Guest Review: The Mara

I’m happy to welcome back Bill Iadonisi with another enlightening review. This time he explores the counter-service eatery, The Mara, at the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House. Take it away, Bill!

Hello Disney Food Blog fans! I know it’s been long between reviews, so let’s get started on this month’s eatery! I have always said that Disney’s resorts hold some of the best places to eat on property. Usually much quieter and less hectic then the restaurants in the parks, and many times you can just walk in and sit down.

Today we are going to the dark continent of Africa for this review. Well, maybe a quick safari trip to Disney’s Jambo house is what we’ll do. The main attractions at this beautiful resort are the breathtaking views of the African Savanna from select rooms. But it’s also home to some of Disney’s finest restaurants.

Although not a five-star eatery, Jambo House’s counter-service establishment, The Mara (named after the Mara River in Africa) is a wonderful place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and it does all three equally well.

The Mara Story - click image for larger version


So before we explore the eats, let’s take a look at the décor.

Themeing and Decor
Located very close to the Jambo House pool, the Mara is themed (like all Disney eateries), but not as strongly as, say, Pizzafari or even the Flame Tree Barbeque.


Inside is a spacious dining area with a colorful mural of African flora and fauna on the two back walls.

Spacious Dining Area

The tables and chairs are plain and Spartan, but overhead are metallic cut-outs that resemble tree leaves, and several support posts that have large wooden beams resembling tree limbs make it appear as though you are [Read more…]

Snack Series: Guava Cream Cheese Cupcake at Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons

We found another awesome new cupcake to share with you! (Well, we found three awesome new cupcakes to share with you, but we’ll focus on this one for today…)

Sunshine Seasons in the Land pavilion of Epcot’s Future World is a quick-service restaurant with ample seating and a large, varied menu. It’s a favorite of DFB readers (and me!), and often wins the top spot when it comes to beloved counter-service restaurants!

It deserves this honor, too! There are plenty of options on the menu, including fresh and unique items. Choose from one of five varied menus!

Epcot's Sunshine Seasons

Sunshine Seasons Menus -- click for larger image

On my visit last week, though, I headed straight for the Bakery area! I’d heard from a few DFB readers about the new Guava Cream Cheese Cupcake, and I knew I had to try it!

When I got to the bakery case, this lovely item was staring (literally — kind of looks like an eye, doesn’t it?) back at me!

Guava Cream Cheese Cupcake

The cupcake is only available here at Sunshine Seasons — a unique addition to this fun location’s menu!

The cake is moist vanilla — very rich for a vanilla cake, in fact. On top is a mound of light cream cheese frosting (when I say “light,” I don’t mean low-calorie — it just had a more [Read more…]

Hot Fudge Cookie Sundae On the Menu at Storybook Treats

UPDATE: Please note that as of June 2015, the Hot Fudge Cookie Sundae is no longer being served at Storybook Treats. 

We told you earlier about the awesome hot fudge, and strawberry shortcake sundaes at Storybook Treats in the Magic Kingdom, but now there’s something even better — well, in my opinion anyway!

Introducing the Chocolate Chunk Cookie Hot Fudge Sundae at Storybook Treats!

Storybook Treats Sundae

This is SUPER exciting to me, since one of my favorite sundaes at Eat-n-Park back when I was in college was their massive cookie hot fudge sundae! I always put strawberry sauce on it, which gives me a great idea for how to alter this sundae as well… ;-) Anyway…

From Whence It Came

The menu has consistently offered a chocolate chunk cookie as well as a hot fudge brownie sundae, and my guess is that so many guests asked for the cookie to be substituted for the brownie that they decided to just make it a permanent addition to the menu!


Also, remember that caramel sauce can be substituted for the hot fudge on most Storybook Treats sundaes. So on my visit last week, I asked if they could just add [Read more…]

Top 5 Disney Dining Plan Quick-Service Values for 2012

It’s time to re-visit our Top 5 Quick-Service 2012 Disney Dining Plan* Values! Last year, our choices were great bargains because they offered good portions and quality food — and they were less attractive when paying out-of-pocket!

Since then, prices and options have changed, so it’s time to re-evaluate for 2012!

Wolfgang Puck Express at Downtown Disney

While shopping at Downtown Disney, use your quick service credit at Wolfgang Puck Express! The Pennette Chicken Alfredo with peas, bacon and parmesan at $15 is very filling (an easy meal to split)!

