Frontera Cocina by Chef Rick Bayless in Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs crafts fresh Mexican cuisine that reflects the diversity of the nation’s culinary traditions. And fresh at Frontera Cocina means updating menus seasonally. (See the previous menus, including a Taste of Oaxaca, here!)
Our most recent visit gave us a chance to taste several items from the table service spot’s new Seasonal and Taste of Baja menus.
We start with cocktails, some of which certainly feature some interesting ingredients! Selections include choices from both the regular Cocktails menu and the Taste of Baja Menu.
The Vuelve a la Vida is from the Taste of Baja menu and consists of Pacifico draft beer, tequila El Velo blanco, lime juice, house-made mix and hot sauce served with a candied bacon strip and avocado slice.
This slightly spicy drink hits on some interesting flavors with the candied bacon garnish, in particular. And while we’re not generally fans of mixing beer and liquor, the Vuelve a la Vida will be appreciated by those who like the idea of combining beer with a Bloody Mary.
The spicy rim is a great addition, but the slice of avocado is a little strange. This was not our favorite drink, but we know plenty of folks enjoy a loaded Bloody Mary, and this would be great for them.
Also from the Taste of Baja menu, Ni Maiz is the drink that most had us scratching our heads. Baby corn… in a cocktail? But our server recommended this drink to accompany one of the Seasonal menu items (Esquites Ensalada — more on that in a minute!), so we had to give it a try. The drink is comprised of Mezcal Ilegal espadin blanco, corn juice, Licor 43, lemon, and agave nectar, and it was a little sweet and a little smoky.
Upon reviewing the ingredients, we’d like to point out that baby corn isn’t even the most eyebrow-raising item. That award goes to the spicy worm salt rim, which we found to be quite sour and not a good combination with the smoky drink. We liked both components on their own, but together the rim was overpowering.
La Baja Clasica is another really interesting drink. (That seems to be a theme at Frontera: drinks utilizing uncommon ingredients.) It consists of El Mayor tequila añejo, key lime juice, agave nectar and Sherry wine, and it’s rimmed with tortilla ash salt. The tortilla ash salt has a totally unique flavor, and once we adjusted to it, we loved this drink!
La Baja Clasica strikes a good balance of sour (from the key lime) and sweet (from the agave nectar). This balance made it our favorite cocktail of the night!
Our server recommended this drink to accompany the entrees because of the sherry in it. And we agree: it was a clean, fresh drink to go with the super-savory dishes.
From the regular menu comes the new-ish Cucumber Negroni. First, before we even talk about what’s in this drink, take note of the branded ice cube! It’s super fun, and it kept its form throughout the meal. Love this detail!
The Cucumber Negroni is comprised of Mezcal illegal blanco, Italicus liqueur, dry vermouth, cucumber bitters, and grapefruit peel. The cucumber bitters made this drink less bitter than other negronis we’ve tried, and that made it even more drinkable. Our server suggested this drink as a palate cleanser, and we agreed it served that purpose.
Also note that Frontera Cocina is using agave straws in place of single-use plastic.
Our server informed us that these straws are so well constructed that they can actually be washed and reused in addition to being biodegradable.
And in fact, we really liked this straw option — probably better than any of the other biodegradable straws we’ve tried thus far. It did maintain its shape, and it was smooth like a plastic straw, so there aren’t any texture issues. We first became aware of agave straws at Epcot’s La Cava del Tequila, and we’d love to see these used elsewhere, too!
Now that we’re hydrated, let’s take a look at the Seasonal Menu and the Taste of Baja Menu. Frontera Cocina has been introducing two menus simultaneously, with the Seasonal typically having just a few items and the regional “Taste of” menus having several.
The Taste of Baja Menu includes a little snippet from Chef Rick Bayless that asserts “Northern Baja is delicious beyond belief… rustic and perfectly in step with what we all love to eat.”
We started with the Taste of Baja’s Crispy Chipotle Calamari. It comes with caramelized lime aioli, chile de arbol salsa, Cotija cheese, and fresh tortillas.
We loved this starter, and for those looking to eat a little lighter, it would also make a nice, small entree with the tortillas. The spices on the calamari were a bit smoky but didn’t overpower the delicate squid, which was soft and not at all chewy.
The chile de arbol salsa was a spicy condiment that had a lot of heat on its own.
The caramelized lime aioli had a lovely creaminess and was slightly tart from the lime. (You can see a caramelized lime on the plate, too, which was really nice when squeezed onto the calamari.)
Our server recommended we build a fish taco with the fresh tortillas and a mixture of the two sauces. This is definitely the way to go.
