We head out to Disney Springs bright and early on the morning of Friday March 18th.
The Good Dinosaur and the Disney Springs expansion have a lot in common, I think, at least in terms of people’s reactions. Tepid at best.
As has been the case for a long time now, there is little going on around The West Side in terms of new construction.
DisneyQuest is still here of course, despite some expectations that it would be closed to become some sort of NBA Experience. The building is so large that it’s hard to imagine what could be put inside that would attract a profitable crowd on weekday afternoons.
One of two Wetzel’s Pretzels and the Haagen Dazs stand are located on the side of DisneyQuest and across from Cirque, which is still showing La Nouba.
Both stands receive very little foot traffic at the moment as most people arrive via bus from The Marketplace or park in the garage, which has a bridge over to the area in front of Planet Hollywood down the way. I was actively looking around for the two stands when they debuted last year and walked right by them. Granted, I’m bad at this, but still.
House of Blues continues to stand tall with The Smokehouse quick service sitting out in front of the outdoor bar section.
As noted in this Facebook post, I had originally planned to visit Disney Springs and take pictures on the afternoon of the 16th, but forgot my camera’s memory card HAHAHAHAHAHA. So I grabbed a Half Rack of St. Louis Smoked Ribs and went home.
I had some luck previously with their now-$13 Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich. I wasn’t quite as impressed with the ribs, which arrived as a rack of six somewhat-meaty, somewhat-tender bones. With more and more options coming online further up in The Landing along with Splitsville across the street offering plentiful bar and patio seating, plus The House of Blues itself, I’m not sure why anyone would choose The Smokehouse over the many other options available. If this were in Hollywood Studios or something then it would be a no-brainer. But you can do better at Disney Springs.
For around the same price as the ribs outside, you could sit down to a superior meal inside the restaurant.
This is where you’ll continue to find one of the very few happy hours on property and the best at Disney Springs. $3.75 for a beer in this day and age is good, though I’m not sure where they’re importing the Blue Moon and PBR 16-ounce from.
Two relatively generic stores arrive next for those looking for gym apparel or sunglasses. If you need a pair of shoes or something and don’t want to order online or go off property, then it might be a good stop. But like much of what’s coming to Disney Springs throughout the rest of the year, I’m not sure why anybody within 20 miles of a mall would take time out of their vacation to look at gym shorts.
I used to recommend Splitsville pretty heavily a couple of years ago. At least for those looking for dinner without a reservation. Their bar areas are expansive and the food is surprisingly good. But with new restaurants and bars in the form of The BOatHOusE, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, and Morimoto Asia already online, I’m not sure it’s worth the certain-headache that rises from eating inside of a loud bowling alley.
They added some new menu items recently, including the Dynamite Shrimp, Spicy Edamame, The Southern Burger, Mushroom and Swiss Burger, Southwestern BBQ Chicken Salad, Beef Tacos and Fish Tacos. The menu is far too vast for everything to be good. But Splitsville remains a good choice on game day – I would recommend it over the smaller and busier ESPN Club – it’s also easier for most people to get here than it is The BoardWalk.
Splitsville does have somewhat decent drinks.
Nothing much of interest on the beer front. When they first opened, they offered the very good Southern Tier 2XIPA. Now it doesn’t get much more interesting than Kona Big Wave.
The sushi is arguably more imaginative here than at Morimoto Asia, where everything is probably more proficient but perhaps with more rudimentary ingredients.
The Pop Gallery is somehow still located on the walkway to the parking garage in between Splitsville and the movie theater. It used to set the pace for what would be a collection of quirky stores that once dotted the waterfront. Now it’s mostly Star Wars and Marvel.
They do a nice job at the AMC Theater, which is surprisingly popular though you might not guess that by this picture taken right around 10am.
I prefer the Dine-In Theater, which has a separate entrance on the left side.
You can choose your seats in advance and there’s only four seats before there’s an aisle for easy access to the lobby and bathrooms. There are few things potentially worse than being stuck in the middle of a row in a busy theater and have to go to the bathroom part way through. The food here certainly isn’t going to win any awards, but everything I’ve had has been serviceable. My biggest gripe is the small sodas. You can ring your server for a “free” refill, but it seems like they could just deliver a 24-ounce size to start.