Pennette Chicken Alfredo

Here are some other smart choices:
Spaghetti & Meatballs with tomato-basil-garlic sauce and fresh herbs $16; Oven Roasted Salmon served with fennel, tomatoes, arugula, roasted potatoes and horseradish cream $18; or the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf accompanied by mashed potatoes, port wine sauce and crispy onion rings $15.

Quality and quantity make WPE the place at Downtown Disney to get the best value with your DDP credit!

Katsura Grill

We’re assuming that Katsura Grill, which opens TODAY at the Japan Pavilion in Epcot, is on the Dining Plan as a counter-service location. If we’re right, it will be a great value for a counter-service credit. (By the way, since it’s replacing the Yakitori House, we’re guessing that it will be on the Dining Plan; but we don’t know yet for sure!)

On the new menu the Sushi Combos, including the California Roll and the Spicy Tuna Roll, top out at $12.99, as does the Tonosama combo, with comes with teriyaki beef, chicken, and salmon. The Teriyaki Salmon is $11.99, while the [Read more…]

News! Fantasmic Picnic Package Available in Late December

Just in time for the holiday crowds, a picnic-style dining option will be offered to guests visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios from December 18 – December 31st. You can begin booking this experience on December 1st by calling 407-WDW-DINE (a credit card guarantee is required).

Let’s face it, the lines for Fantasmic! are long and the table-service seating for Fantasmic! meals is limited. Mickey has a solution this holiday season – the new “A Taste of Hollywood To Go – A Fantasmic! Dining Experience”.

You’ll get a reasonably priced picnic along with reserved seating to see the show. Similar to the standard Fantasmic packages, seating in the reserved section of the stadium will still be first come, first served. This comes, we think, due to the successful run of the the World of Color picnic option over at Disney California Adventure.

Min and Bill's Dockside Diner

Meal Pick Up will take place at Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner beginning at 11:00 a.m. until 1.5 hours prior to the show time that you preselect. Get your meal when it best fits into your touring schedule!

Fantasmic seats will be based on the number of guests in your party and entrees ordered must be equal to or greater than your party size. Each entree can be purchased with one counter-service Disney Dining Plan credit.

Here are a few pics of what the picnic meals will look like!

Fried chicken with maple-glazed sweet potato and baby spinach salad, broccoli and cranberry salad and cheesecake ($14.99)

Fried Chicken

Veggie wrap with avocado spread, tabbouleh, avocado and tomato salad with [Read more…]

Guest Review: New Columbia Harbour House Menu in Magic Kingdom

I’m grateful to Marc and Amy Stumbo, who captured this great review of two new Columbia Harbour House menu items in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!

As AJ noted last week, several of the Magic Kingdom quick-service dining locations have recently gotten some additions to their respective menus. When asked if I was willing to do a guest review of some additions to the Columbia Harbor House menu, I leapt at the chance for fame and fortune. While I now realize that neither of those outcomes are likely, the food was still worth writing about.

New menu outside. Not pictured: cast member confused by my desire to photograph this menu.


The Columbia Harbor House is located in the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square just around the corner from the Hall of Presidents and across the path from the Haunted Mansion.

I’ve always loved this corner of the park for its ties to our nation’s history, the superb attention to detail on the overall theme, the kinetics of boats coasting by, and the nautical theme carried into the restaurant. Check out [Read more…]

Disney Food for Families: Condiments Make the World Go Round

Disney Food for Families columnist Erin Foster knows what’s important for her family when it comes to Disney counter-service…

It’s a rare child that doesn’t feel passionate about condiments. Here are a few of the examples you might have heard from your kids… “I won’t let any type of sauce touch my food.” Or,“I’ll eat anything, as long as it’s covered in ketchup.” “Hot sauce is heavenly.” “Relish looks like alien slime.” “Plastic cheese makes everything better.” “Salsa, not ketchup.” “Mustard, not salsa.” “French fries are fine, but only if dipped in maple syrup.”

Yep, condiments are the weird and wonderful place where kiddie crazy food idiosyncrasies come out to play. Luckily, Disney has the condiment basics covered at most places.

You guys know AJ can't live without her plastic cheese

At any of the counter service restaurants where burger/dog/nugget staples are served, you’ll find traditional accompaniments like ketchup and mustard. And while they may not be out on the table, you can ask for these items at nearly all of the table service restaurants on property. But if you keep your eyes open, you’ll find many more options available.

So, if your child, or you, will ONLY eat food covered in soy sauce (hey, it happens), I’ll tell you where you’ll be able to get your fix.

