Short Orders: Bongos Cantina

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Bongos Cantina
3625 W. Northwest Hwy.

No apostrophe in the name, as far as I can tell. The new-ish spot draws its moniker either from the string of bongos doubling as bar stools or the rhythm of a Latin American beach or...something.

Maybe the owners just like the name.

I should have asked, as they were there on Saturday afternoon tightening the bolts on a misting system for their patio--I know because they introduced themselves while one clung to a ladder and the other supervised. Could have thrown in a more important question, too: why set up camp on the wrong side of the Lemmon/Webb Chapel tracks.

There's an independent tire shop next door, for example, which may come in handy given the rutted parking lot. Yet they've gone to a lot of trouble making a worn down building look like a shack--one with a beachfront theme. Surf boards and other junk nailed to the walls and strewn around the room give the impression of age, of stuff accumulated over decades, and a relaxed, beach bum attitude toward things orderly.

For authenticity, the patio fronts along Bachman Lake. Granted, there's several lanes of Northwest Highway in between, but...

More authentic--or at least more interesting--is Bongos food service. For instance, the tacos al pastor features tender pork (small chunks rather than shavings) braced by earthy chili and the sweet, acidic residue of pineapple. Served with the usual cilantro, onion and lime, the combination provides rustic simplicity and intricate, hidden details.

No rotisserie evident from my vantage point. Still, it's good enough to draw a largely Spanish-speaking crowd.

Camarones a la diabla is not so much fiery as spicy, burdened nicely by a warm, grounded heat that emerges slowly from the ochre-hued pool spreading underneath the shrimp. It's a little disappointing, in that both the shellfish and side of rice are sometimes overcooked, but at least the latter carries a noticeable taint of tomato juice. The guacamole is on the oily side, but a pico-style salad counters with sharp, fresh flavors.

So it's on the edge, geographically and in terms of cooking--which in my mind makes it well worth a 'let's see if we like it' look.

Chances are you will, especially if you order with an eye toward the simpler fare of a beachside shack. If the kitchen works out some kinks, it may even rise to cult status, like Fuel City only better...and with a menu, seats and beer.

Oh, and if you live in the area but don't want to venture out, they claim to deliver food and beer.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.