Dining

Frontera Cocina Dining Review

by on July 8, 2016

As construction walls start to come down all around Disney Springs, the list of new dining venues around the Town Center area continues to grow. The newest restaurant added to the mix is Frontera Cocina, the most recent location in a string of modern Mexican eateries from celebrity chef Rick Bayless. Located next to the new Disney Springs Guest Relations location, across from Sprinkles Bakery, this restaurant focuses on freshly-made classic Mexican cuisine in a casual table-service setting. I dropped in during opening week to try out a few dishes and get a feel for what is sure to be a very popular location in Disney Springs and all around Walt Disney World. Frontera Cocina is open from 11:00 AM daily (closing hours vary, so be sure to check before a late dinner), and for now, works on a walk-up seating basis (reservations are available now on OpenTable for seatings starting July 21st; “soon” on My Disney Experience). I chose to beat the rush this particular day by grabbing a table for an early dinner after strolling around some of the newly-opened shops nearby.

The menu here’s not enormous, but has a pretty wide variety of options: lots of shareable appetizers, a few reasonably-priced tacos and tortas (sandwiches) that look perfect for lunchtime/lighter dining, and plated entrees and sides that are priced similarly to most Disney non-signature table service restaurants (like The Wave or Captain’s Grille). First impressions were two-fold: the menu, while modern-leaning, is still pretty accessible to most diners accustomed to pure neighborhood Tex-Mex; secondly, I had absolutely no idea what to order, because everything sounded fantastic. Luckily, my server was quick to point out both the house specialties and her own personal favorites from the dishes she’d been sampled thus far. First, though, I had to settle on a cocktail from their extensive menu. Options here include the incredibly popular avocado margarita, straight from Epcot’s La Cava del Tequila, but I was looking for something I’d not yet tried and couldn’t get elsewhere – luckily, that fits most of this menu, due to the specialty spirits used, many of which are specific only to Frontera Cocina and La Cava. House specialties on the menu include the agave flights, the Frontera margarita, or the slightly-spicier version that is blood orange & jalapeno flavored.

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Dining values at Walt Disney World

by on July 5, 2016

As much as we all enjoy eating at Walt Disney World, you can find yourself feeling sticker shock when the wait staff brings your bill (unless you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, where the sticker shock comes well before your trip).

But, don’t fret. I’m here to help and to tell you that, yes, dining values can still be found on Disney property. Here are a few of my picks for great meals, snacks and drinks on a budget. This doesn’t mean that these are necessarily the least expensive items, but rather the best items and experience for the price. If you’re on the dining plan, you’ll likely want to go for the most expensive item you can get with your credit, but if you’re paying out-of-pocket for food, this list is for you.

Share your thoughts in the comments, along with your picks for dining values.

Table Service Appetizer: Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments at Sanaa, $13.99

Sanaa Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments

Sanaa Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments

This one lives up to its reputation as a unique, filling appetizer that will satisfy multiple people. First, Sanaa, the table service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani Village, is an outstanding value overall with unique cuisine, beautiful decor and animals wandering just outside the restaurant. The bread service is simple in concept, but complex in flavor. You get a variety of freshly made naan bread to enjoy with dipping sauces arranged in order of spiciness. One version of the bread service comes with three sauces, but we recommend getting the full nine, which is a mere $2.50 upcharge. This is also one dish where the restaurant actually increased the portion. In 2014, when the photo above was taken, we were given three pieces of naan, but when we returned a year later, it came with five pieces of naan, which makes this an appetizer that can be comfortably shared among a table of four.

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Dining Review: New Epcot Breakfast Options

by on June 29, 2016

With all of the frenzy surrounding the opening of Frozen Ever After in the Norway pavilion of World Showcase in Epcot, it was easy to miss the recent news that there are a few new breakfast options in World Showcase now, too. Aside from the already-available options at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France pavilion and Sunshine Seasons at The Land, guests can now drop in to La Cantina de San Angel in the Mexico pavilion or Kringla Bakeri og Kafe in the Norway pavilion to satisfy their breakfast cravings. A few days ago, I tried many of the new items to see if they are worth a stop (spoiler alert: they definitely are!).

Chilaquiles con huevos

Chilaquiles con huevos

Mexico’s new options all come from La Cantina de San Angel, the quick service location just across from the main pyramid of the pavilion. The new breakfast menu features three new full-sized entrees unique to this restaurant and a kid’s scrambled-eggs-with-potatoes option, all of which are offered until 11:00 AM daily in addition to a few of the standard menu items (including soft drinks and the restaurant’s popular churros dessert – yes, you can have churros for breakfast, because why not, it’s vacation?). Once you order and receive your food, just like during the early hours of lunch service here, you can take a seat in the covered area on World Showcase Lagoon, or if the sign near the back of the building indicates, make use of the additional (air-conditioned!) seating in the back of La Hacienda’s main dining room (a welcome option in 100% humidity).

