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Cafe Mangu

My wife wrote another restaurant review for my primary website ( and I wanted to share it here as well: Cafe Mangu is a small restaurant in Pflugerville serving "Caribbean" food. The cooks hail from the Dominican Republic. Some of the dishes, such as ropa vieja, we at AustinTexas Homes were familiar with from Cuban cuisine. There must be some overlap between the two. The menu has a great selection of interesting foods, many of which contain plantains, a favorite in Cuban and Dominican Cuisine. Mangu, itself, is a mashed plantain dish that we tried on our visit. The parking lot is located in front, and is small, but that's probably appropriate, because it's an intimate restaurant. When we walked in, we noticed still-life paintings hanging on the wall, wooden chairs, and Latino-beat music playing in the background. It sounded like Cuban dance music, or salsa music to me. Old-fashioned molding on the windows, a bar toward the rear of the restaurant, and ceiling fans added to the rustic atmosphere. We all got seated, and decided to start with the Queso Frito, which was something we figured the kids would eat. We were right. When it came, we were very pleasantly surprised! It had a very toasted taste. It wasn't like cheese sticks, with heavy breading on the outside--it wasn't even in stick form. It was small slabs of cheese that seemed a lot like mozzarella, and had a very small amount of breading on the outside. The waitress said it was "panela" cheese. The dipping sauce was red, and seemed to be tomato-based, and was similar to marinara sauce, but much more watery in texture. It was all gone in no time. It took us a while to decide what to order. The menu is large and varied, and we were unfamiliar with most of the foods, so we had to read all the descriptions carefully. They have appetizers such as tostones y longaniza, alitas dulce, and mariquitas. They have traditional Spanish dishes, such as the Paella, which is $44.95 for one person or $64.95 for two. They have salads, sandwiches and soup. They serve beef dishes such as the carne guisada, asado de res, and ropa vieja. There are seafood dishes, such as the pineapple rum shrimp, mahi mahi, tilapia en salsa criolla, and langosta al ajillo. They also have chicken dishes, such as the chicharrones de pollo, pollo guisado, and pechuga a la plancha. The side dishes they have are things like maduros, mangu, arroz, chuletas de cerdo, and yuca. The kids' menu has things like chicken strips, shrimp, fried fish, and french fries. Jason decided to order the vaca frita with arroz congri, mangu, and maduros, and I ordered the asopao de camarones. I would say that if you're really hungry, don't order the asopao. It doesn't come with side dishes, like the other entrees, but is about the same price as some of the entrees. Our older kids ordered the chicken strips with fries (a common theme for them when we go to exotic restaurants). We ordered a plain arroz for the baby, who absolutely loves rice. Jason remarked that is was nice to be waited on by Rita Moreno from "West Side Story". The rice came first, so the baby set right in to the task of getting two out of every three rice grains onto the floor. While we were waiting for the rest of our food, our son noticed that we were having a little trouble hearing each other. I think it was because of the echo in the room (it could use some curtains or carpet to cut down on that.) It was starting to make him edgy, so he went to the waitress/hostess and asked if they could turn the music down a bit. They did, and he was much happier after that. When our food arrived, we were very pleased with all of it. Everything was good. The vaca frita was interesting: long shreds of beef that have been fried. Almost like a "teeny beef jerky" sort of experience--very flavorful and a little chewy. It came with the most delicious lime-butter sauce that was just to die for! I wanted to get a bottle of it and put it on everything. The mangu, which is mashed plantains and onions, had the texture of slightly undercooked mashed potatoes. It was good, as well. It had butter or oil in it, to make it more pleasing. The arroz congri was flavored rice with a little black beans in it, I believe. Very good, and not too spicy at all. In fact, the waitress was correct in her claim that nothing at Cafe Mangu was spicy-hot. Jason's plate was totally full; it was a whole lot of food--almost enough for two meals. The asopao had a cilantro flavor. It was mostly broth with rice, a few vegetables, and shrimp with the tails on. It was described on the menu as "soupy rice," which sounded like a dish that is mainly rice. However, I would describe it as "ricey soup," because it was mostly broth. It did taste good, though. We tried the kids' food, too. The chicken strips were definitely better than average, and the fries were actually julienned potatoes, which are always very good. They didn't have enough fries for both kids, so they gave us the order of rice for free. We thought that was fine, since the kids didn't seem to need more fries, anyway. The rice, even though it was just rice, was also very good, and I'm a rice connosieur. I think it had a lot of butter in it, but it wasn't greasy or salty at all, and didn't seem to have broth or any flavoring. Impressive. By this time, our toddler was completely bored with sweeping rice off the table, and was trying to grab everyone's food with her patented "raise the arm and slap with extreme prejudice" method. We decided to sacrifice the table advertisement to her (you know, the little board booklet of desserts and drinks?) She'd disassembled it in no time. Fortunately, our son intervened. He began, "Getting rid of hiccups is a dangerous job, because you have to hold your breath, and suck it in as much as you can, and then drink the water, and then exhale." He's a very animated little guy, and the whole time, he's acting out how to get rid of hiccups with his gesticulations and wheezing breathing sounds, and funny faces. Meantime, our baby girl, who thinks her big brother is the funniest person in the world, begins giggling up a storm and squealing with glee. Whew. Crisis averted. For dessert, we ordered the tres leches cake. If you've never had it, it's a moist cake with icing, and with a very creamy sauce over and around it, to make it even moister. It's so creamy, it's almost like eating Irish cream. We all dug in, and it disappeared. We had to beg the kids to resrain themselves from taking such huge bites. Our son, in particular, had to be talked to about bite size and being polite to leave some for everyone else. Jason checked out the bathroom and said it was "very clean and nice and smelled good." The cost of the meal, with 4 meals, an appetizer, one dessert, and drinks was about $50 before tip. Not too bad, but it will be a special occasion restaurant, for our budget. Address: 15200 F.M. 1825 in Pflugerville

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