We’ll use this opportunity to take an extended look at the continued transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs as cranes loom in the background. Most road signage around the Resort has already been changed to Disney Springs, with the name change officially expected to be christened next month. I always liked the name Downtown Disney. “Downtown” implies an air of glamour and sophistication. “We’re headed downtown to catch the symphony.” Or, “We’re headed downtown I hope we don’t get murdered.” Disney Springs invokes…I don’t know…a leak. Which is better than being murdered, but I’m not sure the implication of elegance is still there. Considering casuals still call Disney’s Hollywood Studios, “MGM,” I’m not sure how quickly the new name will take hold. And I imagine there’s a lot of confusion as people driving around the Resort search for “Downtown Disney,” only to see no signage pointing them toward their expected destination. There’s probably some poor family circling Old Key West Resort in a Chrysler Town & Country for the 317th time desperately searching for the Hanes Design-A-Tee store.
In an effort to keep things fresh, we’ll begin our tour on the Marketplace side.
I spent the weekend staying at a variety of Disney Vacation Club properties for future DVC reviews. You may enjoy some of the previous reviews of Old Key West, Beach Club Villas, Kidani Village, etc. here with links to past reviews. A look at the Grand Floridian Villas, BoardWalk Villas, and a Saratoga Springs’ Studio are all incoming. I’ve otherwise been extremely busy working on the site, although it probably isn’t obvious with the lack of updates. I think I’ll finally be able to put my foot back on the gas as far as new content is concerned with the new site design nearly ready and the followup to Amazon’s highest rated Walt Disney World guidebook of all time (of all time), “The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit 2016,” ready to head to the printer.
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This look at Downtown Disney from across the water may help visualize where everything is. It also might not.
Along with the official map.
The second and more useful of the two pedestrian bridges over Buena Vista Drive is going in next to Once Upon A Toy and across from Earl of Sandwich.
The current Buy More…Buy More campaign is ubiquitous across Downtown Disney. There was a time when different stores offered different merchandise.
The items have looked like this for a while, so a change is probably on the horizon.
Inside the case at Goofy’s Candy Co.
Some of the Create Your Own treats are also available as snack credits.
There isn’t a lot of visible construction in the Marketplace section, particularly as you get closer to Rainforest Cafe and Art of Disney.
I’m not sure if saying the Marketplace Wolfgang Puck Express is the best quick service on property is debatable:
You do pay a couple to a few more dollars than comparable entrees elsewhere, but I think it’s worth it and it’s a no brainer on the Disney Dining Plan, where you can put together a meal that costs upwards of $30 when you add a fountain drink and creme brulee desssert.
The Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf is my favorite quick service meal on property. At $16, it’s as expensive as some Downtown Disney lunch entrees, but the quality is just as good or higher and a server will deliver it to you on a plate.
On a more recent visit, Lisa ordered the Chicken Meatball Sandwich – Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce – $14.
Fries or a salad will run you an extra $1.50 if you prefer them over chips.
While it potentially doesn’t look like much from the picture, the foccacia had a nice airy quality that helped reduce the dreaded mouthful of bread, in addition to adding some herbs to the flavor profile. The tomato sauce is light, but robustly flavored and the meatballs are soft with just the right amount of seasoning. Overall, I don’t think there’s a better meatball sub on property (and we’ll get to another loser at the BoardWalk Bakery in short order).
I ordered the Pepperoni Pomodoro Pizza with caramelized onions, basil, and parmesan for $13.50. For about $3 more than Disney’s own frozen personal pizzas, you get something that’s vastly superior in size and quality.
The crust is thin and a little chewy, which lets the high quality toppings shine. You could easily share this between two people and come away satisfied for about $7/person. I can put away a whole pie myself, but I usually regret the last slice or two. But it’s just so good.
Other than being a little more expensive, the indoor seating area can get loud and it can take 10 to 20 minutes for your food to arrive. But I think it’s worth it for the quality, particularly if it’s cooler out or you otherwise don’t mind sitting outside.
