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.

Welcome!

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…]

Update on Cars Land Dining

So, I have clearly developed a little obsession about Cars Land. I think it’s going to be one of the coolest things to ever come to Disneyland, and it’s natural for the obsession to extend to where I’ll be eating in Cars Land. Hopefully you’ll indulge me. ;-)

We recently posted a piece speculating about what would happen with the table-service restaurant slated for Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. We’d heard some rumors about a “drive-in” themed restaurant similar to Disney World’s Sci-Fi Dine-in, which might replace — or accompany — the originally proposed “Flo’s Cafe.”

These rumors were clarified with a comment on our previous post from Michael Crawford of Progress City USA, “There was a drive-in proposed, but it’s not going be a part of the first phase of this area. Its budget was diverted to other things. Instead, it’s likely that it will be added later. I asked an Imagineer if it had been cut completely or might resurface later, and he said that it’s definitely something that they still want to do.”

Driving home the point, the Disney Parks Blog recently showcased this image of Cars Land’s Route 66, featuring a very cool rendering of Flo’s Cafe, the original restaurant proposed for the new land.

Artist Rendering of Cars Land, copyright Disney

So, in addition to what might be two very cool restaurants in Cars Land, we also learned that the Sally’s Motel cones will sell “cone-themed” quick service items, like “Cone on the Cob!”

Just wanted to keep you updated!

5 Best “One-Credit” Disney Dining Values

OK, you’ve booked this Fall’s free dining package, and now you’re not so sure which table-service spots deserve the credit (pun intended!)? Below are my top picks for best value in the “one table-service credit” realm of Walt Disney World restaurants. And for more tips on where to apply those credits, check out the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2017 Second Edition!

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Disney World offers a vacation package add-on called the Disney Dining Plan. This works a lot like your meal plan when you were back in school — you pay a set price in exchange for a certain number of credits.

Disney Dining Plan One Credit Recommendations

Each table-service restaurant meal in Disney World is worth a certain number of credits, the vast majority of them being worth one credit. In this post, I’m describing my picks for one-credit table-service restaurants that offer the most bang for the Dining Plan buck.

Chef Mickey’s

Yep, one of the most popular character meals on property is also a great value with the Dining Plan.

Chef Mickey’s

Chef Mickey’s, which offers your kiddos the opportunity to meet the entire fab five — Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, and Minnie (and sometimes Daisy!) — ranks at the top of the heap when it comes to character meal buffet pricing. Not to mention, the location is ideal: you’re just a monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom.

By the way, both breakfast and dinner are overpriced here, so feel free to use your dining credit for either!

‘Ohana

This is one of Walt Disney World’s most popular restaurants — hands down — and its family style, Hawaiian-themed meals are only part of the reason. ‘Ohana also offers an incredible view of the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from its perch atop the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Village Resort.

‘Ohana Bread Pudding

Breakfast at ‘Ohana features Mickey, Lilo, Stitch, and their friends in an all-you-care-to-enjoy Hawaiian masterpiece of a meal (including mini Mickey Waffles!). Dinner has no characters but does hold the hope for many guests for the chance to see those fireworks while digging into some incredible ‘Ohana Bread Pudding.

Price-wise, ‘Ohana is a bit more expensive than even Chef Mickey’s; coming in around $30 per adult, this is a great trade-in for a table-service credit.

(Tip: When you’re done with dinner, head down to Pineapple Lanai to trade in a snack credit for a Dole Whip!)

Boma

Another incredible buffet makes its way into our top five values list! Boma is located on the bottom floor of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jambo House, and serves up African-themed cuisine straight from an African “marketplace”-inspired restaurant.

Boma’s Zebra Domes

While this place is pretty pricey for a buffet, it also offers the valuable asset of being located in one of Disney World’s most unique resort hotels — and you and your kids can benefit from that! By arriving a bit early for your meal, while there’s still daylight left, you’ll be able to head outside and gaze — up close — at the majestic animals of the savannas. Giraffe, zebra, Ankole cattle, flamingos, and more will be right there in front of you! And if you have questions, the Lodge has provided knowledgeable “interpreters,” who can help you to better understand not only the animals, but also the countries they’re from.

