A new addition has been added to Mickey's Pantry at Downtown Disney Marketplace. Occupying a corner of this store is "The Spice & Tea Exchange."
Finding unique shops for Downtown Disney isn't easy. Disney strives to discover distinctive stores, unlike those that you'll find in "Any Mall U.S.A." So "The Spice & Tea Exchange" is a great addition to the Marketplace.
Founded in 2003 under the name "Old Florida Spice Traders," Clay Freeman endeavored to bring his customers a large selection of gourmet spices - everything from A to Z. His store carried an array of salts, teas, sugars, spices, and blended rubs. In addition, accessories designed to support the product were available. In 2007 franchises were sold and there are currently seventeen stores scattered around the country with more on the horizons.
The store at Mickey's Pantry is small but packs a lot into a tight space. There are six display sections, each featuring a different product line. These include Salts, Teas, Sugars, Custom Blends, Kids Corner, and the Blending Area.
The best part of "The Spice & Tea Exchange" is that it's a hands-on experience. Or should I say "a nose-on" experience. Every tea, spice, and blend is contained in a large glass jar. Guests are encouraged to pick them up, take off the lid and enjoy the aroma. If this doesn't sell the product, I don't know what would. If you like what you smell, consumer-sized packets are hanging directly above the jars.
Because the sense of smell tires easily, I had to give my nose a rest after experiencing several samples. But the aromas were intoxicating and I had to go back several times for additional sniffs.
Let me give you just a small example of some the unique products available:
Chardonnay Oak Smoked Sea Salt
Cyprus Black Lava Sea Salt
A number of the blends are packaged in containers with built-in grinders.
In the Kid's Corner you'll find interesting information about the origins and history of spices. In addition, a "Match Game" that plays like Concentration is available. Kids can turn the various panels looking for matching spices.
A knowledgeable cast member is on hand and is full of answers to your many questions. Some of the products are quite interesting and an explanation adds immensely to the shopping experience.
If you enjoy cooking, I strongly suggest you visit "The Spice & Tea Exchange" on your next trip to Walt Disney World. This is a unique shopping experience and I seriously doubt that any gourmet will leave this shop empty handed.
Mickey's Pantry and "The Spice & Tea Exchange" opens at 9:30am daily. The shop closes at 11pm Sunday through Thursday and 11:30pm Friday and Saturday.
For more information about "The Spice & Tea Exchange," check out their webpage:
Before I discuss Disney Quest, I need to let you know of a change in the way you will be posting comments. Because we have been getting a lot of junk email, we have had to implement a new procedure. After sharing your thoughts, there is one more box that needs to be completed before you press "Post." At the moment, you need to write the word "blog" (without quotes) in this field (this word could change periodically). This will let the computer know that a real person is writing us and not some automated program that generates spam. If you don't complete this field correctly, your comment will end up in a "junk" folder.
Thanks for your help and understanding.
Disney Quest is an indoor amusement park offering interactive games, cutting-edge technology, virtual reality, and 3D encounters. It opened at Downtown Disney on June 19, 1998 and was to be the first of many such venues to be built in major cities across the country. The idea was to bring Disney magic to people who couldn't visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World on a regular basis.
The concept called for modular construction within each building so that new rides and attractions could be continually added and updated. In addition, having multiple locations would greatly reduce research, development, and construction costs as the same game(s) could be duplicated multiple times.
A second Disney Quest opened in Chicago a year later on June 6, 1999. However, attendance ebbed and flowed and never met expectations. The venue closed on September 4, 2001. Construction that had already begun on a Philadelphia branch was halted and plans for a Disneyland and Toronto location were abandoned. This next picture is an artist's rendering of the Chicago location.
Original plans called for attractions and rides to be replaced or updated every two to three years, but when the multi-location concept died, so did this strategy. For the most part, the Florida Disney Quest is unchanged since opening day. A number of rumors have circulated indicating that this venue will close sometime soon. One announcement suggested that an ESPN Zone would take over this space. But at the moment, no firm plans have been made public.
