Last week, Disney made a pretty significant announcement that construction was already underway on a new 15-story, 500+ room tower at the Coronado Springs Resort. That tower will contain some number of “regular rooms,” in addition to suites and “concierge level services.” And perhaps most interestingly, a rooftop restaurant that promises “panoramic views of popular nighttime fireworks from nearby Disney theme parks” will be added. New bridges will be constructed to better connect other guest areas with the tower and new “floating gardens” will also be added to brighten up the landscape. You can read the full announcement here in case you haven’t already read 75 different versions slightly reworded.
The construction is immediately noticeable as you approach the gate as the Cabanas building that’s being torn down is just inside the resort’s main entrance on the right.
I actually stayed here for a few nights last week at the Cabanas building right next door though these pictures are all from the afternoon of February 22nd, 2017.
That’s Cabanas 9B, the building that’s currently being demolished, on the right.
The tower will go in its place.
The demolition is serious:
But what’s happening at the moment isn’t particularly interesting.
If you’re in the Casitas section, the construction shouldn’t be bothersome at all. In Ranchos, you can walk through Casitas towards the main building and also run into virtually no construction. Staying in Cabanas 9A, we did hear the construction as we walked to and from the bus or could hear it in the distance when walking to the pool. It did detract slightly from what would have otherwise been a more peaceful couple of minutes, but it was far from a deal breaker.
But before you change your mind about staying here and try to move to Caribbean Beach, you might take into consideration that Disney is sending these emails out to guests with stays beginning in late April:
We are delighted you have chosen to stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort!
In an effort to continually improve the Guest experience, we often refresh our offerings and atmosphere. In preparation of your upcoming stay, we would like to make you aware of Resort refurbishment work that will be taking place during your visit.
Upon your arrival, you will notice construction work in various areas as we enhance our Resort. Noise may be heard while this work is being completed and certain pathways may be unavailable.
Additionally, Old Port Royale Food Court, Shutters at Old Port Royale, Banana Cabana Pool Bar and Calypso Trading Post will be closed for refurbishment during your stay. While we work our magic, there will be a variety of dining options available to you for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Centertown will serve breakfast and dinner and a selection of grab-and-go meals will be conveniently available for purchase in three island markets located in the Aruba, Jamaica and Martinique regions of the Resort.
We apologize for any inconvenience this work may cause and appreciate your patience. If you have questions or need assistance with your reservation, please contact your original booking agent.
I think I’d put up with some construction noise on the other side of the resort long before I’d want to stay at a resort with the quick service, restaurant, pool bar, and store all closed.
Otherwise, the thought of seeing a Bay-Lake-Tower-size building at Coronado is an exciting proposition and it will be interesting to see what its arrival means to the various resort categories and pricing.
Las Ventanas, one of two table service restaurants at Coronado, is located in a nook around the corner from the Rix Lounge. The massive convention space is located just beyond the next set of doors.
Previously a private dining room for next door Rix Lounge, the windowless restaurant is nicely appointed given the space available.
For lunch between 11:15am and 12:30pm on the afternoon of Wednesday February 22nd, there were only a couple of tables occupied.
Two televisions line the walls on the entrance side – one offering a women’s tennis match in Dubai and the other SportsCenter – both on mute.
As you may or may not be aware, all of Coronado Springs’ dining is operated by Palmas Services LLC, the same company that runs the restaurants in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot and Frontera Cocina at Disney Springs. Maya Grill, which I reviewed a while ago in this post alongside Rix Lounge, is more of your typical Mexican restaurant.
The current menu there is very similar to La Hacienda de San Angel at Epcot, where you can order “Entrees for Two” like this $46 Parillada “Del Grill” – Marinated New York strip, chorizo and chicken al pastor with bell peppers and grilled onions.
Anyway, a few years ago, somebody at Palmas decided that a restaurant that offered something more “north of the border” might be a welcome addition to the restaurant lineup, and Las Ventanas was born. Here’s the lunch menu:
For dinner, the same appetizers and desserts are offered, in addition to the Ventanas Burger and Chicken Focaccia Sandwich, but the “Specialties” are a little more upscale in places.
Here is that menu in full, which you can also change to breakfast.
You’ll have to excuse the quality of some of these pictures…I had momentarily misplaced my flash and the lighting in the restaurant is dark and uneven.
This is the $11.99 Crispy Calamari – Hand-breaded Calamari with Smokey Jalapeno Aioli.
I thought the presentation was a little goofy with the calamari intertwined with some sour greens, tomato, and red onion. But we really liked the smokey jalapeno aioli, which had a nice creamy ,natural spiciness to it. And while each of the rings were on the small side, it was easy to pick three or four pieces up with the fork and dip the lightly breaded, crispy squid into the sauce. It wasn’t a “make it or break it” appetizer, but it’s also available in the evening at Rix Lounge next door and it would pair perfectly with a couple of margaritas. Very good and a nice portion for the money. Very shareable.
