Loud, lively and Latin

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April 5, 2004 // UPDATED 1:08 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Ellen P. Gabler
Ellen P. Gabler

Come cool off -- or heat things up -- at Conga

If you're looking for a change of pace or you're a lover of all things Latin, Conga Latin Bistro will deliver. Blending authentic Latin cuisine and entertainment, the restaurant/club duo provides a fiesta for your feet and belly.

What's hot

Brace yourself: the guys here know how to dance.

The bumpin' and grindin' of traditional clubs is replaced by some seriously fancy footwork. A DJ or live band plays the real Latin deal -- salsa, merengue, cumbia, bachata, rumba and Spanish rock music -- while a crowd continuously spins and grins on the dance floor.

The club mirrors Latin American dance clubs and draws in Minnesota's growing Hispanic population, and pretty much everyone knows how to shake it. But even if you've never felt a Latin beat in your life -- and if you're a girl -- no worries; Conga men will see to it that you learn. Another plus, ladies stay adequately hydrated thanks to chivalrous offers from guys who apparently listened to their mothers growing up. (Guys are less likely to get the free drinks and dance lessons routine, but they're usually less comfortable with that anyway.) No wonder Andrea, a regular, says Conga is where "Latin girls come to meet Latin boys."

What's not

Those hitting the dance floor need to refresh and refuel often, so getting your hand on a drink can be a challenge. Fridays and Saturdays the place is packed by 10 p.m., and scoring a seat at the bar is nearly impossible.

However, even if you feel like a sardine while waiting to refill, the Conga credo seems to be "the more the merrier," and you'll meet plenty of new friends to chat with while you wait.

The scene

The dance floor is definitely Conga's main draw. The music is loud, live and usually Latin. Friday and Saturday nights are the hottest, when it's "Miami/South Beach" night.

If you're feeling a little shy about your dancing, come Thursdays for salsa night, sometimes there are dance lessons. Grab a taste of other Latin music the rest of the week: Tuesday, live Brazilian; Wednesday, live Spanish rock; Monday, dance music/karaoke; Sunday, tropical night.

The crowd

One Conga waitress, Melissa, says since Conga is one of the few Latin clubs in Minneapolis, the Latino crowd here has made it a regular haunt. People hail from every country in Latin America, she said. Plenty of patrons are non-Latin, as well, and are usually interested in the culture.

Regulars say the club gives them just what they need.

"This is how we spend our weekends, smiling and dancing!" said 26-year-old Louis, originally from Honduras.

Booze and bites to eat

Corona rules the room at $3 a bottle. Other favorites include the Mojito (a Cuban drink), $6.50; Cuba Libre (rum and coke), $5; Rum Punch, $6; and the Pina Colada, $6. Tap or bottled beers are $3 or $4, mixed drinks $5 or $6.

Double your luck during Happy Hour, Monday through Fridays, 5-7 p.m., with two-for-ones on tap beer and rum drinks plus half-off appetizers.

The food at Conga also rings in a taste of Latin America. The reasonably priced meals are authentic cuisine and are complemented well by Conga's extensive wine list. The quaint little dining room with tidy white tablecloths may even be classy and romantic enough to qualify as "fine dining."

A Congo lunch buffet also runs Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Cover charges and hours

Friday and Saturday nights it's $10 to come live it up Latin-style. The rest of the week, it varies from free to $5, depending on that night's event. Check out what's happening at www.congalatinbistro.com.

The verdict

Those who love Latin music and/or love to dance should swing by Conga for a big night out.

And ladies looking for free drinks and flattery will think they've found a gold mine.