Disney Quest is located at the Westside section of Downtown Disney, across the way from Cirque du Soleil. Tickets can be purchased at windows to the left of the main doors. Prices are $43.67 (Ages 10+), $37.28 (Ages 3-9), and children under 3 are free. This price entitles the user to unlimited use of all games and attractions. Children under 10 must be accompanied by someone 16 or older. No strollers are allowed inside.
Hours of operation are as follows:
Sunday - Thursday: 11:30am to 10:00pm
Friday - Saturday: 11:30am to 11:00pm
Disney Quest is housed in a five-story, windowless building. When you enter the rotunda on the ground floor, be sure to notice the columns topped with the heads of various Disney characters. And beneath a sky-painted dome is a stylized Mickey Mouse head surrounded by the immortal Mary Poppins word, SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS. Don't forget to pick up a guide map in this area.
Past the turnstiles are two magic elevators or "Cybrolators" waiting to whisk you off to your adventure. During your ride, the Genie from Aladdin entertains you with a variety of antics. A short time later you will be deposited on the third floor Venture Port where the fun begins. Traditional elevators are available to carry you from floor to floor, but these are often slow. It's much more expedient to take the stairs.
I have to admit, I'm not the best person to review Disney Quest. Video games and virtual reality never held much appeal for me. Ms. Pac-Man is the only game that ever retained my interest for more than a few minutes. But I appreciate Disney Quest and understand its appeal to those of you with better hand-eye coordination than myself. For this article I'm going to start on the top floor (5) and work my way down, giving you a brief highlight of some of the more compelling attractions and games.
Let's start out with "Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter." This attraction is based on the now-extinct Magic Kingdom attraction, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. Here, four intrepid astronauts are seated inside a rescue vehicle with a mission to save human colonists. One player is the designated pilot and maneuvers the spacecraft while the other three shoot at hostile aliens. A 360 degree screen surrounds the team.
"Ride the Comix" is located on both the fifth and fourth floors and is one of the most visually compelling attractions for non-players. Here, four space craft jut out over an open expanse as if they were getting ready to blast off for a flight into deep space. In this game, teams of six are instructed by Mistress Khan on the subtleties of a laser sword and then sent off to do battle with super villains. Players wear virtual reality helmets and are a kick to watch as they swing their swords at seemingly invisible prey.
The main eatery for Disney Quest is also located on the fifth floor and is called Food Quest. Hot dogs, hamburgers, wraps, pizza, and salads are available. The hours are 12 noon to 9pm. A number of tables are available nearby. For many years, this venue was run by The Cheesecake Factory, however, when their contract expired they opted not to renew and Disney took over operation of this site.
On the fourth floor is "Sports Arena Arcade" where you compete with family and friends on sports-themed video games. Also on this floor are a number of games geared specifically for kids ages 2-7.
On the third floor we find "Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam." In this game, twelve players stand on movable platform joysticks and use their bodies to maneuver their ball (projected on an overhead screen) around a playing field. There's a 48-inch height requirement for this attraction.
"Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters" is an updated version of the classic bumper cars attraction. In this game, two people team up. One person drives the vehicle while the other shoots asteroids (rubber balls) at the other cars. To gather more asteroids, the driver maneuvers the vehicle over the balls. This sucks them into the cabin where they can be loaded into a cannon and shot. When a vehicle is hit, it spins uncontrollably for several seconds before control can be regained. There's a 51 inch height requirement for this attraction.
On the second floor is "Animation Academy." At this attraction, guests sit at Mickey inspired desks complete with electronic drawing pads. A cast member directs you step by step and teaches you to draw a Disney character like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Winnie the Pooh. You'll be surprised at how well you do when given the proper guidance. Session times are posted on a nearby board. This is a very popular attraction so arrive early. Animation Academy is similar to an attraction by the same name found at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Also on the second floor is "Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride." Wearing virtual reality helmets, guests fly through the alleys and streets of Agrabah on a magic carpet. During the flight they collect gems and search to find the magic lamp and save the Genie hidden in the Cave of Wonders.