Mickey’s Pantry connected to Earl of Sandwich still offers the same generic merchandise that’s available all over.
It’s a good choice for a full size bottle of wine for not a whole lot more than you’d pay at the grocery store.
Or you can opt for the baby bottle of Beringer White Zinfindel for the same price as the 5-liter box at the grocery store.
This “topiary” scene sits in front of Earl while Anna and Elsa remain in front of Hollywood Studios for Frozen Summer Fun, which wraps up in a couple of days.
Disney Infinity 3.0 is out in force. I still don’t know what it is, but the reviews I’ve seen have been surprisingly positive.
Once Upon A Toy is otherwise almost entirely full of stuff you can find in the toy section of your local Target, though the build-a-lightsaber and build-a-droid stations are located here too. If you’d like to take your time building either, this is your best bet as it’s significantly less crowded than Tatooine Traders at Hollywood Studios. The Forced Friday [sic] merchandise “event” has otherwise added even more Episode 7 stuff. If you thought Frozen was everywhere…
I’ll have a separate merchandise update in the next couple of days.
A reminder that Dockside Margaritas opened somewhat recently across from the Marketplace Co-Op.
The menu hasn’t changed.
Ghirardeli did away with peanuts some time ago now:
Construction continues at World of Disney.
It continues to expand in the back. Like most of us, probably.
The extension has already shifted much of the merchandise inside to different rooms.
Everything is located somewhere else now.
I don’t know what bird would use this.
Wearing one of these t-shirts might be a cool way to go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Not like cool as in “cool story bro,” but like temperature-wise.
This kind of pattern seems to be “in.”
Next year’s attraction calendar is available:
$21.95 is fairly reasonable.
The majority of the construction at the moment is taking place in old parking lots and other areas currently inaccessible to guests.
One interesting aspect of the Disney Springs expansion is how it’s ultimately going to affect crowd flow. Before all of this started, people basically started on one side of Downtown Disney and walked linearly past just about every retail establishment and restaurant. With the expansion, it looks like you’re going to have some options in the route you take, potentially passing by a multitude of outlets. Raglan Road is definitely seeing the short end of the stick these days with this narrow walkway leading to the restaurant and Cookes of Dublin.
One of their outdoor bars used to offer happy hour from 3pm to 7pm before it was modified to 3pm to 6pm. Now in an effort to pique interest, happy hour is offered “all day,” which is sort of like saying drinks are always regular price.
This nearby corridor leads to The BOATHOUSE, which I am now only going to refer to as The Boathouse because their Twitter and website refuse to CAPITALIZE IT.
I don’t know what to believe. Anyway, you’ll find Erin McKenna’s Bakery, Chapel Hats, and Havaianas (sandals) here.
Joffrey’s and Vivoli il Gelato opened a while ago now.
Joffrey’s operates a variety of kiosks in and near the theme parks, in addition to supplying most of the coffee and tea at the various resorts. If you’ve ever visited the kiosks outside of Epcot, Animal Kingdom, or at the Transportation and Ticket Center, then you’ve visited Joffrey’s, in addition to the kiosk outside Tower of Terror, Royal Tea Company at Animal Kingdom, the coffee stand in the United States Pavilion at Epcot, etc.
Joffrey’s Tea Traders is a classier indoor spot offering a variety of teas, coffees, and drinks.
You know it’s serious when you need a 4-year degree to operate the coffee machine. And even then, the machine would probably require two years of on-the-job experience which we’d never be able to get because we’d never be able to land the first job.
A lousy picture of the menu, which isn’t really that much more robust than their kiosks.
They are generous with their samples. I asked about something “cold with a lot of caffeine in it” and he immediately handed me the frozen chai, which is very good, but readily available at all their kiosks. I asked about the matcha and another sample came my way. I ended up walking away with one. Matcha is the powdered form of green tea and has a subtly sweet, earthy quality to it. The texture is creamy, not unlike your standard frozen coffee. It’s not cheap at almost six bucks with tax, but it’s certainly refreshing in the heat. According to the menu, you can add two shots of booze for $5, which might be a wise investment as well.
