It has perhaps been too long since we visited the joy that is Downtown Disney/Springs.
The West Side parking garage is your best bet for parking these days.
Your other option is basically parking across the street and walking over. Disney continues to “test” shuttles that transport guests from the Hess and Team Mickey parking lots over to the West Side parking garage.
The first pedestrian bridge that connects the Team Disney/Cast Services area to Downtown Disney has been installed, but isn’t yet ready for guest use. Another bridge is going in closer to the Marketplace to aid those coming from Hotel Plaza Boulevard hotels. Buena Vista Drive, the road around Downtown Disney, is otherwise a mess as work continues to add lanes.
Getting to Downtown Disney otherwise remains a hassle with roadwork, delays, and the parking situation in the garage and around the dining and shopping district. You’ve also got just the one bus stop on the Marketplace side at the moment and buses that are trying to avoid the main roads, adding additional transportation time. My advice is really to stay as far away as possible unless you’re coming from a very close resort. But if you have to go, try to arrive before 5pm on a weekday and bring your patience.
What was supposed to be the “Highline” is now supposedly complete. The original art seemed to indicate there would be seating and viewing areas on top, but that sounds like it’s been scrapped. The structure now “provides shade.”
Sort of a silly thing as it runs the length of the walkway along most of the West Side shops. It serves mostly to constrict a walkway that’s much more popular with the garage funneling guests over here.
Looking in the other direction.
“Exposition Park” is the name of the food truck bazaar in between Bongos and the West Side Starbucks.
The hours and menus have been difficult to pin down – three of them generally open here in the late afternoon with the fourth located elsewhere.
World Showcase of Flavors features a couple items popular during the Food and Wine Festival.
Superstar Catering is based on Hollywood Studios. The Cobb from Hollywood Brown Derby makes sense, but I’m not sure about the other two items. The Pork Shank screams Gaston’s more than anything, even if it’s available at Min & Bill’s for the time being.
I still laugh at how Disney had to change the name of the Blue Bayou’s famous “Croque Monsieur” to “Grilled Ham & Cheese” because nobody knew what it was. The Sweet Potato Puffs are a new addition.
And Namaste Cafe with “flavors from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.”
The menu where the lamb is only listed on one menu screen. Amusingly, Namaste opened with zero vegetarian options, but has since added an overpriced “Dipping Safari” with options similar to Sanaa.
Lisa ordered the $12 Lamb Kefta with Raita Sauce on Naan Bread. She enjoyed it – the naan was fresh and chewy, the lamb was flavorful, and the cucumber on top added some additional freshness along with the crunch from the onion, tomato, and lettuce. It is a lot of money to pay though and with no indoor seating, I think my preference would be to just go to Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village. Speaking of which, the next big resort review will be a 1-Bedroom Villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House, which will include reviews of Sanaa, Jiko, and Mara. While I understand the whole food truck thing, I’m not sure Disney’s version really captures the magic of your local food truck hangout.
The Smokehouse opened a while ago out in front of House of Blues in a space that used to be used for ticket sales.
Prices are in line with most Disney quick services.
They have a decent beer selection with the Founders All Day IPA, Shipyard Black IPA, and Jai Alai IPA.
The Smokehouse and outdoor bar take part in what is still the best happy hour value at Downtown Disney, despite prices going up.
The outdoor bar also had these.
House cocktails remain long island iced teas, margaritas, or your choice of a well liquor and mixer. Pour quality can vary, but you can always make the second one a beer.
I ordered the $11.99 Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich – Slow smoked Beef Brisket on a Brioche Bun and served with House-made Cole Slaw. You can smell them smoking the meat and I watched the guy in the back slice the brisket and put it on the sandwich, so things here are about as freshly made as they get. There’s a ton of beef on the sandwich and the roll tasted freshly baked. If you’re in the mood for quick service barbecue and particularly during happy hour, The Smokehouse is a good choice. You can usually enjoy your food with live music on the patio after 5pm or 6pm most days.
We were having a tough time deciding if we wanted to try Wolfgang Puck Express’ West Side version, which has a much more limited menu than the Marketplace iteration.
Lisa was in the mood for sushi, but for nine bucks the Express’ sushi didn’t look great.