The $16.49 French Dip – Slow-cooked Beef in a Natural Jus piled high with Provolone Cheese on a Sourdough Baguette served with Horseradish Crème, a Pickle and choice of House-seasoned Fries, Sweet Fries, Quinoa Salad or Jicama Slaw was a little more attractive in real life than it probably looks in this picture.
But while the roll was greasier than I would have liked and the beef perhaps on the fatty side, the bread was fresh and was nicely toasted with a distinct sour flavor that contrasted nicely against the perfectly melted provolone and salty, flavorful beef. Looking back, I probably should have requested a side of the horseradish as those flavors were not particularly present. I enjoyed it a lot more than anything that I’ve ordered at The Plaza Restaurant at Magic Kingdom for around the same money, though you might be able to argue that the atmosphere is more fun inside the theme park.
The Quinoa Salad is a good example of me ordering Quinoa Salad and then complaining that I ordered Quinoa Salad. It was bland with most of the flavor coming from the bits of green pepper mixed in. But it’s certainly nice to have the option to add a “healthy” side like this. It was served ice cold, which was a little chilly for my mouth, but it may be the desirable temperature.
Speaking of french fries, we were shocked and horrified when the server delivered what the dignified “Disney Food Blog” designated as “The Worst Ketchup in All of Walt Disney World.”
But after opening the precious little jar and examining its contents, it appeared to be ketchup. And for some reason it tasted like ketchup too. Very troubling…very troubling…
Tom ordered the $16.49 Ventanas Burger – All-Beef patty with Vermont White Cheddar and Peppercorn Bacon served on a Brioche Sesame Seed Bun with a Pickle and choice of House-seasoned Fries, Sweet Fries, Quinoa Salad or Jicama Slaw. One potential positive of eating at a restaurant operated by a third-party is that pretty much everything about it is going to be different than the typical Disney experience. Las Ventanas, which might serve 200 burgers a week, is going to have the opportunity to do things a lot differently than the Walt Disney Company, which is going to serve hundreds of thousands of burgers over that same period.
This ended up being a really nice, lean, handmade patty topped with a thick slice of perfectly melted white cheddar cheese and three pieces of perfectly crispy bacon spiced up really nicely with black peppercorn. The bun was fresh and soft and the sesame seeds provided some texture and a bit of earthy flavor to each bite. The only thing I would have changed would be the addition of some kind of sauce or aioli – ketchup and mustard went a long way in livening up the flavor profile even if each piece of the hamburger was excellent in and of itself. Quite good.
The size of the lettuce might be taking an unfortunate page out of the Guy Fieri playbook. We really liked the “house-seasoned fries” as well – much better than the thin bland fries that Disney typically serves – really cripsy with a soft meaty interior. I would substitute these for just about any other potato-based side on property. Next door at Rix Lounge, you can order these with Shredded Chicken, Crispy Potatoes, crumbled Bleu Cheese, and Bleu Cheese Dressing in the evening. Smart. Also available at Rix is a burger topped with Queso Fresco and Salsa Roja for the same money. You might ask for that preparation if you’re dining here.
Interestingly, the prices have actually come down here since the restaurant opened in early 2014. The burger and French Dip both used to cost $1 more. And while it’s not advertised, the restaurant accepts the Tables in Wonderland discount.
Overall, Las Ventanas is probably not going to be a destination restaurant, but those staying at the resort may want to seek out at least one meal here for a very pleasant, very serene meal. I don’t usually discuss service because your experience with a different server will probably be different than my own, but everybody was so authentically friendly that it was quite possibly the nicest service that I’ve ever experienced at a Walt Disney World restaurant. And it’s hard to beat Tokyo Dining’s “thank you for your patience.”
Above is Pepper Market’s current menu where the Burger is $3 less expensive than the Ventanas and the Philly Cheese Steak is $3.50 less than Ventanas’ French Dip.
Add 20% to the tip if you’re without Tables in Wonderland and a meal at the sit-down restaurant looks to cost about 25% more than Pepper Market. It’s likely worth it.
It will be interesting to see all of the changes that the addition of the 15-story tower brings.
At the moment, I wouldn’t let construction scare you away from staying here. At least come May 1st, things look to be a lot worse at Caribbean Beach Resort with the impending DVC units being built there.
Of course, if you don’t want to deal with it at all, Riverside and French Quarter are still available.
The website will continue to monitor the construction walls and we’ll probably see a further uptick in Coronado Springs dining reviews.
Maybe back to Rivers of Light next.