Wolfgang Puck continues to confuse visitors far and wide with three very different menus for its three different establishments all housed under one roof. Just about everybody walks up and looks at one, only to turn their nose up at whatever they see and head elsewhere. Here’s the quick service menu:
It’s then potentially more confusing that there are two Wolfgang Puck Express locations with the Marketplace iteration having a much more expansive menu. Still, if you’re looking for some of the quickest food available, a to-go sandwich, sushi roll, or other item could be in your hands in just a couple of minutes. The Cafe menu, which is their one-credit-on-the-dining-plan table service restaurant:
One of the nice things about Disney Springs is that you actually have a variety of restaurants that are competing against each other – and that will be even more true when the shopping and dining district’s expansion is more or less complete by the end of the year. When you’re deciding between which restaurant or quick service to eat at inside Magic Kingdom, they’re all operated by the Walt Disney Company and offer similar food and value. Sure, there are some tricks here or there and nobody wants to be caught dead in Diamond Horseshoe, but it’s not like picking a restaurant in New Orleans or Miami where you have hundreds of restaurants all operated by different owners vying for your money. There is much more competition at Disney Springs and because of that, potentially more value for your money. Just about everything here and at any other Springs restaurant will be cheaper and better quality than what Disney will serve you in one of their theme parks or resorts. There is no such thing as a lunch or dinner steak at a Disney-operated restaurant that comes in at $30 or less.
Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe is one of two restaurants on property that I’ve never visited. Three points if you can guess the other.
Seating for the quick service is all outdoors. In my experience, pizzas take about 20 minutes to come out, which is longer than you might want to wait.
Bongos is another restaurant that has multiple outlets, including the table service restaurant with indoor and terrace seating, the quick service window directly in front of us, and the mojito bar off to the right. It is not supposed to still be here. Here is the quick service’s menu:
With just a small outdoor seating section, it’s hard to imagine many people will make this their single quick service meal. The one time I ate here they were almost surprised that anyone had walked up and nobody knew how to make the sandwich. They had to go inside and find a chef.
At just around three bucks a piece, the various appetizers might be a more interesting snack than a Wetzel’s pretzel.
The Food Truck Park (not the right name) is still located in between the Starbucks and Bongos. You can never really be sure which trucks will be sitting here, what will be on the menu, or when they’ll open. This is what was available last week:
The potstickers are a somewhat new addition, while the sliders are up $1.50.
None of this really screams Hollywood Studios to me – at least the Cobb Salad made some amount of sense when it was available. I’m not sure what would cause someone to get a Pepperoni Flatbread here.
I will always laugh at Disney having to change the name of the croque monsieur to “Grilled Ham & Cheese” because nobody knew what it was.
Shopping has’t changed much through here.
I popped into Super Hero Headquarters right after it opened at 10am and the employees were having an amusing argument over why they didn’t have any Deadpool merchandise.
Target is assuredly cheaper.
Star Was continues its D-Street takeover.
I’ll have a couple of merchandise updates shortly. There’s a lot of stuff.
The Marketplace Starbucks continues serving wine and beer in the afternoons and evenings, in addition to its usual assortment of coffees etc.
Maybe we can get trashed there and get matching tattoos on our faces.
There is a considerable amount of work going on at the edge of The West Side across from the entrance to the Dine-In Theater..
Planet Hollywood looks to be keeping its spherical shell, but that should be about it.
Artwork on the walls displays the final product.
Somebody tell this kid to get his hands out of the ice cream.
One more angle looking down.
I’m not sure why anybody thought this closet was going to be a “World of Coke.” The budget is about 150 million short.
The store will feature some variety of tasting area on the roof, which should offer a variety of different colored high fructose corn syrups, in addition to the view.
One more look in the opposite direction.
For those driving, parking inside the Orange Garage makes the most sense. Those heading in from I-4 will find an easy exit directly into the parking garage. Limited surface parking is also available.
Valet parking is located here to the left of the Orange Garage beginning at 10am and in front of Cirque du Soleil beginning at 2pm. The cost is $20 at both spots.
Full resolution: http://www.easywdw.com/reports13/springs_busloop_toowide.jpg
The water tower, which is supposed to be a focal point of Disney Springs, is visible in the distance to the left next to the yet-to-be-completed second parking garage.
The last several pictures were taken from the parking garage, which is pictured above with the ramp leading in off to the right.
Full resolution: http://www.easywdw.com/reports13/bridge_to_nowhere.jpg
Now approaching the bridge that would have once taken you to Pleasure Island, we find The Edison construction off to the left:
I’m not an expert on construction, but these beams that once held up the Adventurers Club seem awfully rusty.
It seems like one of the big losers in all of this will be Raglan Road, though their continued handouts to the blogger brigade may be enough to continue the hype. There are quite a few more places to get a better drink at a better price already. And it’s still going to be interesting to see how much of this stuff the average tourist passes. With Downtown Disney, the walk from The West Side to The Marketplace was well defined. People started on one side, walked to the other side, and then doubled back, passing just about every single restaurant and store in the process. Springs should have a much freer flow where you can easily bypass entire stretches by simply continuing to walk straight instead of taking a turn.