Pambazo de chorizo con huevo

Pambazo de chorizo con huevo

My first taste of the new breakfast options came from the pambazo de chorizo con huevo, a breakfast sandwich-type meal with scrambled eggs, chorizo, jack cheese, red onions, lettuce, and guacamole ($9.95). The pambazo is served dipped-sandwich style, covered in a mild red chili salsa – traditionally filled with potatoes and chorizo, but here we see eggs instead. The scrambled eggs within the bread roll are real eggs (no weird powdered eggs here, a definite positive), cooked with the chorizo to give them a smoky, savory bite offset by the creamy guacamole and crunchy lettuce. My bread roll was a bit stale, but nothing that couldn’t have been fixed by a few drips of the green tomatillo or spicy red chili sauces available on the restaurant’s condiment bar. This is a fairly traditional Mexican take on a popular on-the-go style breakfast, full of flavor and pretty filling, considering the roll and the scrambled eggs. Overall, I was a fan, and think this will probably be a winner for many, though I did prefer the next two menu items I tried a bit more.

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Dinner at Cabanas: A Review from the Disney Dream

by on June 28, 2016

As the saying should go, if you starve on a cruise ship, it is by choice alone. At any time of day there is always something to eat. For many, the highlight of the day is typically the main dining for dinner, where themed dining rooms and a carefully crafted menu combine with a little bit of Disney magic for an unforgettable meal. Sometimes it can be too much of a good thing, however, and there may be reasons why you want to skip main dining. Perhaps you don’t feel like dressing up. Maybe you want a quieter meal. You might have even overslept and missed early dining. Thankfully, on select nights, there is another option–dinner at Cabanas.

On my most recent cruise on the Disney Dream, my husband and I tried dinner at Cabanas. Here’s our experience:

Because it was pirate night for our cruise, I was wearing jeans and a pirate t-shirt–something that I would have felt awkward wearing to Royal Palace (where we were assigned that night). Because dinner at Cabanas is more casual, my outfit was not out of place at all. The dining room is changed a bit from breakfast and lunch service. You have two servers assigned to your table, just like in the main dining room. These are servers who are training for the main dining room, and so they go over the top trying to be attentive to whatever you need. The dining room itself has placemats and fun “Cabanas-style” napkins, plus glass plates and glasses–a step above the plates and cups at other meals.

DSC03822

Unlike the main dining rooms, where you have a set time to show up, you can show up without a reservation at any time during Cabanas’ dinner service (which on our cruise was 6:30-8:30). When we arrived at the beginning of the dinner time, we checked in, gave our stateroom number, and were seated immediately. Due to lower seating capacity, if there is high demand, you may have to wait for a table.

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A Teetotaler’s Review of Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar

by on June 27, 2016

jocklindsey11

Do you seek adventure? How about fortune and glory? If so, you may want to add Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar to your next travel itinerary! Last year, Disney Springs gained Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, themed after Indiana Jones’ pilot, Jock Lindsey, from Raiders of the Lost Ark. This incredibly themed dining destination has been on my to-do list for months; but as you probably noticed by this article’s title, I’m somewhat of a teetotaler and was a little apprehensive about dropping in a self-proclaimed bar and ordering a soft drink! But a few weeks ago, after an especially long and hot trek through Disney Springs, I decided to venture in to finally check it out for myself. So if you’re curious about my adventure, or you’re a fellow non-drinker who may have had the same concerns, here’s A Teetotaler’s Review of Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.

Story:

As with everything at Walt Disney World, it’s always about the story and Jock Lindsey’s maintains that tradition. The story behind this Disney Springs addition is that Jock came across this particular part of Florida while on an adventure with Indy. He, and his famous pet snake Reggie, returned in the 1940s and bought a waterfront piece of property to operate a seaplane tour operation. His hangar eventually became a popular hangout for fellow globe trotters, particularly for members of The Society of Explorers and Adventures, and now Disney World travelers.

Note: The story behind Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar has ties to the storyline of the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, as The Society of Explorers and Adventures also frequented that location and references to Jock, Reggie, and Indy have been found there as well. Keep an eye out for them if you have the opportunity to visit!

jocklindsey10Location:

At Disney Springs, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar can be found at The Landing, a charming waterfront area between the Marketplace and the West Side and directly across from the newly opened Town Center. Of all the new spaces to be discovered at Disney Springs, The Landing is by far my favorite. I love the convenient, central location; and as I was staying at Disney’s Old Key West Resort, having the resort boat launch right next to Jock Lindsey’s was quite a perk.

