By Dan I Cook
La Bamba is the best Mexican-American restaurant in South Florida
Bold statement, right?
It’s true, folks, and I’m sure my friends that own Cielto Lindos and El Mariachi are probably pissed at me for writing that, but I have to speak the truth.
Many moons ago, my older brother managed Cielto Lindos in Lighthouse Point, which is now long gone. Working in the kitchen were the future owners of La Bamba. These brothers ended up leaving Hector, the owner of Cielto Lindos, and opened La Bamba in Oakland Park, Fl. They surpassed all other Mexican-American restaurants with quality, service, and food.
Here is a 1980’s nostalgic trip down all the great American Mexican joints in Broward County from The OG Carlos and Pepe’s, Chi Chi’s, Acapulco Lindo, and the original Cielto Lindos in Pompano Beach. I’ve been to all of them, and as time passes, restaurants close, and the competition borrows recipes and ideas.
Next thing you know, the apprentice rises to the top and surpasses the master — sounds like the restaurant version of Star Wars.
La Bamba rose to the top a few decades ago and continues to reign as the best.
I’m not a purist when it comes to Mexican food. I love American-style, which has heavy sauces and cheese with flour tortillas, not corn. With that said, La Bamba has been consistently fantastic.
Free chips and salsa: This has to be mentioned because you rarely get anything “free” anymore. I’m sure there is a catch to this like you must buy a drink or food. I have no clue and have never asked. I can only say La Bamba’s chips are always warm, and the hot “Picante” salsa is damn tasty. The sauce has the right amount of heat that won’t kill your taste buds. I always take home a large order of this sauce because it’s that good.
The chicken soup is fire. You say it’s just chicken soup, but the simple things at a restaurant give you a peek at how your entire meal will be.
Tender chicken pieces, al dente carrots, and a smooth broth make this comforting. The soup is piping hot, and a quick squeeze of a lime wedge brings it all together. This is also my go-to soup when I feel under the weather.
Crab nachos and burrito. Hard to believe they still serve real snow crab. So many places have gone the cheaper route and used the fake crab with a mix of shrimp, but not La Bamba.
The plating for the nachos is simple, and a little spoonful of the hot salsa takes it over the top with taste. The crab mixed with melted cheese, some sour cream, lettuce, and a jalapeño slice makes a delicious one-bite snack.
The crab burrito, or “Burro de Mazatlan,” is my favorite. I’m a craboholics fueled by my many trips to Catfish Dewey’s in Oakland Park for all-you-can-eat snow crab legs.
As with the nachos, you can’t beat the taste of the sweet crab rolled up in a burrito covered in sauce and cheese. Mixing seafood and cheese is supposedly a big no-no with some food snobs, but dishes like this work well together. Plus, this is the only Mexican-American joint that uses snow crab. Tequila Sunrise in Oakland Park makes crab nachos and enchiladas, but they use blue crab. I also love that place, with its huge margaritas and tasty food, but blue crab has a different taste. Anyone who knows crab understands what I’m talking about. La Bamba’s is far superior to any other place I’ve tasted.
I will say the portions have become smaller and the prices higher. I consider these items a guilty pleasure and worth the high prices. I’m curious to see what other people think.
Any of the fajitas are a solid option. My favorite is the chicken and shrimp loaded with veggies. Always arriving smoking hot and sizzling makes this entree an eye-catcher.
I love the aroma, which draws me close to that fajita facial you dream about. You all know what I’m talking about. The pieces of shrimp and chunks of chicken smothered in vegetables are a sight to behold. I like the way the chicken is cut up. It’s not perfectly sliced or diced. It’s chunks big and small. I always get two flour tortillas orders because one is not enough. Fajitas can be a very messy dish as the sauce runs down your hands. This adds to the charm and dining experience while chowing down. The seasonings are always spot on, and I’ve enjoyed every fajita platter ever served to me here.
The Mexican pizza is a winner. Forget about Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza and dive into La Bamba’s version. Listed under appetizers, this is big enough for your main entree. A crispy flour tortilla, layered with fried beans, sauce, ground beef, onion, green/red peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes, covered with Monterey jack/cheddar cheese. Just typing that is making my mouth water. It’s served on a pizza tray, and this bad boy is delicious. Eating this once it’s served is vital; otherwise, it will get soggy. Give this a try, and you will thank me later.
A dessert must is the Fried Ice Cream. A large scoop of vanilla ice cream covered in a cinnamon sauce, then dipped in cornflakes and fried. Chi Chi’s Restaurant made this famous in the 80s and was very popular. I would love to meet the person who came up with this dish—frying ice cream. Who would have thought?
This unique dessert isn’t talked about enough. It’s definitely on my Mount Rushmore of Top 4 desserts. The crunch of the cornflakes mixed with the ice cream with a hint of cinnamon just works. It’s a texture/taste thing that, as I’ve gotten older, I appreciate more and more. If you have never had this before, it’s a must-try.
Service and Ambiance
They remodeled a few years ago, and the bar area is huge now. All dining areas are clean, along with the bathroom.
I really enjoy the newly designed bar area. The old configuration was horrible as it was shaped like an odd triangle. Not any more, folks. They have one colossal TV mounted behind the bar with plenty of seating. I swear, if you sit facing the TV and not looking at the parking lot, you would think you were on a cruise ship or somewhere in Mexico. I love the vibe.
Make sure you order a Five Finger Death Punch Margarita from Ronald. He calls it the Perfect Sunrise or something like that, but I changed the name to something more appealing.
I have never had an issue with service. They have always been quick, polite, and efficient. My favorite bartenders are Ronald and David. I’ve known these dudes for years. They have outstanding personalities and can make some mean margaritas.
I summed up that this joint is the best in South Florida. I didn’t even cover the lunch and drink specials. This is important because money is tight for some folks, and they have great deals.
Discounted lunches run from 11:30a to 2:30p Monday thru Friday. Mondays are Margarita Night with discounted Margaritas with a purchase of an entree. This place can get packed during peak times, especially on Margarita Night, so be prepared to wait.
This is an easy 4 Beer rating. With several locations from Palm Beach to Broward makes, it is easy to pick one near you. Remember to tell Manager Alex, Bartenders Ronald and David that Dan I Cook and MargateTalk.com feel you and Stay Hungry!
Four beers = Outstanding
Three beers = Good
Two beers = OK
One beer = Needs work
Zero beers = Sucks (No beer is never a good thing).
5452 West Sample Road
Margate, FL 33073
La Bamba also has locations at 10169 W Sunrise Blvd in. Plantation, 4285 W Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach, and 4245 N Federal Hwy in Fort Lauderdale.www.labamba123.com
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A native of Broward, Half-Samoan Half-Irish or Afa Tasi, Food Warrior, Beer Ninja, United States Marine, owner/talent of danicookeatdrink.com. Retired Oakland Park Police Department/BSO Sergeant, DLE.