After dinner, head out to the African fire pit around 7:30pm for some authentic African storytelling as the sun goes down. Then, if you still haven’t had your fill, take part in the resort’s “night-vision goggle” experience, where you can watch the savanna animals up close to find out what they do once night falls!

Sounds like a pretty full evening to me — and all for the cost of one table-service credit.

Coral Reef Restaurant

Surprised by this one? Me, too. But the bottom line is that Coral Reef Restaurant 1.) is expensive, and 2.) has a giant aquarium for a wall. Let’s face it, kids love watching the fish (and sometimes dolphins!) swim around in that floor-to-ceiling aquarium.

Coral Reef, a Table Service Restaurant

Coral Reef, a Table Service Restaurant

And while this restaurant might not be worth the money to pay out of pocket, it is worth your one dining plan credit — if only to watch them freak out about how cool it is to eat at a restaurant inside an aquarium.

The food at Coral Reef hasn’t always knocked our socks off, but the menu has improved over the years so that it’s an enjoyable meal. The “chocolate wave” dessert remains a specialty.

Price-wise, dinner entrees run between $20-$30, and desserts all cost $8 apiece, so you’re likely going to save some money by using the dining plan here.

Don’t Miss Out on Any Disney Fun!

The 2017 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining, Second Edition, is now available!

2017 DFB Guide to WDW Dining Cover March 6

With more than 650 pages, the 2017 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World  Dining, Second Edition is full of tips and planning tools developed by Disney World experts over 20+ years of visits. We’ve done the research for you, so you’ll know just which spots will uniquely suit your family’s needs!

With mini-reviews of every single restaurant, bar, lounge, kiosk and more; an entire chapter on the best snacks in Disney World; full Disney Dining Plan analysis (and how to get FREE dining); and a full chapter on discounts and deals; you’ll have everything you need to plan your best vacation yet. Click here to get your copy of the 2017 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining, Second Edition E-book — and use code SAVE2017 for a 20% discount for a limited time!

Use code SAVE2017 at check-out for a 20% off the cover price!

 What Do You Think?

Would love to hear your thoughts on the best value for a one-credit table-service meal. Have you stumbled across any deals lately? Let us know in the comments section below!

For more of our favorites, check out our Best Disney World Restaurants series!

Hawaii Disney Vacation Club Restaurant: Artist Rendering

Just wanted to share a quick view of the artist rendering for one of Aulani’s new table-service restaurants. This looks like it will be a true beach-side paradise. Still not sure on names, or the location of the other table-service restaurant in the resort. Looking forward to details if you’ve got ‘em!:

Disney Hawaii Restaurant concept art

It looks like this table-service space will take up the lower right-hand corner of the map we speculated about earlier:

Map of Aulani with beachside Restaurant marked

Seems like this will be just the place to relax after a long day of surfing! I hope I get the chance to check out the place someday!

News: Italy Pizzeria, Cantina de San Angel Updates, & More

backlot noticeJust wanted to share some news I heard recently from fellow blogger, Theme Park Mom. This is third-party info from someone “close to the source,” but I think it’s pretty exciting!

Cantina de San Angel Info
Mexico’s Cantina de San Angel, currently under demo and expansion in Epcot’s World Showcase, will re-emerge as a counter-service and table-service restaurant. But a bit of info that I didn’t know about is that the restaurant will be counter-service for lunch and half table-service, half counter-service, for dinner. (This will be helpful for those of you who, like me, are making up your Disney dining spreadsheets for your Food & Wine Festival trips!)

