The DJ was great and, on the dance floor, we felt like we were back in Dominican Republic as we danced to our favorite Salsa, Bachata, and Merengue songs.
Before we moved to the dance floor, we ate dinner at a table on the second floor.  The menu is full of traditional Caribbean food and drinks.  The prices are reasonable for a Disney restaurant and it is on the meal plan as a single meal.  Main courses are around $15-$20 with a few more expensive specialty platters.  My husband was excited to see his favorite beers from home on the menu.  We quickly ordered Presidente beer for him (from Dominican Republic) and my favorite Corona (from Mexico), along with Yuca Frita (Fried Cassava Bites) as an appetizer.  Another bonus for my husband was that all the servers spoke fluent Spanish and the menu includes Spanish, so he could speak and order freely without having to have me translate.  For dinner, I had Bistec a la Milanesa (Cuban Style Milanese Steak) and he had Masitas de Puerco (Bongos Famous Cuban Mojo Marinated Fried Pork Bites).  Both our meals came with Platanos Maduros (Fried Sweet Plantains) and Arroz Blanco (White Rice).  Though my husband was very happy to have “his” food while in Walt Disney World, all of this is very typical food that he cooks or his family cooks on a regular basis.  I think we must have felt how a real Italian would feel at an American Italian restaurant.  The food was the right style of food, but we have had more authentic and better versions than what we ate at Bongos.  For someone unfamiliar with Caribbean food, you will certainly get a good idea of what it is like, but for people like us who are spoiled by the real deal on a regular basis, it was fine, but not the best we’ve had.
When we finished our meal and moved downstairs to the bar and dance floor area, we didn’t feel like the atmosphere was imitation at all.  Many people dancing around us were experts in the styles of dance and had obviously made it a special night out to show off their skills.  Dancing was by far our favorite part of the night.  Though many people knew just what they were doing, there were some people who were trying to learn the Latin dances or just dancing in their own way and enjoying a night out.  They completely fit in along with those who know the dances well, and no one appeared out of place.  For those less adventurous, I still suggest spending time at the dance area to watch the talent of many of the dancers.  It is a beautiful show.
I highly recommend checking out Bongos, especially on a night you find yourself without kids, and spend some time dancing.  The food is good, but next time, my husband and I will stick to the bar and dance floor.
~ Diva Viva