Topping Bars

A few Disney counter service restaurants, such as Cosmic Ray’s and Tortuga Tavern in the Magic Kingdom, offer what Disney calls a “toppings bar.” This is code for a salad-bar-like spread of fresh fixin’ add-ons.

Tortuga Tavern toppings

Once you get your burger (at Cosmic Ray’s) or taco salad (at Tortuga Tavern), you can head over to the toppings bar to get unlimited embellishments to enhance your entree. The toppings typically include items like [Read more…]

Treats From the Mini-Guide: Casey’s Cup of Chili

The new Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks lets you know what snacks are available for a Disney Dining Plan snack credit — including snacks that aren’t found on the menu!

Let me share this little tidbit with you — while it’s not listed on every menu, you can use your snack credit for a bowl of chili at Casey’s Corner. Oh, yes you can!

Casey's Corner Chili

Take your chili to the indoor bleachers where you can watch classic Disney film shorts, or sit under an umbrella-shaded table outside. Either way, you’ll know you’ve hit a snack-credit home run!

Don’t miss other delicious snack items in the Magic Kingdom! We’ve included over 70 photos and reviews of our favorite snacks throughout the Magic Kingdom theme park in the new DFB Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks!

As bonus items, we’ve also included custom snack crawls, an index of snacks by location and snack credit, and even a list of great snack pairings! The colorful photos will show you just what you’ll get for your vacation dollars or snack credits!

Discover it all here in The Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks!

Don’t forget to use code “MAGIC” for 20% off your Mini-Guide!

Do you know of other unpublicized snack credit options? Let us know in the comments below!

Guest Review: Coronado Springs Resort’s Pepper Market

Bill Iadonisi returns with a colorful and impressive review of the Pepper Market at the Coronado Springs Resort. Take it away, Bill!

When guests vacation to Walt Disney World, they are looking forward to going on their favorite attractions, seeing World-Class shows and entertainment, and of course meeting the Disney Characters. A trip to Disney is an exciting adventure for all. But for many, the rides and attractions are just the tip of the iceberg.

I know that for myself, dining at Disney is a whole world of fun! With menu options from around the world and a huge diversity of food choices, the dining scene is a theme park unto itself.


While most guests hanker to dine in the parks, the resort venues are just as impressive. We know the classic restaurants such as Citricos, the California Grill and Jiko, but the resorts are also home to some of Walt Disney World’s “sleeper” restaurants.

These eateries are hidden gems with mostly low crowds, fantastic menus and easy access. Many times when the parks are booked, you can usually walk right in or have just a short wait before dining. Some of my favorites are the Kona Café and the Captain’s Grille. And here we will review; Coronado Springs Resort’s Pepper Market restaurant.

Atmosphere and Ordering Process

Pepper Market is an open food court located in the main building area of Coronado Springs Resort, called “El Centro.” It is a counter-service restaurant, although your drinks are brought to the table by a server.

But what makes this eatery special is its extensive menu and expansive dining area. Even during crowded times, you can usually find a table. It is themed after a south of the border-feel marketplace. Huge and airy, it is also very colorful, bright and gives the feeling of space versus claustrophobia — something we love in Disney restaurants.

Dining Area

As you make your way to the entrance, (next to Coronado’s table-service restaurant, the Maya Grill) you walk on terracotta tiles and past wrought iron fences adorned with green plants. Everything is vibrant and very colorful. It puts a smile on your face before you are even seated. At the entrance is a [Read more…]

Disney Food for Families: Counter Service Dining with the Adventurous Child

Disney Food for Families columnist Erin Foster has a very adventurous eater in her family — her daughter, Josie! Here are some great suggestions for kids who want something a bit different than the standard kids’ meal fare!

I’ve written before about my finicky, fearful daughter Louisa who never met a chicken nugget she didn’t like.

As it turns out, her twin sister Josie has a completely opposite dining profile. Josie will try anything, loves exploring new foods, and craves variety to spice up her meals. An endless stream of pizza bores her. If you have an adventurous eater in your life, you’ll want to find options beyond the ubiquitous pizza, pasta, hot dogs, and nuggets.

Josie enjoying the meat of a giant bird

In recent years, Disney has done a somewhat better job of providing a range of healthy and innovative foods on their childrens’ menus. Here I’m going to focus on some of the out-of-the-pizza-box Walt Disney World children’s counter service meal and snack options for those looking to avoid the kid food basics while on the go.

Counter Service Dining with an Adventerous Child at Walt Disney World

Magic Kingdom

Columbia Harbor House and Cosmic Ray’s offer mixed greens with chicken for [Read more…]