One of the biggest draws at Disney Quest is "CyberSpace Mountain." With the help of Bill Nye the Science Guy, guests design their own roller coaster with the aid of a touch-screen computer. Make it as tame or as exciting as you like. When you're done, your design will be downloaded into a two-person motion simulator which has the ability to pitch, yaw, tilt, and spin. Climb aboard and experience your creation first hand. For those of you with queasy stomachs, pay heed. Depending on your design, you may go upside down several times. If you find that you really enjoyed your ride, a video can be purchased of your design complete with footage of you and your companion. Guests must be 51 inches to ride.
On the first floor is a great family adventure, "Virtual Jungle Cruise." Guests sit in a rubber raft and use real paddles (with sensors) to maneuver their craft down a projected prehistoric river. Along the way they encounter a number of obstacles including a dinosaur or two. As the water rages, so does your raft, pitching this way and that. And to add a touch of realism, you just might get a splash of water in the face.
On every floor are dozens and dozens of classic video games like Asteroids, Tron, and Pac-Man. Group games, driving games, sports games and skill games are just waiting for you. And they're all included in the price of admission. If the bad guy kills you off in the first thirty seconds of a game, just push the replay button and start all over again. No digging in your pocket for quarters. But try to be mindful of others waiting to play your machine.
Disney Quest is designed for the entire family. Even though I have not highlighted the "little kids" games, there are a number of activities for young children. But I'd be the first to admit, this venue is best suited for tweens to those in their mid-twenties. What I might suggest is to drop this age bracket off at Disney Quest, then mom and dad can go shopping and enjoy one of the fine restaurants at Downtown Disney.
To get a better idea of what Disney Quest is all about, check out my five and a half minute video.
For the past ten years, pins have been the souvenir of choice for Disney collectors and traders. This simple product line has brought many hours of enjoyment to thousands of fans who wanted to bring a little of the magic home with them after vacation. But a new collectible arrived on the scene recently and is capturing the imagination of Disney fans - Vinylmation. These Mickey-esque figurines, made out of vinyl, come in one basic shape (several sizes), but are decorated in a multitude of styles to capture the spirit of Disney and beyond.
A new shop officially opened at Downtown Disney Westside today (April 16, 2010) and will be the flagship location for Vinylmation at Walt Disney World. But before we talk about these cute little Mickeys, let's take a look at the store and some of the other things that will be offered here.
While attending the press event today, I had the good fortune to speak with Kelli Coleman, Vice President Product Design & Development. She told me that D Street is similar to its sister shop Trend-D located at the Marketplace. Both are cutting-edge shops that offer pop culture apparel and novelties. But unlike Trend-D, boys and men will also be able to find unique Disney fashions to take home with them. I snapped a few pictures of the shirts that are for sale to give you an example of what I'm talking about. As you can see, this is not the same merchandise line that you'll find at the Emporium at the Magic Kingdom.
D Street is a lot of fun and full of energy. Many of the props that line the upper shelves came from the old Adventure's Club on Pleasure Island.
Here are a few more pictures of the "apparel" side of the store. Be sure to notice the numerous Mickeys - some hidden, some not.
The right hand side of the D Street store is primarily devoted to Vinylmation. Everything from starter kits to one-of-a-kind pieces are available here. Check out some of the cool displays.
This chandelier has 49 nine-inch figures and the table has 782 Vinylmation characters worked into its design.
It's at this table that you'll be able to create your own, personalized Vinylmation figurine. Blank characters are for sale and marking pins are on hand to help you design your own unique figure. You can use the Mickeys found in the table for inspiration or exercise your own imagination. Also, if you'd like to add some interesting eyes and mouths, a wide variety are available.
But if you're not artistically inclined, some really cute, ready-made characters are just waiting to go home with you. These next pictures show three of the Vinylmation categories for sale, Park, Urban, and Muppet. There are other categories so be sure to check them out when you visit this store.