Otherwise, they have a variety of teas to take home.
The baked items have changed considerably from when it launched. They used to be 99 cents to $1.99, but now everything is $3.99.
Anyway, I don’t think Joffrey’s is a compelling destination, though it’s a good choice for those looking for tea that isn’t from Starbucks. And $10.49 for a drink with two shots in it isn’t a bad value at Downtown Disney.
Vivoli il Gelato is right next door.
A variety of baked goods and sandwiches are also available, in addition to bottled beverages.
Like L’Artisan Des Glaces in the France Pavilion at Epcot, you select the size of what you want first, pay, and then proceed to pick your flavors.
They’ll let you try whatever you like.
Serving size is potentially on the small size, though it’s in line with other offerings. This is a $6 medium.
On the other hand, this sad little cup of gelato is $4.69 at Art of Animation. And in the France Pavilion, a smaller amount than what you get at Vivoli would run you $6.33.
This is a terrible picture, but the gelato here is the real deal, using fresh imported and local ingredients, resulting in an incredibly creamy, smooth gelato. I think it’s the best on property, easily surpassing Disney and arriving just ahead of L’Artisan, making it a compelling stop if you’re looking for a high quality frozen treat. Don’t stop at one of those gelato kiosks over this.
Cookes of Dublin is another one where you’re not really sure if the people that operate it know what it’s called.
There’s no apostrophe in Cookes, though signage at Downtown Disney would lead you to believe otherwise, ostensibly because whoever Googled it saw one in the website’s header. Anyway, the picture of the entrance above is from before the walls moved closer. Even before those walls eliminated about half of the outdoor seating, it was usually difficult to find a table after 6:30pm. It’s one of the main reasons why I don’t recommend Cookes for anything other than lunch.
The other reason that I don’t recommend dinner is that they may well run out of whatever it is you’d like to order, like they did on my last visit. It says “limited availability” right under the Dublin Style Pies header and by the time I ordered around 8:30pm, they didn’t have any Beef and Lamb Pies left. Prepared, my backup was the Hog in the Box. But alas, they didn’t have any of those either. Panicking, I looked back up at the menu and for some reason “Chicken Sandwich” came out of my mouth, so that’s what I ordered.
It’s a char-grilled chicken breast with herb aioli, tomato chutney, and greens.
Opening up the bun leads to an unpleasant scene. I thought the sandwich had an unpleasant and unexpected sweetness to it from the chutney. The bun was otherwise fresh and the chicken nicely grilled, but I think they’d be better off looking at another sauce. I do enjoy their thick cut fries though – meaty, fried up to a crispy golden brown, and almost always served piping hot. Included in the complimentary condiments is a “dalkey mustard,” which is a creamy, vinegary, almost tartar-sauce-like sauce. Dip just about anything in it to liven up the flavors even more.
Lisa ordered the $11.95 Coldwater Shrimp, which don’t come with much of a description. Turns out they’re lightly battered and fried and you receive about a dozen of them in addition to the same high quality chips. The crispy exterior gives way to what you would expect from a fried shrimp, which are served with cocktail sauce and other accompaniments. Very good.
The Original One & One and the Fish and Chip Sandwich are both $10.95, which sort of makes the bun “free” should you go the sandwich route. Another lightly fried item, the fish is appropriately fried, moist, and flaky in between another fresh bun. I prefer Yorkshire at Epcot, but Cookes is a close second.
A couple chips and a bun complete the dish for those concerned that they aren’t going to hit their daily carbohydrate goal.
A friend ordered the $9.95 Chicken Tenders, which arrive with two pieces of chicken battered and fried just like the fish. For those that prefer chicken, it’s a fine choice, though I’m not sure they’re particularly memorable. Still one of the “safest” choices.
$5 buys you this basket of Garlic and Parmesan Skinny Chips, which can also be substituted for the regular chips on an entree for a few dollars. It’s a sizable portion that would make a great shareable snack, particularly if you’re stopping for a beer at the next door bar. Quality on these seems to depend on who’s preparing them and how fresh they are. We did very well.