Hours:

Unlike other bars or lounges I’m familiar with at Walt Disney World, Jock Lindsey’s opens each day at 11:30 A.M. and stays open throughout the afternoon and into the evening until Disney Springs closes for the night. During my first visit, I dropped in around 1:00 P.M; and while there were a few guests sitting both inside and out, I still pretty much had the place to myself which was great for exploring and taking a few photos without interfering with anyone’s meal. It would also be the ideal time for families to visit so kids could freely look around too.

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STK Orlando Dining Review

by on June 24, 2016

As we’ve highlighted the past few weeks, Disney Springs is really stepping up its dining game with a ton of new restaurants. Today, I take a look at a meal I recently enjoyed at one of the new higher-end offerings, STK Orlando, located in The Landing just across from Paradiso 37. STK is a popular modern take on the classic steakhouse with locations in big cities like Miami, LA, NYC, and Chicago; it definitely trends towards a younger crowd with a DJ located on the main floor of each of the restaurants (and Disney Springs’ location is no different). I was interested to see how this restaurant would fit with Disney’s typical family clientele, so I picked an early dinner reservation slot for my meal; the restaurant also serves lunch with a few sandwiches added to the salad, steak, and side dish staples. I was seated immediately upon arrival in the bar area of a nearly empty restaurant (save for a lot of furniture – you will definitely get to know the table next to you here, given how closely you sit next to them). My initial impression was that the ambiance was pretty low-key – the music wasn’t loud, but the place also just wasn’t busy yet. All in good time…

After a few greetings by several servers and wait staff, my server arrived and gave me a quick introduction to the food and cocktail menus (though oddly, he skipped over the steak section, which I expect is why most people would stop here). Several salads and hot appetizers are on offer to start your meal off, followed by a large selection of steak cuts as well as local seafood and other meat entrees. I was also informed that they were a “full order kitchen”, so I would need to order everything all at once, and he would pace it out for me. I wasn’t too surprised by this – many upscale restaurants prefer guests order like this to keep everything timed out just right for the kitchen – but it was the first time I’d had it flat-out explained to me, which is probably a good thing for most guests not used to restaurants like this. I started the night off with the Green Intensity cocktail ($14), one of their more unique offerings in a short, sweet-leaning, pretty standard craft cocktail menu. This drink is pure shtick – the subtlety of Absolut Elyx (a copper-distilled, high quality version of the Absolut vodka you’re probably used to) is completely drowned out by whole jalapeno slices and tons of seeds, a bit of basil for some earthiness, and lime to cut a little of the spice. This is legitimately spicy stuff, which may scare you in cocktail form, but it’s refreshing and definitely wakes you up. I give them credit for creating something a bit off the beaten path, but next time, I’ll stick to the Elyx served straight-up.

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What’s New With Walt Disney World Disney Vacation Packages for 2017

by on June 21, 2016

©Rikki Niblett

©Rikki Niblett

Are you ready to book your 2017 Walt Disney World vacation? Today is the day! And with this release, a few changes have occurred, mostly with the 2017 Disney Dining Plans. Let’s take a look at what’s changed.

First, let’s take a look at the 2017 Disney Dining Plans. For those who are looking to enjoy the Quick Service Dining or the Regular Dining Plan, Quick Service meals will no longer include a dessert for both packages. However, Disney has made the change where Guests on both dining packages can now have the ability to enjoy two snacks each day instead of just one. This means that you are no longer forced to enjoy the traditional chocolate cake just because it comes with your Counter Service meal, and now you can grab a Mickey Premium Bar and a popcorn whenever you want to enjoy them! (That is unless you want the cake…which will then be counted as one of your snack credits.)

For those on the Magic Your Way Package Plus Deluxe Dining, Quick Service Meals will also no longer include a dessert with lunch or dinner.

Here’s how the new Dining Plans shake out:

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Tiffins Dining Review

by on June 3, 2016

We’ve spent many months anxiously awaiting all of the new offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and while many of my friends couldn’t wait to try out the new nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris or see the Jungle Book: Alive With Magic show, I’ve been counting down the days to the opening of Tiffins (and neighboring Nomad Lounge). I dropped in for a dinner reservation this past weekend with several friends to see if Tiffins could meet the high standard set by other signature dining locations around Walt Disney World. You’ll find my thoughts on this epic meal below, along with those from a revisit a few days later (to see if the high-quality service and food was consistent).