Also available are celebrity signed pieces and Vinylmations created by the Disney Design Group Artists. And for a slightly different take on this craze, canvas paintings with characters from the "Park" series can be found posing in front of their attractions. Here are a few samples.
D Street will also offer "Cast Member Vinylmation Trading." This will give you a fast and easy way to complete your collection by swapping one Vinylmation for another.
As part of the press event, I was asked to sign a special Vinylmation that will be on display in the store. My name and ALLEARS.NET can be seen right below Mickey's buttons.
I think D Street is a nice addition to Downtown Disney. This shop offers a different line of merchandise than can be found in so many of the other stores found at Disney World. And even if you're not into Vinylmation, you should take the time to check them out. The creativity that goes into some of the designs is truly amazing.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to attend a Disney press event, I videotaped the opening ceremony today. I have edited the speeches in order to keep the video at around six minutes. The elapsed time for the "speed painting" was about eight minutes. Be sure to watch the Mickey dance routine at the end. It's high energy and a great show!
Today (April 9, 2009) Disney held a press event to kick off this new boutique. This shop is a stylish destination with a designer flair and eclectic offerings.
Inspired by Mark Perrotta, Director of Product Design and Development for both Disney World and Disneyland, this shop has been in the works for the last eighteen months. It was Disney's desire to create a place where unique merchandise, aimed at the trendy woman, could be found.
Offerings include organic lounge-wear, embroidered handbags, jeweled sunglasses and trendy accessories. Designers such as Kidada Jones, Tarina Tarantino, and Roxy will showcase their artistry - blending it with Disney-inspired creations.
I spoke with Dara Trujillo, Manager of Merchandise of Franchise & Synergy Development. She told me that 50% of the items in this shop are unique to this location and could not be found anywhere else at Disney World. Also, new items will be introduced every thirty days so the store will always feel fresh and new. Dara also told me that much of the artwork scattered around the shop was created especially for Tren-D. It was Mark Perrotta's desire to create a unique environment where hip shoppers could find fun and eclectic merchandise.
Tren-D replaces Summer Sands and is near Pin Traders and Once Upon A Toy. Below are some pictures I snapped today.
A new store opened today (March 19, 2009) at Downtown Disney, Marketplace. Replacing Summer Sands, TREN-D is a stylish shop that caters to the young-at-heart woman.
Everything from handbags to jeans to blouses to jewelry is for sale here. Much of it is Disney branded, but not all. And Minnie seems to be the character of choice on much of the merchandise.
I thought a lot of couples might be able to relate to this shirt.
Here is a picture of the dressing rooms.
But this shop has more going for it than just the merchandise. The Imagineers went to great lengths to create an imaginative and fun place that husbands and fathers can enjoy while their wives and daughters browse and buy. And if not, Team Mickey is right next door.
Here are two pictures of the ceiling area.
Also new at the Marketplace is a remodeled Guest Relations counter. It now sports an "Arts & Crafts" style of architecture that is extremely reminiscent of the Grand Californian Hotel at the Disneyland Resort in California. I'm not exactly sure why this design was chosen as it blends with nothing else in the area. But by itself, it looks nice.
Construction walls are also up in a portion of Pleasure Island where the new dining establishment is going.
The other day I received a comment from someone telling me that they had recently eaten at Wolfgang Puck Express at Downtown Disney. After reading their positive review, I thought to myself, "I haven't eaten there in a long time." So today, that was my destination for lunch.
When I arrived at the parking lot, I saw a group of high school students, dressed in choir robes, leaving the area. Then I remembered, the stage at the Marketplace was undergoing a complete makeover and I wondered if it had been completed. Sure enough, as I rounded the corner of the World of Disney shop, I could see construction was done and this new performing area was already playing host to several groups.
The new stage is a vast improvement over its predecessor. First, the performing area is covered, something I'm sure the entertainers appreciate. In addition, a much improved lighting and sound system has been added. It is now much easier to hear the groups sing. And I'm sure the nighttime shows will be enhanced as well with colorful lights.