Your arteries weep at the sight of the $4 Irish Vintage Cheese and Bacon Dip, which is as glorious as it is gluttonous. I think I gained two more pounds just cropping the pictures. It’s a big cup suitable for sharing that’s otherwise sort of like cheese fondue with pieces of bacon mixed in. It’s not as thick as you might expect and the flavor is of subtle cheese and salty bacon.
Overall, I think I want to be more in love with Cookes than I am. For lunch, I’d prefer to take advantage of some of the less expensive table service lunch menus at nearby Portobello or Fulton’s. And at dinner, you’re going to have to get here before 7pm to have a good chance at a comfortable table. It also takes an awfully long time for food to come out of the kitchen, to the point where you’d at least see an appetizer at a restaurant by the time your “quick” service food arrives. But I think the food here is very good and it’s a viable option for a more casual affair, particularly if you’re taking advantage of the bar next door.
Speaking of beer, this is what’s on draft.
There’s a lot of work going on in this area. This is in front of Cookes.
Looking back toward T-Rex.
Closer to Cookes.
Morimoto Asia is set to open on September 30th. Disney Parks Blog has most of the known details here in case you haven’t seen the thousand articles that the various blogs have put up regurgitating the exact same information. The website will give them a few weeks to get their act together and then head in to destroy them.
Jock Lindey’s Hangar Bar is expected to open within the next several weeks, though an official date is still unavailable.
Disney Parks Blog released some additional details a few weeks ago here.
I’m all about #bloggability, but even I’m a little uncertain about a calamari flatbread with spicy harissa.
The walkway up past Paradiso 37 is where a few other new mall outlets have come in.
There’s Edwin Peal, which I’ve literally never seen anybody inside of. An Apex by Sunglass Hut. Something called Sanuk. A Sound Lion. An Art of Shaving.
Work continues as Paradiso 37 expands. You wonder what contract negotiations have looked like during the tumultuous construction.
On the left should be STK Orlando. If you thought Boathouse was expensive…and to the right behind these walls is The Edison.
A better look at STK.
And on the Edison side.
In areas available to guests, little has changed on the West Side.
In a strange turn of events, Disney is building more of these highline structures, despite supposedly abandoning the idea that they would be accessible to guests.
They provide a little bit of shade and they’re ugly.
Walls lining Planet Hollywood.
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A wide look at construction.
The pedestrian bridge on this side is sort of curious, I think. There isn’t a whole lot over there at the moment that would necessitate spending so much money.
One more from the top of the garage.
Still my favorite thing at Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney Company summed up in one picture.
Further up is the relatively new Marvel superhero store.
I poked my head in to see that it’s surprisingly small. I doubt there’s much here that isn’t available at Target or Amazon for lower prices.
I think it’s safe to say that the food truck experiment is a bust, especially once more restaurants and quick services open.
United World Soccer opened in a more permanent space.
Jerseys and t-shirts – all horrendously overpriced I’m sure.
Maybe if you forgot your shoes.
If you’re looking to catch a football game this fall, my choice is Splitsville. Everyone always recommends ESPN on the BoardWalk, but it’s overcrowded and difficult to get to for most people on game day.
Walls line much of DisneyQuest.
It’s expected to close around next July to make way for a new NBA Experience. Why I don’t know.
Walls up in front of House of Blues.
A little toight in front of The Smokehouse.
If you’re looking for a meal or a snack and a drink between 3pm and 5pm, then this is a good spot with the happy hour. Best drink prices at Downtown Disney.
The project appears to be at least a year away from completion, if not more. Hopefully it pays off. With South America’s economy looking to collapse harder than a gaggle of preschoolers playing Jenga during an earthquake, one wonders how interested most domestic tourists will be with what basically amounts to a more humid version of their local mall. But what’s gone in so far is undeniably popular with places like The BoaTHouSe packed full most days. What it will look like with 25 more restaurants opening remains to be seen.