So we popped over to Splitsville instead. I’ve written extensively about it in the past, mostly here, but also bowling and more food here and more food and drinks here. I won’t be rehashing much from those posts other than some of the food.
The full menu is available here. Most entrees looked to be $4-$5 more expensive than their Tampa location. You can sort of read the drink menu:
I’m not crazy about their drinks.
The $14 bowl drinks are mostly ice and juice.
Their beer is on the expensive side and there really isn’t anything of interest available anymore. They also tend to serve their finer beers in frozen glasses – a big no no.
You can do okay with a frozen drink topped with the Bacardi 151 floater for $3 more, but that’s all I’d recommend on the drink front.
Some of the martinis are kind of fun though.
The rice bowls are a relatively new addition and I ordered the $18 Asian Shrimp Bowl – Pan-seared shrimp, stir-fry veggies and sushi rice topped with spicy kimchee tataki sauce and green onions.
There were about a dozen decently sized, nicely grilled shrimp on top of a bed of what turned out to be about 75% peppers. I like peppers okay in moderation, but ended up picking out a good size bowl full. The “spicy kimchee tataki sauce” tasted more like your usual soy-based sauce that you would expect in a stir fry. It was mildly spicy. Altogether it was good, but not a tremendous value for the money, particularly when you consider the bowling alley atmosphere doesn’t exactly scream fine dining.
Lisa ordered the $15 Volcano Roll – Tempura shrimp, avocado, cream cheese, and spicy volcano krab mix.
They actually do sushi pretty well here, though it’s probably a slight step down from Tokyo Dining at Epcot and a big step down from California Grill, though both would cost (a lot in California Grill’s case) more money.
The very good Ninja Crunch from a previous visit.
A lousy picture of the Buffalo Bleu Pizza – Mozzarella, diced chicken tenders, buffalo sauce, bleu cheese and drizzled with ranch dressing. It’s a big pizza and a good value for the money with its thin, crispy crust and ample toppings.
Like the pizza, the sandwiches are big enough to share.
The burger I had was under-seasoned, but you may have better luck.
Overall, I like Splitsville a lot for a reasonably priced table service restaurant that doesn’t require a reservation. Downtown Disney is very popular in the evening, particularly on weekends,and it’s not uncommon for most restaurants to quote a wait of 45 to 90 minutes for a table without a reservation. Splitsville will almost always be able to accommodate you with so much seating and relatively few people realizing they serve food as good or better than most of the other restaurants here.
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, Planet Hollywood will be a big part of Disney Springs with its globe being re-themed into a 20th century planetarium. Tourists, I guess.
Most of the new retail is coming in The Landing, which is one of the last pieces of Disney Springs to open and consists almost entirely of new construction:
Further up outside Raglan Road and next to T-Rex:
Fortunately, the number of walls is down now that you can walk through Pleasure Island to the Marketplace like before construction began.
Paradiso 37 is expanding.
It had been a while since I had visited, so Lisa and I had dinner there last month.
According to Disney:
Savor street foods and regional dishes, along with a bustling bar scene at night.
This lively watering hole overlooking Village Lake features 2 levels and large windows for stunning lake views. Brightly colored booths and accents lend a Latin flair inside, while ample seating on the spacious patio and a dedicated outdoor bar make it perfect for dining al fresco.
Live music from 6:00 PM until close, a “tequila tower” stacked with 37 varieties and an international wine bar qualify Paradiso 37 as a bona fide barfly hangout for Guests 21 years of age and older when the sun goes down.
The patio area before the walls went up.
The menu, which is sort of hard to read:
Disney’s version is available here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/downtown-disney/paradiso-37-taste-of-the-americas/menus/
One big tip on booking Paradiso 37 (or Raglan Road or House of Blues) is to book it through Open Table. They have more availability and don’t require the $10/person no-show fee. Unfortunately, we were seated at what is probably the worst table in the restaurant – in front of the kitchen and right next to a food prep station for servers.
Bar seating is first come, first served.
I ordered the $9.99 P37 Swirl Sangria Margarita, served here in a pint glass that doesn’t exactly exude the theme of the restaurant. Despite that, the drink was both refreshing and boozy – something you rarely find in a Disney-operated restaurant these days. Very good, particularly if you could get one to-go from the outdoor bar.
