In Downtown Disney’s West Side, tucked to the left next to the main entrance to Bongos Cuban Cafe, is a take-out window where you can order sandwiches, such as the delicious Media Noche, as well as some awesome soups, salads, appetizers and entrees served inside the restaurant. I wanted to pick up a few of their appetizers to bring home, including some old favorites, and a couple new items to try. Normally served in a paper tray, I asked for the items to go and they were placed into a styrofoam box instead (this is perfect if you want to try some food from Bongos but are heading back to your resort!). Since the items are kept under a heat lamp, I was cashed out and headed back to the truck in just a few minutes.
I don’t live far from property, and the items were still warm when I got home, but I put the appetizers in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes, just to perk them up a bit. I put them on the plate for their pictures and called Matt over to help.
The Papa Rellena ($2.75 each) is a fried, breaded mashed potato stuffed with Cuban Creole minced beef. The crust formed on the exterior is very thin, and the potatoes and beef filling are very soft. Green olives are also tucked inside for a bit of salt, and the beef is flavorful. I enjoyed these at our dinner last November, and still enjoy them. Matt, on the other hand, isn’t crazy about these. That’s okay; more for me!
What Matt is crazy about are the Croquetas de Jamon ($1.75 each). I should have bought more than just the one. Heck, he would have liked me to have bought only the croquettes. Really, they are that good.
Smoky, salty, porky goodness is nestled in breading and fried to a rich, golden brown. I’m going to have to learn how to make these at home. Matt may never let me leave the house again unless it’s to get more ingredients, though.
Unlike the previous two appetizers, the empanadas are not served in the restaurant. They can only be purchased at the window. The Empanadas de Carne ($2.75 each) are filled with seasoned beef. The thin dough is flaky. It’s soft, but not soggy, around the filling and crispy around the edges.
The beef, unfortunately, was underseasoned, dry and crumbly. Matt’s doesn’t like empanadas (What?!), and these certainly did not make him want to eat more than a bite. Food & Wine empanadas from Argentina are scores better (and were also a dollar more than these at the 2011 festival).
Unimpressed by the Empanada de Carne, he was not looking forward to the Empanada de Pollo ($2.75 each), stuffed with seasoned chicken.
Surprising both of us, it was much better. The chicken retained some moisture, although not the most tender chicken ever, and actually had seasoning. It was a vast improvement over the beef.
Overall, the Croquetas de Jamon are the clear winner. I would say the Papas Rellenas are the second choice, followed by the Empanada de Pollo and the Empanada de Carne (which I would skip altogether). Matt would say Croquetas de Jamon, followed by Croquetas de Jamon, then Croquetas de Jamon and finally, Croquetas de Jamon. 🙂
Here’s a look at the menu (click for larger):
Have you tried any of the appetizers from the express window or inside the restaurant? What did you think? Do you have a favorite appetizer when you visit?