The spicy salsa and the creamy aioli complemented each other really well, and the crispy calamari was a satisfying textural component. We would absolutely get this again and hope it somehow sticks around beyond the life of the Taste of Baja Menu.
The Esquites Ensalada is from the Seasonal Menu, and the freshness of this dish comes through right away. Not to mention that color! It consists of Arcadian lettuce, grilled sweet corn, spicy cotija cheese, poblano rajas, tortilla strips, and roasted garlic lime dressing.
We actually love the salads at Frontera Cocina, and this one delivered in flavor and texture. It had a little of everything going on: sweet from the corn, spicy from the cotija, and that dressing! SO good!
We loved the tortilla strips on top, which added some great crunch, too. We heartily recommend this salad if you are a salad junkie or just looking to add some fiber to your Disney dining.
The Carne Asada with Mojo Grilled Florida Shrimp is a super-filling option big enough to share. The base is garlic and red chile-marinated Creekstone Natural Black Angus steak. That’s topped with mojo-grilled Florida Pink Shrimp and served with sides of black beans refritos with queso fresco, caramelized plantains with crema and Cotija cheese, tomatillo salsa, and warm corn tortillas.
These are sustainable Florida Pink Shrimp, and they were fresh beyond compare. We loved how flavorful and fresh they were.
The mojo seasoning on the shrimp is tasty, but that steak is out of this world! So while we loved the shrimp, it plays second fiddle here, and that’s saying something.
The garlic and red chile-marinated steak is an incredible piece of meat. The flavors come through with strength, and it’s just straight-up delicious. This plate of food without the shrimp (although they were good!) would be just as satisfying.
We also enjoyed the sides. The plantains were particularly good, with some nice creaminess and starchiness that partnered well with the steak.
The salsa was unnecessary, but still good. It added the only really botanical flavor to the plate, and even though it wasn’t expressly needed, the contrast was pleasant.
The black bean refritos were a nice texture and carried some decent, salty flavor. But overall, but the steak is so good that it’s what we’ll remember most — it’s a great dish.
For a shrimp-forward dish, you can go with the Grilled Florida Pink Shrimp. And while these little crustaceans were terrific, it all hinged on that amazing red chile-peanut macha salsa on top.
The salsa imparted tons of spice — in a good way. It left a tingling sensation without muting the flavors of the dish, and that’s not an easy balance to achieve. The cilantro on top is a bit of a throwaway (especially if you’re cilantro-averse), but that fresh shrimp!
Point of fact, even with as good as the Carne Asada was in the previous dish, this shrimp was actually better — and the Grilled Florida Pink Shrimp was our favorite entree of the night!
The plantain rice did provide a little respite from the heat and made this dish hearty without being too heavy.
We also tried two desserts, one each from the new menus. Our favorite was the Taste of Baja Menu’s Raspberry-Habanero Cake. And yes, that’s candied habanero pepper on top, and it is amazing! We could’ve stood to have even more on there, it was so good.
It was noticeably spicy, but paired with the smooth, cool creaminess of the lime chantilly cream, it was beautiful. We also really loved that lime in the chantilly cream; it made a huge difference in the brightness of the cake.
The raspberry is more subtle, like a compote between layers of sponge cake that soaked into the layers of cake. It’s really the combo of pepper and cream that makes this a highlight of the entire meal.
For a purely refreshing end to the meal, though, the Seasonal Menu’s Passion Fruit Sorbet is a great option.
This is light and bright, and after eating some heavier dishes, it was a welcome way to close out the evening.
Frontera Concina is a hidden gem (pardon the cliche), and, we’re finding these Seasonal and “Taste of” menus to be really thoughtful and delicious. There wasn’t a bad dish on the menu on our visit, and while we kind of want to keep this dining secret to ourselves, we also know it deserves to be celebrated.
Disclosure: In nearly all circumstances, Disney Food Blog writers and photographers pay full price for their own travel, hotel, food, beverage, and event tickets. We do this because it’s important to us as journalists to ensure not only that we give you unbiased opinions, but also that you can trust us to do so since we’re paying our own way. On rare occasions, when we are invited by a company to attend a preview as media, and when we choose to accept that invitation, we will always make you, our readers, aware of that situation. We were invited by Frontera Cocina to try the new menu items. Note that when we attend events as media we are 1) Not required to review that event/food on any of our channels, and 2) Not required to review that event/food favorably. You can always count on DFB to give you a 100% unbiased and honest review of any event that we attend, food that we eat, or beverage that we drink. You can see more in our Disclosure Policy. Thank you for reading. — AJ