Restaurant Review: Las Bugambilias

In case you haven’t caught on yet, going out to eat is one of our weekend pastimes. We cook at home during the week, but the kitchen (and Chester, who does most of the cooking) gets a break on the weekends.

We rotate between eating takeout at home and going out in the city. Sometimes, we decide what we are doing in advance, and make reservations somewhere. Other times, it’s a spur of the moment decision. I much prefer having a plan, because otherwise we’re indecisive and annoying. When we’re flying by the seat of our pants, there’s standard conversation that takes place. It goes something like this:

Chester: What do you want to eat?

Lauren: I don’t know. Whatever you want.

Chester: Well, there’s pizza, burgers, Chik-fil-A, Chinese…[and whatever other stuff comes to mind].

Lauren: I don’t know. It all sounds good.

Chester: Well, what do you want?

Lauren: I could eat anything. You pick.

This can go on for awhile. Sometimes, who says what is reversed, but eventually one of us caves and makes a decision.

This past Friday night, I caved first and chose pizza, but I wasn’t really in the mood for it. Halfway to the restaurant, I decided that what I really wanted was Mexican. I consulted my friend Google to figure out where we should go. We happened to be right near one of the suggested places—Las Bugambilias. Off we went.

Photo from restaurant website. I would like one of these outside my house.

The restaurant, whose name has something to do with brightly colored flowers, serves traditional Mexican food—like tortilla soup, chicken in mole sauce, and enchiladas—in a casual atmosphere. The décor is heavy on vibrant colors, traditional pottery, and tiles. It’s pretty tiny inside. We arrived around 6 and were seated right away. But, when we left a couple of hours later, it had become pretty crowded and very loud.

Our server brought out pico de gallo (kind of bland), (really) spicy salsa, and homemade tortilla chips (thick and crunchy), while we looked over the menu. Anytime there’s guacamole, I have to have it. Las Bugambilias’ version was a bit on the acidic side and had nice sized bits of avocado in it. It was good, but not as good as my favorite from Distrito. We also shared the empanadas. The ground beef inside was well seasoned, and the corn tortillas held up well—they weren’t heavily fried, but they weren’t soggy either.

For an entrée, I decided to branch out from getting something with chicken and ordered the Enchiladas del Mar. They could have been a little lighter on the cheese (I know, who says that about enchiladas?), but the filling, with sizable bits of fresh lobster, crab, and shrimp, was delicious and the smoky-sweet chipotle and almond sauce on top was a nice complement. They were served with grilled zucchini and rice. Chester had the Tampiquena Morita—grilled skirt steak in a morita chile sauce, served with a chicken enchilada in mole sauce, and a chile relleno. Chester thought that the mole didn’t have enough of the traditional cacao flavor, but the chicken and steak were both well seasoned and tender. The chile was very heavily breaded—I don’t think either one of us really loved it.

I wasn’t going to get dessert, but they had Tres Leches cake on the menu. I first discovered this at Café Habana, a Cuban restaurant in the Rittenhouse Square area that sadly doesn’t exist anymore. I had to have it. If you don’t know, tres leches is a dense sponge cake, that’s soaked in condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. I ordered the chocolate version; then it was my turn to say that there wasn’t enough chocolate—there was a hint of cocoa flavor (I think in form of a chocolate liquor), but if it was served a long side of the regular pastel (white) cake, I don’t know if I would have been able to tell the difference. Still, the cake soaked up all the liquid just the way it should and was perfectly sweet.

The service was a bit spotty and became progressively more so as the restaurant became more crowded. This was odd to me, since there seemed to be plenty of people working. Our appetizers came out at different times and there was such a lag between our entrees being cleared and dessert arriving that I thought they forgot about us. This was kind of annoying, especially since we were sitting next to a group that got louder and more obnoxious by the second and just wanted to leave by that point.

The uneven service and the bad company kind of dampened the experience for us, but I would like go back—at an off time—because the food was yummy. It’s definitely not the Americanized Mexican food that you find at places like Mexican Post or the too trendy stuff that you find at El Vez. The prices were a little bit higher than I normally think of for Mexican food (appetizers between $8 and $10 and entrees hovering around $20 or a bit over), but the portions are huge. I liked that everything that we had was seasoned well, but not overly salted. That’s usually my biggest gripe when I eat Mexican food out.

Good job, Google. Maybe we should use you every Friday night to decide what’s for dinner.


  1. […] my last post, I gave you a glimpse into the standard conversation that we have when trying to decide where to […]

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