Bongos Cuban Cafe opened in 1997 at Downtown Disney (later renamed Disney Springs). The driving force behind the eatery was celebrity couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan. The restaurant featured Cuban favorites, live music, and portraits of Gloria Estefan. Last August, Bongos closed its doors forever. The good news is that we can still enjoy much of what Bongos had to offer. You just have to go a little bit off of Walt Disney World property.
Estefan Kitchen Orlando is now open at Sunset Walk. Gloria and Emilio Estefan have taken many of the elements that made Bongos so successful, and have moved them just a few miles down Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway. I was part of an invited media group on Thursday, February 20, and I was able to experience what the new restaurant is all about.
When I said that the Estefans moved many of the elements, I meant that literally. When you arrive at Estefan Kitchen you will be greeted by Tony. He was the maître d at Bongos for all 22 years that the restaurant was open, and he has moved to the new space. Tony is very good at what he does. He is more than happy to share suggestions or tell stories. He truly makes you feel at home. Tony isn’t the only staff member who made the move, but he’s the most visible.
Many of the menu items from Bongos can also be found at Estefan Kitchen, but there are also some new options. You’ll find empanadas, flatbreads, paella, chicken and rice, seafood, and other favorites. One nice change is that there are plenty of meatless options on the Estefan Kitchen menu. Gloria and Emilio have a daughter who is vegan, and they have realized that this was a segment of the population that they needed to make more accommodations for.
For a no obligation, FREE Quote with new bookings contact our sponsor Magical Vacation Planner by calling: 1(407)442-0289
Or for a free no obligation quote with new bookings you can fill out the form by Clicking HERE!
There is a full bar, so you can order a Traditional Mojito to enjoy before your meal. There is also a nice wine selection. This includes the Estefan Kitchen Private Label Wine. You can order merlot, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and pinot grigio by the glass or bottle.
One dessert that you will really want to try is the Shaved Ice. It’s a large portion of shaved ice with pieces of pound cake and fresh fruit on top. It’s served with a bowl of sweet cream on the side, and you can add as much or as little as you would like. Since you add the cream, you can control how sweet it is.
Of course the food was just part of what made Bongos so popular. The entertainment was equally as important. This is another area where you will not be disappointed. I’ll start with the band. Live music played for most of the evening. I’m assuming that the three piece band is there often, because they seemed so comfortable in the surroundings. They were excellent. Sometimes they were background noise. At other times, they worked to liven up the room. At one point they played as a conga line danced around the room. My favorite part was the drum solo. I have a background in music, so I don’t say these words lightly. This might have been the best drum solo that I’ve ever heard. The drummer had everyone in the building cheering.
Music wasn’t the only entertainment that we enjoyed. Every few minutes the lights would dim. We would then be treated to dancers on the small stage. They were also very entertaining. The dancers allowed everyone to take a short break, because this is a meal that you shouldn’t rush through. There were several young children at the restaurant while we were there, and they were mesmerized by the dancers. Estefan Kitchen is very much family friendly.
The atmosphere at Estefan Kitchen isn’t the same as the atmosphere at Bongos was, but that’s okay. There are still pictures of Gloria Estefan throughout the space. In a back corner you can see the meat being roasted over an open flame. There are plants, and the lighting effects are great. One of my favorite touches is the logo. It contains many of the things that are important to the Estefans. If you look closely, you will see a familiar looking bongo player.
Estefan Kitchen is part of Sunset Walk, which is a brand new local destination. It’s an extension of Margaritaville Resort. There are several restaurants, a movie theater, and plenty of shopping. Sunset Walk also hosts events all the time. There is live music outdoors on the weekends. You can also check out a Farmers Market, enjoy a classic car show, or celebrate a holiday. Sunset Walk is growing by leaps and bounds, and it is becoming a favorite for locals. It’s a great place to head if you want an evening away from Walt Disney World, or if you’re looking for a relaxing dinner on the first evening of your vacation. Sunset Walk is not as intense as Disney Springs, and it’s less than half an hour away.