The group you see performing here is the Heritage High School, "Heritage Singers."
Disney frequently invites high schools from all over the country to perform at this venue and others around property. It's very possible that one of these groups might kick off the 3 o'clock parade at the Magic Kingdom later in the day. For the most part, the audience is made up of friends and family of the group. But these performances offer a nice break from shopping and are enjoyable to all. Not to mention, these kids are thrilled to be performing at Walt Disney World and they put their hearts into the performance.
By the way, lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express was good too.
Last week in one of my blogs about Disneyland Paris, I discussed PanoraMagique. This is the helium filled balloon that takes guests aloft over the resort. I mentioned that this attraction was supposed to come to Downtown Disney here in Orlando, but I didn't know the status. My friend Mike wrote to tell me that construction had already begun and Anita Answer's last column also mentions this new ride. So I decided I better check things out for myself.
Located behind the Guest Relations booth between the Westside and Pleasure Island you'll find "Characters in Flight." This balloon ride is scheduled to open in spring of this year and if it's anything like its Paris cousin, will prove to be quite popular with the guests. Here are a few pictures.
For lunch today I decided to enjoy a meal at the Animal Kingdom. While I was making my circle of the park looking for interesting things to share with you, I found the "Petrifries," the fries stand sponsored by McDonald's, has changed names and offerings. The new shop is called Trilo-bites and serves Smoked Turkey Legs for $6.59 along with the usual Coke products.
A new shop, Disney Design-A-Tee, officially opened at Downtown Disney Marketplace today. Located behind Disney's Days of Christmas, this store allows guests to create personalized T-shirts. This is a joint venture between the Hanes Company and Disney.
Inside the store are a number of T-shirt shaped kiosks. At touch-sensitive screens, you select from a number of options to create a one-of-a-kind Disney souvenir.
First choice, would you like a long or short sleeve shirt or a woman's fit. Next you select Adult, Kids, Toddler, or Infant. Short sleeve shirts are available up to size 5XL.
Color choices come next and then it's time to select a design.
There are seven categories here: Celebrations, Characters, Princesses, Tinker Bell, Pirates, Pixar, Disney Films, and Holidays. Within each category there are more selections to choose from. In all there are more than 100 designs.
Four lines of text are available - one line above the graphic and three lines below. There is an on-screen typewriter that allows you to put your imagination to work or you can select from a number of ready-made messages.
As you continue to add designs and text, an image of your work-in-progress is displayed on the monitor.
Once you finalize your design, a receipt is printed out which you take to the cashier. Prices range between $18 and $31.
The cashier will display your work-of-art on a computer monitor and allow you to verify everything is correct before completing the transaction. After you pay, you're informed that the backstage storage space is very small so all of the T-shirts arrive at the store miniaturized. You are then handed a small Tee approximately six inches square.
Next you are instructed to take this tiny Tee to a marvelous machine located nearby, insert your mini-shirt, and push the start button.
A moment later, your shirt is whisked upwards in a pneumatic tube and it travels all around the ceiling in a maze of plastic cylinders before disappearing backstage. It is here that Disney and Hanes work their magic. The shirt is mystically enlarged, dyed, and printed to your specifications.
Here's my creation.
Although standard Disney plastic bags are available for your treasure, each shirt comes with its own cloth bag. A number of colors are available to choose from.
If the store isn't busy, I'm told it takes approximately 20 minutes for your shirt to be prepared. As the day progresses, this time can increase. Package delivery is available to Disney hotel guests and shipping is also an option if you don't want to wait around. One suggestion, if you think you will want one of these T-shirts, make this your first stop when visiting Downtown Disney. Then continue shopping or have lunch or dinner before returning.
Located next door to Disney Design-A-Tee is "Create Your Own Ear Hat." Here you get to select from a number of base caps, then add the ears of your choice. There is a second "Create Your Own Ear Hat" on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom.