Lisa ordered some kind of a premium margarita that the server offered. It was again mixed better than most Disney counterparts with much less of an artificial sour mix flavor. Very good.
In past visits, I’ve been offered various menus with all of the tequilas offered, in addition to more premium cocktails. Examples from a previous review here. This time around, nothing was mentioned and I didn’t see any other tequila menus floating around.
On a previous visit, I ordered the $17.99 Spicy Chorizo Skewers – Marinated Beef Skewers, Chimichurri Pita Bread, Marinated Mushrooms with Citrus Yogurt Sauce (serves two). It’s probably more food than it looks, particularly with the excellent, pillow-y pita breads in the middle.
This time around, Lisa ordered the $13.99 Blackened Mahi Mahi Sliders – Three Blackened Mahi Mahi Sliders topped with Aji Amarillo, Lettuce, Tomato on a Mini Toasted Brioche, served with P37 Fries.
These ended up being a good value for the money – each had an overflowing piece of fish, lightly blackened and spiced up a bit with the pepper on the lightly toasted brioche. Very good, particularly for $14.
Lisa subbed the fries for the roasted vegetables, which was around $2 extra. Unfortunately, it turned out to be largely a collection of potatoes with a few green beans and a bite of carrot mixed in.
I ordered the $16.99 Steak Burrito – Flour Tortilla, Steak, Sauteed Seasonal Vegetables, P37 Cheese, Fire Roasted Tomato, and con Queso with Cilantro Rice and Chorizo Charro Beans. It might look sort of gross in the picture, but it was actually surprisingly good and a huge portion. The beans were cooked to a nice al dente and had a bacon flavor to them with the chorizo – a nice change of pace from the black beans they used to serve. The rice didn’t have a lot of flavor and cilantro is not my favorite herb, but it worked here paired with the more flavorful burrito and beans. Finally, the giant burrito was stuffed with grilled steak and sauteed peppers and other spices. The cheese and con queso provided another layer of flavor.
While my expectations were on the low side, I was impressed by Paradiso. The atmosphere on a busy Saturday night wasn’t fantastic where we were seated, but you could have a lot of fun here and the food was a very good value compared to what else is available around here.
With Paradiso 37 now on the right, most of the new stores that have already opened are in this area across from it.
First up is mall staple, The Art of Shaving.
Sanuk is a shoe and sandal store.
Sound Lion sells primarily expensive headphones and speakers.
Around the corner, you’ll see this Havaianas store with virtually no signage whatsoever. They sell high quality flip flops, among other things.
Chapel Hats for your fedora collection.
BabyCakes NYC returns to Downtown Disney as Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC in a classy spot near Portobello and Raglan Road:
Most of the things are teeny tiny for the price, but those with allergies will appreciate the options.
Work continues on The Hangar bar.
The BOATHOUSE is scheduled to open in just a couple weeks.
Guests will have an opportunity to rent these “amphicars” and drive them right into the water and around Village Lake.
Walls up all around the Cooke’s of Dublin area.
With The BOATHOUSE serving as the area’s signature seafood restaurant, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Fulton’s shift themes.
The bridge that connects the Rainforest Cafe area with the T-Rex area is open.
A look from the other side. That’s the bridge out to the left and Rainforest Cafe’s Lava Lounge entrance on the far right.
Wide open and convenient, particularly when you’re trying to beat the rain to your car.
A couple kiosks on the T-Rex side.
Spring Break merchandise is similar to last year:
I am not a dated merchandise person, although it might be kind of fun to have a memento from your trip that stipulates the year. I might write “2015” on one of those antennae balls.
These airy shirts have virtually no Disney branding whatsoever.
Also available in blue.
If you like Disney merchandise, you definitely want to check out the Marketplace Co-Op, which is now home to the WonderGround Gallery in place of Beautifully Disney. Bring your credit card:
There’s a lot more.
“Zoey and Pickles” is home to a lot of the “trendier” apparel aimed at girls. It’s one of the six “shops” that make up the Co-Op.
There’s a ton of that too.
Cherry Tree Lane. The merchandise update from November includes hundreds more pictures from this store and others.
Tren-D is another good choice for “hip” girls apparel.
There isn’t much going on over in the Marketplace other than the margarita stand construction looks to be finishing up.
That’s what’s going on at Downtown Disney.