Pretty standard drafts.
Walls still surround the restaurant and the attached quick service.
Morimoto Street Food, which will at some point see a lot more foot traffic once the walls come down, looks to have a much improved menu. (The above picture is archival footage.)
You might remember that everything offered was originally pre-made. But this is a little closer to what you would expect from a place advertising “street food.” Below is the previous menu:
They did lose the very rare Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale, but beers now come with a free “morimoto baby rib,” which is perhaps not the name I would have gone with.
For those keeping track, the website has run three Morimoto Asia reviews since the restaurant opened, each of which was accompanied by a price increase. If you missed them, here’s dinner, here’s lunch, and here’s the bar.
Below is the current menu:
The changes aren’t particularly catastrophic. A couple of the appetizers are no longer available, like the Hamachi Tartare and Five Spice Chicken Wings. All of the Sushi Rolls are up $2, with the exception of the Vegetable and Spider, which are both the same price. All of the House Sakes are up in price from $2 – $5 depending on size, with the exception of the $150 bottle of 5-year Koshu, which is the same price.
As recently as February, a Full-Rack of the Morimoto Ribs was available, which would have set you back $36 for 12 ribs or $3 each. The slightly discounted 6-pack would run you $4.50 each. Everything in the Noodles + Rice section is up $1 or $2. Keep in mind that all of these comparisons are compared to what the prices were last month.
That means our precious Singapore Laksa Noodle is up to $16 from $12. I had previously said that “there is a tremendous amount of value in the noodle bowl with the quality well outpacing the price.” I know I should just keep my mouth shut. I’ve been considering writing these posts in code or distributing some kind of device where you look through red cellophane glasses to read what I really want to say. Everyone else will just see complaints about everything being terrible and overpriced. Which I guess isn’t that much different than the content currently offered. Unfortunately, portions and quality have also come down considerably At Morimoto since the restaurant opened. Your $18 Chicken Pad Thai might arrive with six or seven bites of gristly chicken and a handful of large chunks of fried tofu rather than the much larger portion you would have received late last year, for example.
Otherwise, almost all of the sakes and beers are up in price. Each of the Morimoto Special Selections are up $5 a piece.
I had previously stated that their Rogue Imperial Pilsner was a good value at a markup of just $6 or 31.5%. Today, the bottle at the store would cost you the same $19 but the markup is now $11 or 57.9%. That’s still a lot better than the Black Soba Ale, which has a markup of over 200%. Otherwise, all of the other beers are up $1 or $2, including Bud Light going up to $8 from $6.
Morimoto’s first batch of seasonal cocktails are out. I joined Scott of the Disney Cruise Line Blog to give them a try. If you’re looking at a Disney cruise, you definitely want to check his site out for unbiased commentary on what Disney is up to on the water, in addition to menus, reviews, personal navigators from past cruises, etc. If I had a spare $400,000 I would run a similar site.
This is the $14 Sparkling Spring – Sparkling Wine, Hibiscus Simple Syrup, Yuzu Lemon Juice, and Domaine de Canton.
While it’s a very attractive pink color, there was a strange topping of ice shards and an unpleasant tartness to the drink on the back end, in addition to a syrupy overall quality. The Gingered Apple Cocktail was the most pleasant of the three – weak, but with a refreshing fruitiness to it. I don’t like Campari at all and I thought that was the dominant flavor from the Tokushima Negroni. You might have more luck.
On the plus side, I’ve found that the drinks that you would expect to be strong are. This is the $14 Manhattan East – Hiro Sake, Makers Mark Bourbon, Canton Liqueur, Orange Bitter, which was terrifically balanced between the bourbon and other ingredients. It really packed a punch, much like the Hibiscus Sazerac, which I also enjoyed.
Otherwise, the reviews on Morimoto have not been great from actual customers. Initially there was a lot of buzz from those that eat for free and the menu was originally less expensive. If you look over Yelp, Open Table, and Trip Advisor, you’ll see a lot of complaints on the service side. And with food prices up about 33% since October, there’s less and less value on the menu after each menu change. I’d still look at Morimoto for a fun and breezy lunch, but it wouldn’t be my pick for dinner.
Morimoto Asia does have a new chef in Yuhi Fujinaga, so perhaps we’ll see some more positive things shortly.
In Part 2 we’ll return to Portobello for lunch and continue our walk around Disney Springs.