I used to live in San Francisco. My apartment was within easy walking distance of Ghirardelli Square. Occasionally I would take the cable car home from work and stop by Ghirardelli for an ice cream cone before heading home. Or walk over on a foggy Sunday morning for a steaming cup of hot chocolate. I have very pleasant memories of this place and this is definitely a "must see" location for tourists visiting The City.
When I moved to Orlando I was happy that I wouldn't have to go without these wonderful taste sensations, for located at Downtown Disney Marketplace is a branch store. Although not as extensive as their San Francisco site, you can still delight in their marvelous chocolate.
But before we discuss this shop, we need to talk about pronunciation. It's "Gear-ar-delly" NOT "Jeer-a-delly." It's a hard "G" NOT a soft "G." Don't believe me? Check out the sign on the side of their building. Many people have trouble with this name.
The Ghirardelli building is divided into two sections, each with its own entrance. The smaller section is a shop that's devoted to selling chocolate in all forms.
A host or hostess is usually on hand to pass out samples. I always stop by, even when making a mad dash through the area, for a freebee.
Ghirardelli is one of the few American manufacturers to oversee their chocolate making process from cocoa bean through to the finished product. They reject up to 40% of the beans they're offered in order to assure that only the best are used in their product. They roast their beans in-house and remove the shells first to insure better temperature control. And finally, they grind their chocolate to 19 microns (a human hair is 100 microns in diameter) to ensure there is no grainy feel in their product.
The larger half of the store is devoted to ice cream. Luscious ice cream. In my opinion, some of the best ice cream you'll find anywhere.
This section was recently remodeled and I feel that the new arrangement facilitates better crowd control. Yes, there are still lines on a hot afternoon, but they seem move more quickly.
Once you've ordered your Hot Fudge Sundae, Banana Split, or other tempting decadence, you are given a number to be placed on your table so your server can find you later.
When the weather is hot, the indoor seating area fills up quickly.
Outdoors, you'll find a covered seating area along the side of the building. When the weather is nice, this is an especially pleasant spot to sit and enjoy your dessert.
The tables have also been redesigned to look like Ghirardelli chocolate wrappers.
Additional seating is available across the promenade under Ghirardelli umbrellas.
Please remember to tip the host or hostess who brings you your ice cream. The way this entire operation is arranged, it's easy to forget that these folks are serving you to some degree.
For more information about Ghirardelli, check out their web-site. You can order many of their products online.
I was at the Marketplace at Downtown Disney recently and visited the Disney's Days of Christmas Shop.
While browsing, I noticed a cute sign with one of the "12 Days of Christmas" printed on it. It piqued my curiosity so I started to search for all twelve. To my dismay, I couldn't find them. So I asked a cast member and was told that there are only eight. Strange, but I took pictures of them to share with you.
If you're collecting the Disney Christmas Village pieces, two new buildings have been added. First there is the DV LDG Castle for $44.95. Also available is the Ivory Castle for $65.00. This piece features the same Mickey and Minnie that can be found on a Christmas stocking, Big Fig, tree skirt, and several other pieces.
While visiting the Art of Disney Shop, I noticed that they have a new Big Fig for those of you who like to decorate for Halloween. This Mickey and Minnie pumpkin set sell for $175. It's approximately 8 inches high and 15 inches wide.
For those of you who like to take your lunch to work or school, I found a new Lunch Tote for $19.95 at Mickey's Pantry. It was reasonably thick (insulated) and had a shiny, metallic-like finish on the inside to help keep items hot or cold.
And finally, I snapped a few pictures of the construction taking place in front of the World of Disney. The stage that occupies this area is being completely redesigned and improved. From what I understand, it will be covered when complete.
While I was out and about, I took a few pictures of the Bay Lake Tower under construction.
This is a rumored DVC that sits prominently next to the Contemporary Resort. It appears that the structure has reached its ultimate height as finishing touches are being added to the top of the building.
At the Contemporary, I took a few pictures of the construction going on where the Concourse Steakhouse once stood. The Tempo Grab & Go will be permanently located in a portion of this space and Chef Mickey's will expand into the remainder of this area.
