REVIEW: ‘Universal’s Best Counter-Service?’ Cafe La Bamba Reopens with Fresh Updated Menu at Universal Studios Florida

Cafe La Bamba has finally reopened to day guests after many years of being used as a private event space, and with their reopening came a new Tex-Mex-based menu that we just had to try! So join us as we give Cafe La Bamba a taste at Universal Studios Florida.

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Cafe La Bamba is themed after the iconic Hollywood hotel of the same name, and boasts a lovely fountain in its courtyard. It’s located in Hollywood, just across from Mel’s Drive-In and the Horror Make-Up Show.

The newly reopened restaurant typically serves as the VIP check-in and dining area, used as well for R.I.P. Tours during Halloween Horror Nights. Its been closed to regular day guests for so many years that nobody seems to recall the last time it was open. The space has also served as a rain shelter just after the COVID closure abated, and as the Skeleton Bar during the Halloween season in 2020.

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It may look like typical Mexican fare, but looks can be very deceiving.

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Grapefruit Paloma – $14

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Is it the mysterious allure of Cafe La Bamba that makes this drink so good? This might have been one of the most perfectly balanced cocktails we’ve had at Universal. We are huge fans of the new bars at Universal’s Great Movie Escape in CityWalk, and now we can add Cafe La Bamba to our list as well. This wasn’t heavy on grapefruit and it wasn’t overpowering. Crispy and refreshing, this was an instant hit.

Margarita – $14.50

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There’s a spicy mango margarita on the menu, but we went with the simple, classic margarita. It was excellent. This is another item at Cafe La Bamba where you can taste the freshness. Perfect for pairing with chips and salsa flight. You can’t go wrong with this one!

Vegan Mushroom Tacos – $13.99

3 soft flour tortillas with choice of protein, vegan cheese, and pico de gallo

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The great thing about Cafe La Bamba is the wide selection of vegan options. For proteins, guests can choose from a vegan chorizo with chili, paprika and garlic or a portobello el pastor. We went with the portobello mushrooms, which are marinated in pineapple, chipotle and lime juices and served with vegan sour cream and vegan cheese. The mushrooms were delicious, but the sour cream really took away from them. The vegan sour cream was delicious and really didn’t taste much different than the regular sour cream, but it was all we could taste in the entire dish. We scraped it off of the second taco, and the flavor of the mushrooms finally came through. The mushrooms are delicious, but it just feels like there’s something missing. Next time, we’re going to try the chorizo.

Fresh Salsa Flight – $6.99

Hand cut pico de gallo, roasted corn salsa, and spicy tomatillo with lime salted tortilla chips

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Originally, we passed on the salsa flight, but a very kind manager brought us out the trio to sample. Not only do we thank him for his kindness, but this salsa was far superior to what we expected, so we really appreciate him encouraging us to try it!

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There’s a corn salsa with a vibrant, tangy lime kick to it. The pico de gallo has a juicy, fresh tomato taste but was on the mild, simple side. The tomatillo sauce was spicy, without the pain, and really lit up our taste buds — it was our favorite of the 3. We can’t believe we almost skipped this and now it will be our most recommended way to compliment a drink or start a meal!

Lime Salt Chips & Queso – $6.99

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When we tell you the chips and queso is a must, it really is a must. The queso is made in-house and will blow your mind. It’s rich and creamy with a thick, yet smooth texture. The freshness is key here and it makes all the difference. We couldn’t stop dipping into the cheesy goodness! And the crispy lime salt chips are just on a completely different level. Amazing chips and queso is what we’ve been needing in our lives. The chips have this zesty tartness to them that just leaves you wanting more. Now, take those delicious chips and add in a salsa flight and you’ve got the best combination for snacking and drinking.

Deluxe Burrito Bowl – $15.99

served in a bowl with no tortilla, cilantro rice, black beans, choice of protein, cheese, and pico de gallo with guacamole, sour cream, and roasted corn salsa

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The burrito bowls can be made with your choice of protein, and we made an excellent decision by selecting carne asada. We also decided to go for the “deluxe” which comes with guacamole, roasted corn salsa, and sour cream. Each ingredient in the bowl is separate, which we really liked.

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There’s a base of white rice and then scoops of guacamole, sour cream, roasted corn salsa, fresh pico de gallo, and black beans. The carne asada pieces were hearty and flavorful, with a juicy and savory kick. We really couldn’t believe how fantastic this bowl was.  We would highly recommend the carne asada in any of the dishes!

Deluxe Burrito – $15.99

Flour tortilla, cilantro rice, black beans, choice of protein, vegan cheese, and pico de gallo with guacamole, vegan sour cream, and roasted corn salsa

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We ordered the pollo asado burrito without pico, but our order came with pico. The Team Members are very good about checking on guests and our server was happy to fix our burrito. The replacement came out quickly, but once we cut into it, we noticed this time the chicken was missing.

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Being the first day open, we expected some hiccups, and we had plenty of food, so we just made the best of what we had instead of asking for another replacement. The burritos are a very nice size and are sure to fill you up after running around the parks. All of the ingredients are all of extremely high quality with a remarkable freshness that makes you feel like a VIP, true to this location’s usual purpose.

Horchata Tres Leches Cake – $5.99

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You might be full, but you must find room for dessert! This might be the greatest cake on Universal property. If you can’t swing a VIP tour, treat yourself to the VIP experience with the horchata soaked tres leches cake.

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The vanilla cake is soaked in horchata and surrounded by strawberries. As fresh and delicious as the strawberries looked, we didn’t even bother because the cake was life-changing. There aren’t even words worthy of this cake, so we’ll do the best we can. This heavenly cake is spongy, yet melts in your mouth. There’s a delicate hint of cinnamon mixed with vanilla that isn’t too sweet sugary but will satisfy your sweet tooth. Where has this cake been all our life? How did we survive without you? Cafe la Bamba is worth the trip just for the cake.

All in all, this may very well be the best counter-service eatery at Universal Orlando Resort, and we cannot recommend enough that you stop by during its afternoon operating hours to grab a bite.

Will you be dining at Cafe La Bamba? Let us know in the comments below!

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