News on the Mysterious Imported Water
Also, word is that that mysterious “imported water” that will be used in the new Italy Pizzeria in Epcot will be trucked in from a location in the midwest where chemical analysis on the water has shown it to be extremely similar to the H2O found in Naples, Italy. I wonder where…

Diamond Horseshoe in WDW Open Temporarily
In Magic Kingdom food news, the Diamond Horseshoe will be open 3/27/10-4/7/10 from 5:00-9:00PM daily for an all-you-can-eat meal, including family-style platters of Saloon Salad (tossed mixed greens with strawberry vinaigrette dressing) and fare from the Ranchhand’s Feast (roasted turkey breast, carved beef and smoked pork loin with sides of seasonal vegetables, herb bread stuffing and macaroni and cheese). Sound familiar? Yep, this is basically an extension of Liberty Tree Tavern while the parks are mobbed for Spring Break. :)

Merchandise Coupons Available
Finally, through April 17th, 2010, when you dine at WDW quick service locations you’ll receive a coupon for 20% off merchandise at participating WDW locations*. (You must use your coupon between 9:00 AM to 12 PM to receive the discount.)

Participating locations:
* The Emporium or Mickey’s Star Traders at Magic Kingdom
* Mouse Gear at Epcot
* Mickey’s of Hollywood and Keystone Clothiers at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
* Island Mercantile at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
* World of Disney Store at Downtown Disney

Hat tip to WDWInfo.

2009 Candlelight Processional Dinner Packages

Candlelight Processional (copyright Disney)

Candlelight Processional (copyright Disney)

Please Note: According to MousePlanet, Disneyland’s Candlelight Spectacular will be a hard ticket event for D23 Charter Members only, with an additional price tag of $275. The following information is rumored for Disney World ONLY.

Stitch Kingdom is reporting that this year’s Candlelight Processional Dinner Package at Disney World includes access to a reserved area to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth! This added benefit might just make it that much more worth it to book a Dinner Package!

The site also lists all of the specifics regarding the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package, including costs and times for the different tiers of restaurants:
Tier I: Biergarten and Garden Grill
Tier II: Nine Dragons, Restaurant Marrakesh, Rose and Crown, and San Angel Inn
Tier III: Chefs De France, Coral Reef, Le Cellier, Teppen Edo, Tokyo Dining, Tutto Italia

Word on the street (e.g. the message boards) is that booking this year will be on the regular 90-day schedule, and that Processional Dinner Packages will not be available via the online booking system.

As of right now, the Candlelight Processional will be offered November 27 – December 30, 2009, at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15 pm.

Crystal Palace: A Great Reason To Get Up Early

Early Morning on Main Street

Early Morning on Main Street

The Early-Morning Advance Dining Reservation (ADR)
One of the well-known tips among Disney enthusiasts is that you should always try to book a dining reservation for breakfast in a theme park before it opens. Why? Because this means you get in before the general masses. You get the golden opportunity to wander through a practically empty Disney park. It’s magic at its finest. (Plus, if you eat quickly enough, you can make it over to the Adventureland rope and be first in line for Splash Mountain…but I didn’t tell you that.)

Empty Tomorrowland

Empty Tomorrowland

One of my favorite restaurants at which to snatch up one of these break-of-dawn reservations is Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom Theme park of Disney World. This is a character breakfast, so you get to share your noms with Pooh and the gang (usually Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet); it’s a buffet, so you pretty much dictate how long your breakfast lasts; and it’s HUGE, so you have a great chance of getting those elusive 8:05 AM time slots.

Nearly Empty Main Street

Nearly Empty Main Street

So with all that going for it, you’ve got to give it a try! And I didn’t even mention that many guests deem Crystal Palace eats to be some of the best buffet food at Disney, scout’s honor.

...And the Castle

...And the Castle

Getting Into the Park for Your Reservation
While it may seem like a red tape nightmare to get into the park an hour early, it’s usually pretty streamlined. Bring your dining reservation confirmation number with you to the park and show up about 20 minutes before your scheduled time. You’ll simply enter through the turnstyles marked for the Breakfast crowd (usually all the way to the right, but this can change); a Cast Member might check off your name and confirmation number, and then you’re free to explore Main Street in all its empty glory. This is why I suggest arriving 20 minutes early; you get to take all of those fascinating photos. Don’t forget to make your reservation for a day without extra magic hours in the morning!