When my party arrived, we were promptly greeted at the host stand and checked in, but also warned that they were running about ten to fifteen minutes behind in seating tables; we were told we could wait in the lobby, or next door in Nomad Lounge, and that we’d receive a text message once our table was ready. We didn’t much mind the wait, and a few of us took a chance to wander the indoor and outdoor seating areas of Nomad in the meantime (what an incredibly gorgeous space – this really set the tone for what to expect inside the restaurant). About ten minutes later, we were summoned to be seated, and led to our table – not a bad wait at all! Our server, Deandra, was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly – she gave us a quick introduction to the restaurant and then went through the menu with recommendations and commonly asked questions.

I was happy to hear her make solid suggestions, rather than just dance around which dishes were her personal favorites compared to what the house suggests. As we were a larger party, we chose to sample several appetizers and then each ordered an entrée for ourselves, both orders taken at once by Deandra. I have to admit – sometimes this approach by servers scares me; it definitely speeds up the meal by not waiting around to order after appetizers arrive, but it can sometimes throw off the pacing of a meal (like the dreaded “ending up with appetizer and entrée plates on the table at the same time” debacle that can put a halt to a good meal). As we discovered later, and you’ll see below, though, this fear was absolutely unfounded.

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Dining Review: More Disney Springs Quick Bites

by on May 27, 2016

Last week, we took a glance at a few of the newest dining additions to Disney Springs, and this week I visit two more new locations offering up quick service meals in the Landing and Marketplace sections. My first stop of the day was at B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co. (cute name, right?) for a quick bite for lunch. The stand, located at the beginning of the new bridge just near T-Rex Café and the LEGO Store, opens at 11:00 AM (though on this day, they were a bit slow to open – it was nearly 11:15 AM by the time the windows opened for ordering). I was greeted by a friendly Cast Member who took my order for a Three Little Pigs (serious credit to the person in charge of all these puns – a cute themed nod without being ridiculously over the top). Just like at Daily Poutine, I was told to stand off to the side whilst waiting for my food, and that I’d be called as soon as it was ready.

After about ten minutes baking in the infernally hot summer sun (just like Daily Poutine – no shade around here), I received the most adorable cardboard tray of food ever. It was, admittedly, a little slow in service, but everything looked and smelled fantastic, so I wasn’t really upset by the wait. I opted to pass by the standing tables (like you see at Food & Wine) set up just across from B.B. Wolf’s and made a bee-line for the nearby shaded planters for some seating and a makeshift table; I later discovered this was a smoking area – it didn’t bother me, but something to keep in mind.

Unlike my cup of poutine, this wasn’t really eat-while-you-walk cuisine – the flimsy cardboard trays/plates make it difficult to transport this stuff very far, but after a few bites, I didn’t care about the transportability of my meal. The Three Little Pigs ($10.39) is a kind of sampler platter, with three smaller pork sausages wrapped in cut-down hot dog buns, each topped with a different set of accompaniments (though I found out from a Cast Member later in the day that you are welcome to request all three to be the same “flavor”, if you so choose). All three variations start with the same base sausage and bun, then differ only in the toppings. The sausage itself was mild in flavor, pork-based, not too fatty, and had a snappy casing – a perfect vehicle for nearly any savory accompaniment you could think of. The bun had been grilled to slightly crisp, and was decadently buttery and fluffy – definitely better than any standard Disney hot dog bun I’ve encountered.

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Trail’s End Weekend Brunch Review

by on May 24, 2016

2016-05-21 11.33.33Long-time fans of Trail’s End may remember when it offered both a breakfast and lunch buffet. The trick was to get a dining reservation near the end of breakfast so that your first plate or two was breakfast food and the rest was lunch. Eventually, Disney decided to move Trail’s End to a la carte dining for lunch, and the world was suddenly a darker place for many. Time to come out of that dark place, because Trail’s End now offers a weekend brunch buffet from 7:30 AM to 2 PM daily. (And for those who love some of the unique offerings on the lunch menu, it will still be offered on weekdays.)

Part of the challenge with dining at Trail’s End, located at the Settlement part of Fort Wilderness (next to the Hoop De Doo Revue) is getting there. If you are driving, you have to park at the Outpost and take a Fort Wilderness internal bus to get to the Settlement. This means that you’ll want to arrive at Fort Wilderness at least a half hour before your dining reservation (and 45 minutes to an hour is ideal). From the Magic Kingdom, you can take a boat directly to the Settlement. From any other theme park, you’ll be dropped off at the Outpost and then still need to take an internal bus. But enough about logistics–let’s talk food.

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