Last Update
Apr 15th, 2017

Bongos Cuban Cafe

5733 Seminole Way
Hollywood FL, 33314
(954) 791-3040
Overall Rating
1.7
Food
Service
Ambiance
Value
Last Review
05/03/2015

Details

Dress Code: Neat Casual
Parking: Private Lot, Garage
CC: Yes
Alcohol: Full Bar
Entree Prices: Moderate-Expensive
Outdoor: Yes

Pros

Live Music Friday and Saturday Nights

Cons

Overpriced
Bad Food
Forced Gratuity
No Refills on Iced Tea
No Music (or reason to come) during the week

Critic's Review

I went to the grand opening of Bongos, and it was a helluva party. I haven't had much chance to go back; they're not open for lunch and there's little reason these days to go to Hard Rock Paradise. I was meeting someone from Hallandale for dinner, so we decided to try it out.

La chica was on time and we were led into a largely empty restaurant. She'd urged me to get a reservation, but I poo-pooed the idea as nonsense. Paradise is dead, and who eats dinner at 5:30 on a Sunday?

We got a table in the middle of the main room, which would have been great if there was a band. I figured it might start little later; I was a bit surprised that there was no festive music playing at all.

They have a couple of misplaced TVs, but nobody comes here to watch a game. Our server didn't mention a happy hour, so I assume that they dont have one.

We were pretty engaged in conversation, so it took a few passes by our server before we decided what we wanted to order. La chica wanted the croquettes; we went for chicken. She got the Cerviche and I went completely tourist and ordered the "Tour De Cuba", which is basically a cuban sampler. I figured it would give me a chance to try some of their "signature dishes". Too early for me to drink, so I just got an iced tea.

The tea was delivered in a skinny glass without extra lemon and with no sweeteners. I decided to drink it unsweetened rather than try to track him down. The idea that it was "fresh brewed" is doubtful.

The "croquette" came out looking like bad mozzerella sticks.

The croquettes were filled with mush; hard to identify it as chicken. Maybe pureed chicken? Well known vendors Gordon's and Mrs Smiths were mentioned. They were served with some sort of yogurt dip. They were edible with the dip. But not recommended.

The "Fried Casava" aka Yucca came out looking like a stack of steak fries. They came with an awful lime dip that made no sense with the fries. No ketchup was offered.

They were a bit better with the yogurt dip.

The rest of the food came out all at once. The cerviche came with a bunch of banana chips, none of which were eaten.

She said she liked it; we disagreed about a lot of places that we liked, but she had her criticisms. So I give some weight to her opinion.

I had a lot more food, although I wouldn't use the word "amazing" to describe it.

A big thimble of black beans, a big scoop of rice that kept its shaped as I moved it to the center of the dish, and some other mediocre looking stuff.

The ropas was easily the best thing on the plate. It was very tender. It didn't have a real cuban flavor (ie cumin), but it was good in its own way. The rest of the plate didn't fare so well.

The "Vaca Frita De Pollo" really didn't taste like anything. Vaca means "cow", so I didn't know there was a chicken cow. This is just a bad corporate recipe that attempts to make Vaca Frita cheaper. The chicken has no useful flavor. Total junk.

Next up was their "Award Winning" slow roasted pork.

The problem with this is that it needed to be slow roasted for another hour or two. It was tough and flavorless. I could do better than this with my pressure cooker in 20 minutes. There were a few pieces on the bottom that were softer and more flavorful, but most of it was Pollo Tropical quality.

While chowing down, I asked for a refill on my ice tea. Something amazing is that it was returned with my used lemon placed back on the lip of the glass. I mean how cheap can you get?

At 7pm, the place was still dead empty.

Just a few tourists at the bar and no band. We were informed that they only have live music on Friday and Saturday nights, which explained why no-one was here.

When I got the check, I did a double and triple take on it. $87. How could that be? One glass of wine and an iced tea and she didn't even have an entree? Close examination exposed the devil in the details: The iced tea was $4 and they charged me for 2! In well over 1000 restaurant reviews, I've never been charged for an iced tea refill before. They also added 18% gratuity to the bill, so I couldn't even compensate for the rip-off ice tea policy.

While we where waiting for the check, La Chica summed up the experience. "I wouldn't come back to this place". Touche Babe, Touche.

Conclusion

Without the party of a grand opening or live music, this place is a total loser. There's nothing Cuban about it, the food isn't good, and they have a complete "Let's rip-off tourists" mentality. Put that all together and you have a clear candidate for my Places to Avoid category.

Well Done.

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