By the way, if you’re staying at a Disney resort and taking the bus to the Magic Kingdom, a “breakfast bus” usually begins running at least 30 minutes before the first reservation in any park. The monorail also starts running far enough in advance as well.

Time for Breakfast!

Time for Breakfast!

Checking In for Your Reservation
The Crystal Palace can be found between Main Street USA and Adventureland — it’s the huge, glass domed building to the left of the walkway. Simply head up the steps (past the throngs of people, most likely — the Magic Kingdom may seem empty, but almost everyone who IS in the park is at the same restaurant) and jump into line to check in for your reservation.

magickingdom1-093

Once your party is called, you’ll head into the beautiful Crystal Palace restaurant and be greeted by…

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers...

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers...

…some very familiar friends! Not to mention an absolutely stunning, light-filled atrium made entirely of clear and stained glass. For all of Disney’s signature dining restaurants designed by award-winning interior artists, I find Crystal Palace’s atrium to be one of the most gorgeous design aspects on property.

The Beautiful Central Atrium

The Beautiful Central Atrium

A Buffet With Character!
Once you’re seated in one of the two side rooms (these are beautiful, too — paneled with mirrors and filled with plants) you’re free to head up to the buffet.

There are two sides to the buffet, and these are mirror images of one another. The two sides culminate at the customize-your-own-omelet station in the center of the semi-circular buffet.

The Buffet

The Buffet

Hot Items are Identical on Both Sides of the Buffet

Hot Items are Identical on Both Sides of the Buffet

The Buffet

The Buffet

On the far ends of the buffet lines are cold items: yogurts, granola and other toppings, fruit, salmon, breads, etc. In the center you’ll find hot items: breakfast pizzas, breakfast meats, waffles, the famous puffed french toast, breakfast potatoes, and omelets.

Cereals

Cereals

In the middle of the room you’ll find muffins, cereals, and Pooh’s famous breakfast lasagne.

Pooh's Breakfast Lasagne

Pooh's Breakfast Lasagne

Baked Items

Baked Items

The food is fairly similar to most of the other Disney breakfast buffets, which is actually quite good. Here are a few more close-up foods of some of our favorites. That Mickey Waffle might look familiar to some of you! It’s my avatar on Twitter!

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza

Mickey Waffles

Mickey Waffles

Puffed French Toast

Puffed French Toast

Pooh and Friends
Once you have your food, it might be time for the first Character Parade! Hopefully you haven’t forgotten that some of your favorite friends are here, and they can’t wait to have a great time with you (and/or your kids…they’re good to go either way).

Piglet Leading the Parade!

Piglet Leading the Parade!

While Character teams (Pooh and Piglet, and Tigger and Eeyore) take turns visiting tables on either side of the restaurant, some sort of Character Parade or Celebration occurs when it’s time for the teams to switch restaurant sides. This is when you should encourage your little ones to go find a character and follow along. Cast Members will be there to help move the parades forward.

There’s usually much singing and music; napkin “twirling” is a common activity during these functions. All in all, it’s a good time!

Eeyore Being Shy During the Parade

Eeyore Being Shy During the Parade

And then it’s back to signing autographs, taking photos, and making people smile for the characters (and back to eating for you!).

Tigger Signing Autographs...Sort Of...

Tigger Signing Autographs...Sort Of...

And then, if you’re lucky, you pay the bill when the park is just about to open. I couldn’t resist posting this photo of a family following Alice (in Wonderland) as she hurried to “unlock” Fantasyland and her TeaCups ride right at opening time!

Alice is Very, Very Late in Opening the TeaCups Ride!

Alice is Very, Very Late in Opening the TeaCups Ride!

So you can see why Crystal Palace is one of my favorites for breakfast, but don’t forget that you can dine here for lunch and dinner as well! Both of those meals are buffets as well, and offer great food (in my opinion).

Enjoy!

Mid-Century Nostalgia

One of the Waiting Area Living Rooms

One of the Waiting Area Living Rooms

One of the unsung heroes of dining at Walt Disney World is the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, a diner where the food is decent, the servers are funny, and the decor is the real reason you’re there.

