Review: Cafe La Bamba Reopens, But Wasn’t Worth The Wait
A few years back Islands of Adventure reopened Green Eggs & Ham after being closed for many years. Many showed up for the return of a classic and it’s still popular today. Universal Studios Florida has a similar spot, albeit less iconic – Cafe La Bamba. You’ve passed by it, and you may have gone inside during a VIP Tour or RIP Tour, but it hasn’t been a dining stop for all guests in years. Unfortunately, the wait for Cafe La Bamba’s return didn’t produce the best results.
Cafe La Bamba is attempting to have a Chipotle/Moe’s style menu focusing on Tex-Mex. Burritos, tacos, and burrito bowls comprise the quick-service menu which also serves cocktails, chips &dips, plus desserts. You won’t see prices outside the restaurant when looking at the menu, but you’ll see it all in Universal’s app where you’ll order your food. Once you pick and table and sit down, you’ll scan the QR code and it will take you straight the where you order.
The pricing for the menu varies based on selections, but not your choices of fillings. The choices are Pollo Asodo, Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, Mojo Pork, Vegan Chorizo, and Portobello el Pastor. The day we dined at Cafe La Bamba the Vegan Chorizo was not available, but the Portobello el Pastor is also plant-based. The fillings make up your burritos, bowls, or tacos. You then have sub-selections like regular burrito or bowl vs deluxe burrito or bowl. The difference with deluxe is the addition of guacamole, sour cream, and roasted corn salsa.
Tacos and Burritos are served with chips, but the bowls are not. You can order chips and dips on the side, but the pricing is slightly strange. The app was showing that it would be cheaper to order Lime Salt Chips and a side of Queso or Guacamole rather than the combos they have of Chips & Guacamole and Chips & Queso. I’m not sure if the portions are smaller, but it is worth exploring if you’re trying to save money. Salsa is not complimentary for your chips, but they will provide bottled hot sauce by request.
Deluxe Burrito with Carne Asada – $15.99
The Deluxe Burrito with Carne Asada features flour tortilla, cilantro rice, black beans, cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, roasted corn salsa, and grilled beef seasoned with chile, coriander, and cumin. The burrito is about half the size as you’d get at your favorite fast-food burrito place. The beef was tender-cooked and very flavorful but also masked by the pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream. There was a nice spicy kick to the burrito without any extra sauces which was a welcome surprise.
The only downside to the burrito was the quality of the ingredients. The taste is fine, but it lacks a certain freshness. The guacamole was the biggest offender and it tasted straight out of the bag. If Cafe La Bamba wants to be taken seriously as a Tex-Mex restaurant they need better guacamole. The chips served with the burrito were perfectly salty and had just a hint of lime. They truly needed no dip to enjoy.
Deluxe Burrito Bowl with Pollo Asado- $15.99
The Deluxe Burrito Bowl featured everything the deluxe burrito had, but without the extra carbs. The one we ordered was served in a bowl with no tortilla, cilantro rice, black beans, cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, roasted corn salsa, and grilled chicken marinated in a blend of garlic, orange juice, and lime juice. All of the tasting notes were the same as the burrito, including the level of spice. The chicken was moist with a hint of citrus.
The cilantro in the rice wasn’t noticeable in the burrito, nor was it very present in the bowl. Rejoice, cilantro haters of the world. The main problem with this dish is the portion size felt very similar to the burrito, just without the tortilla and chips. From a pricing standpoint, it’s confusing why they’re the same when you get less from one versus the other.
Lime Salt Chips & Queso – $6.99
We’ve already established the chips are delicious. Crunchy, fresh, and salty are a winning combination. We opted for the queso versus guacamole since we were getting guac on the burrito and bowl. This was a terrible decision. This is some of the worst queso you can find in a restaurant. It tasted the exact same as a jar of Tostito’s cheese dip you’d find at a grocery store. Nothing felt fresh about it and it came to the table already with a cold layer of cheese on top. Get the chips, and avoid the dip.
Horchata Tres Leches Cake – $5.99
Run, don’t walk to Cafe La Bamba for this dessert. This tres leches vanilla cake soaked in horchata with dulce de leche was the best thing we had by a mile. The dulce de leche was subtle, but this dessert was milky, creamy, and loaded with cinnamon. It was extremely light and didn’t feel at all like a guilty pleasure especially with fresh berries decorating the dish. Even if you don’t want to get lunch there, go in and order the dessert.
Here’s the deal – you can find way worst food around Universal Studios Florida. Mel’s Drive-In, Louie’s Italian Restaurant, and Ricther’s Burger Co. come to mind. Is Cafe La Bamba on the same level as Leaky Cauldron or TODAY Cafe? Absolutely not. Its quality is very close to the food you’ll find in The Simpsons area of the park. The pricing isn’t awful, especially with an annual pass discount. If you’ve eaten everywhere else then absolutely stop and give it a shot.
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