Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.
Let’s get the confusing part out of the way first. This joint is Mambo Jambo, not Mambo’s Cafe. Mambo’s Cafe is on Haynes Bridge, not terribly far away. The menu is really similar, Spanish/Cuban food. And as a matter of fact, I think Mambo’s Cafe used to be called Mambo Jambo several years ago. Confused yet?
Mambo Jambo has opened up in the space formerly occupied by Mad Italian and before that McAllister’s Deli. It is set back from Windward, behind Xian and Sushi Nami. They are a little hard to find but still in a decent spot, especially for the cubicle crowd.
When I first learned they were coming, I surveyed the website from their south Florida location. It is heavy on the seafood and heavy on the prices. I figured they were trying to compete with places like Vinny’s for the expense account crowd. Yet their lunch menu is somewhat affordable, with entrees ranging from about $8 to $15 or so.
Like a lot of similar restaurants around here, they are not strictly Cuban. There are Peruvian and Argentinian influences to the menu. There’s a ton of variety including ceviches, parrillia and paella.
For lunch yesterday I started with the empanadas. Simply delicious, the best part of the meal. It was a sample of three different fillings; beef, chicken and spinach. They were packed with flavor and not greasy at all.
I regret not trying seafood for my entree. Instead I ordered “Masas de Puerco a la Criolla”, which I effortlessly pronounced in a perfect Spanish dialect. Yeah right, I pointed to it on the menu. These are fried pork hunks with an onion topping. They were tender with the right amount of texture from the fryer. The portion here was very generous considering it came from the lunch menu. I didn’t come close to finishing it. I was a little disappointed that the rice was white and not yellow. The black beans were also a little disappointing. They lacked that robust flavor that I’m used to in this side item.
But all in all it was a good lunch. I’m not going to ding them too much on execution at this point, considering that they’ve been open just a few days. The menu is so vast that I think you need to visit a few times to get your hands around it. The service was very friendly and personable. They make you want to come back. I’d consider it for a romantic date night as well!