And finally, I drove over to Downtown Disney and snapped a few pictures of the T-Rex restaurant that looks ever closer to completion.
A reader asked me for a list of my ten favorite Disney World restaurants. He also asked me for a list of my LEAST favorite Disney World restaurants. I've decided to answer half of his question, sort of, by telling you my favorite counter service and full service restaurant for each park, Downtown Disney, and the resorts as a whole. Now there are some Disney World eateries that I don't like, but for the moment I'm going to keep that list to myself.
Of course, this list is purely subjective and could change tomorrow, depending on my mood. Also, since I'm listing restaurants by location, some selections might make this list, but wouldn't necessarily make a true, "top ten" list. But here are my choices as of this moment.
Best Character Meal Property Wide: I don't do Character Meals!
You may have wondered why I didn't select Victoria & Albert's as my favorite resort table service restaurant. There's a reason I didn't. You see, I put Vickie & Al's (as I like to call it) in a class all by itself. You can't begin to compare this restaurant to anything else at Disney World it is so outstanding. I try to restrict my visits to once every three years or so. The reason, I want to keep this experience extra special and if I ate here too often it would lose some of its charm.
Now remember, my list of restaurants is just that, MY list. If you don't agree with some (or all) of my choices, that's great. Your selections are every bit as valid as mine.
When Wolfgang Puck's first opened at the Marketplace in Downtown Disney, they had no indoor seating. This simply wouldn't do in hot, humid, and rainy Florida. Eventually, they rearranged what little indoor space they had and added a few tables. This helped, but it wasn't the solution they needed. So a couple of months ago they closed up shop for a major rehab and reopened today, Saturday, March 15.
I visited their remodeled venue for lunch today and was happy with what I saw. The first thing I noticed was a new, large, indoor dining room had been added. Approximately fifteen tables are spaciously arranged in an airy room surrounded on three sides by floor to ceiling windows. The atmosphere has a clean modern feel but the wooden tables and chairs add some warmth.
Outside you'll find another twenty or so tables, most under a large roof. The tables here are made of brushed metal and the seats are wicker.
The area where you order your food has also been completely redesigned and continues this modern theme. To the right of the ordering area is another, smaller seating area with two large tables for eight, a beverage station, and an open kitchen.
After ordering, you're given a plastic table-tent with a number printed on it. You are also given flatware that is wrapped in a high-quality paper napkin. If you've ordered beverages you're given plastic (not paper) glasses and told to get your drinks, find a table, and display your number.
As it was opening day, every cast member was working and it would be impossible to complain about service. Shortly after Donald and I were seated, we were greeted by a young man who told us he would be our server. A few minutes later, he brought our food to the table and asked if we needed refills for our drinks.
I ordered the Roast Beef & Cheddar Sandwich on Focaccia for $9.95. It was quite good. The serving of beef was more than adequate and it was topped with cheese, tomato, and greens that have been tossed with a light vinaigrette dressing. A side of home-made Yukon Gold Parmesan potato chips rounded out the meal. I was please with my choice.
Donald ordered the Rosemary Rotisserie Chicken for $11.95. He couldn't have been happier. He has always enjoyed Wolfgang Puck's rotisserie chicken and he wasn't disappointed today. First, the serving is large - a half chicken. Next, the finished product was attractive to look at. And finally, it was juicy and delicious. It was served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes smothered in butter.
Another thing I liked was that the entrees were served on plastic (not paper) plates. This helps give a slightly more upscale feel to the place.
Since your order is brought to your table and drink refills are also fetched by a cast member, I would say that Wolfgang Puck Express at the Marketplace is a cross between a counter-service and table-service restaurant. When we finished our meal, we left our server a tip as it was certainly warranted.
I didn't frequent the old restaurant because of their lack of indoor seating and I didn't feel their food and atmosphere warranted the prices. But I would certainly rethink this opinion as I was most pleased today.
I asked a manager if the Disney Dining "Card" was accepted and was told yes. I forgot to ask about the Disney Dining "Plan" - sorry.