Reminiscent of their youth for those over 50 and the Wonder Years for those under 40, 50’s Prime Time takes pride in its less-than-chic furnishings. Knick Knacks prevail in colors like cornflower blue and avocado, and, more than once, you’ll hear “didn’t Mom used to have one of those?”

A Coveted TV Table

A Coveted TV Table

Arrive early and request a “TV Table.” This is a table for four or five that has a TV right next to it, so that you can watch the loop of black-and-white show snippets that includes The Mickey Mouse Club (what’s more fun than an egg race?), Spin and Marty, I Married Joan, The Dick van Dyke Show, and others.

The food here is less than stellar, usually on a par with a bad Denny’s, but you can score some pretty good fried chicken, chicken pot pie, and meatloaf. They recently took the best dish off the menu–a fried boursin cheese served with toasted baguette slices and grapes–but the atmosphere is almost enough to keep me coming back. Service is inconsistent and based largely on your waiter–who happens to be playing the part of your Aunt, Uncle, cousin, or brother and is at liberty to force you to eat your vegetables…no kidding. Be sure to ask if you can see the photo albums!

Chocolate Malt and Dessert Viewfinder

Chocolate Malt and Dessert Viewfinder

Dessert is another good reason to visit this restaurant. Again, the quality isn’t great, but Disney comes through on the themeing! Your dessert menu is a Viewfinder, and you get to feel like a kid all over again when you click through the enticing photos to “choose your poison.” FYI: the milkshakes are great, and the s’mores have a good reputation.

So, if you’ve got one of those free dining slots open, I suggest you pop on by 50’s Prime Time Cafe for lunch. While the food could be better, the experience can be a true Disney highlight.

Free Dining at Walt Disney World–The Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of this offer are different for everyone, so I thought I’d take a minute to give you my specific “set of learnings” from my previous free dining experiences:

  1. Free dining means I get to use up all of my table service credits in three days by eating at California Grill every night
  2. Free dining means that Yachtsman Steakhouse stops serving Ribeye because it takes up too much space on the grill
  3. Free dining means I leave for the airport with about 20 bottles of water because I wasn’t able to use all of my snack credits (blame California Grill)
  4. Free dining means I get to discover that Casey’s Corner hot dogs and french fries are the best hot dogs and french fries in Disney World, and that’s that.
  5. Free dining means I should leave more tummy room to use snack credits on Dole Whips!
  6. Free dining means I have to book my advanced dining reservations even earlier than before!
  7. Free dining means that the ghost town that was September in Disney World has now turned into a literal free-for-all! Use fastpass!
  8. HAVE FUN!

Getting It Your Way

Disney is on a customization kick. You can get customized t-shirts, customized park tickets, customized dining plans…you can even customize your Mickey Ear Hats now!

So this is why I insist I should be able to customize my meals as well! I’m one of those picky eaters who never orders directly off the menu. I’m always adding here, substituting there…it’s likely very annoying, yet oddly commonplace for the restaurant waitstaff to have to deal with vacationers like me.

The Perfect Sundae

The Perfect Sundae

But Disney CMs overall are well-trained to endure crazies like myself, and make me feel entirely comfortable to customize my meals willy-nilly. One of my favorite places to do this is Beaches and Cream, where they’ll gladly create for me my very own dessert creation! This is a ginormous brownie topped with ice cream, hot fudge, and peanut butter. C’mon. You know you want it!

Beaches and Cream Counter

Beaches and Cream Counter

Beaches and Cream is located at Disney’s Beach Club resort, in the Epcot resort area. There are only a few tables in this ice cream parlor (which also serves burgers, hot dogs, and the like), and they don’t take reservations, so arrive during off-hours to cut your wait. Open 11am-11pm.

And don’t forget to order the famous Kitchen Sink, made with every flavor of ice cream, topping, and candy they have in the joint and topped with a whole can of whipped cream!

Kitchen Sink (c Rough Guides)

Kitchen Sink (c Rough Guides)

Butterscotch Sundae

Butterscotch Sundae