Bombón is Spanish for a sweet treat or chocolate. While that’s not the only thing served at El Bombón, a hot-pink-and-electric-blue eatery at 1082 Havana Street, confections like specialty ice cream, crepes, Mexican fruit desserts and churros are legitimate specialties worth saving room for after a diner-style meal of hamburgers and hot dogs.
Seductive images of banana splits decorate the windows, and vibrant containers of sliced fruits and jugs of colorful juices beckon from glass cases that line the front of the store. The bare-bones shop is reminiscent of an ice cream parlor, with a modern twist from the brushed-aluminum tables and surrounding brick walls. El Bombón is owned by three longtime friends who originally opened an ice cream shop on Federal Boulevard about eight years ago. “We decided to bring our sweets and ice cream over to Aurora because we really liked this location and we wanted more space to start serving lunch and dinner-type foods alongside them,” said one of three owners, Hubert Benavides.
Large, juicy burgers and hot dogs donning high-quality ingredients and toppings are just a couple of the savory menu items at El Bombón. Other temptations include wings, quesadillas and nachos ranging in price from $5 to $15. Colossal, double-fisted hamburgers are served on toasted Kaiser rolls that stand up to the liberally portioned toppings; the burgers, which weigh in at a third of a pound, are cooked to order. Since the grill is at the front of the eatery, food is cooked and assembled right in front of you and everything is served up hot and fresh, without a heat lamp in sight.
Each burger contains unique, freshly cooked or cut topping combinations that are exceptional and teeter on gourmet in terms of intrigue and quality. The menu offers six different versions: La Clasica ($10), a regular cheeseburger with Jack cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, ketchup, mayo and mustard; La Juarez ($10), with ham, hot dog, avocado and all the toppings of La Clasica; La Hawaiana ($10), with all the classic fixings plus ham and pineapple; La Tejana ($10) with bacon and roasted onions and poblanos; La Guacaburger ($10), with guacamole, bacon and chipotle dressing; and El Bombón ($13), the most popular burger according to Benavides, loaded with the classic toppings plus twin burger patties, double bacon, double ham, double cheese and guacamole — the kind of caloric trainwreck that should appeal to adventurous seekers of heart-attack specials.
Even something as relatively unassuming as La Gaucaburger is still intimidating in its red plastic basket lined with checkered paper, surrounded by a heaping helping of thick and salty fries. A roasted jalapeño comes with each burger and dog, imparting a spark of heat onto everything it touches.
I somehow managed to lift the hefty sandwich intact; smoky-sweet chipotle sauce and savory juices from the burger patty dripped down my arms with each mouthful. A chunky guacamole imbued with garlic and onion added to the mess, along with Monterey Jack cheese and crisp veggies. The meat-to-topping ratio was perfectly balanced, and the large patty filled the bun from edge to edge, ensuring no disappointing bun-only bites.
On my second visit, I tried the elote correado, which should be on the bucket list of every street-food snack addict out there. The dish managed to integrate Mexican street corn with the deliciousness of ballpark nachos — made with nacho cheese Doritos instead of plain corn tortillas — for a mind-blowing combination. Layers of shredded, tangy Monterey Jack and jalapeño-studded nacho cheese oozed over white corn kernels that swam in a pool of butter. That was all surrounded by handfuls of Doritos and more corn kernels, pickled jalapeños and a spiral of hot sauce. The mixture of crunch from the corn and chips joined with the smooth, creamy nacho cheese and the zesty layer of pickled jalapeños. Subtle spice imparted by the hot sauce cut through the richness of the Jack cheese and butter, making this an indulgence fit for Guy Fieri.
A large case of cups filled with chopped cucumber, watermelon, coconut, papaya and lychee sits below the register, practically begging you to buy them — if not for their dazzling allure, then maybe just to offer your body some nutrients to counter the artery-clogging elote correado you just polished off. “We spend hours every single day chopping fresh fruits and veggies,” confirmed Benavides. “We use the fruits and veggies in our juices as well,” he said, pointing to the large jugs that sit in the chilled glass case next to the ice cream.
El Bombón turns out fresh-squeezed juices daily in flavors like watermelon, cantaloupe with sweetened milk, and vegetable combinations like carrot, cucumber and lime juice ($2 to $6). I tried the melón con leche made with fresh cantaloupe juice and sweetened condensed milk, and it tasted as sweet, creamy and vibrant as it looked in the container. I also assuaged my guilt with a serving of cucumbers ($4), which the server doctored up with chile powder and lime.
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El Bombón's owners also import Mexican fruits such as mamey, soursop, passion fruit and lulo when they are in-season. They chop most of it up and send it to an ice cream company they use to turn it into nieve for customers who are looking for a sweet taste of home. I haven't tried most of these tropical fruits (either fresh or in cold, creamy form), so I sampled the mamey ($2.50), which is currently in season. The ice cream had the pinkish-orange hue of papaya; it was rich and sweet and tasted like a mix between floral melon and sweet mango. I also had a scoop of El Bombón's signature tequila ice cream, whose flavor I would not have guessed had I tasted it blindly, as caramel and vanilla were most prominent. But it was a fantastic fusion of flavor when mixed with the fruit-forward mamey.
El Bombón also puts together a dessert called the Biónica ($6), which includes assorted fresh-cut fruits, a heavy-handed pour of sweetened-condensed milk, and sprinkles of coconut and brown-sugar granola crumbles. The luscious mound is then topped off with a dollop of whipped cream. Now that’s a great-tasting way to get your fruit serving in for the day.
Once summer arrives, Benavides and his associates plan to place tables around the outside of the store and extend business hours to 2 a.m. to accommodate the late-night club- and bar-goers looking to refuel after a night of drinking and dancing. “Maybe I’ll even turn my electronic menu screens into music videos after ten p.m.,” Benavides jokes. There are certainly enough scrumptious offerings to satisfy the hungry late-night munchies. And while tantalizing sweet treats are a specialty at El Bombón, I predict that the savory street food will be a huge hit with night owls and those seeking over-the-top eats around town.