Restaurant Review: Portobello

March 26, 2013 Cheryl 0
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Portobello is an Italian restaurant located at Walt Disney World®’s Downtown Disney between the Marketplace and Pleasure Island.  The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and is one table service credit on the Disney Dining Plan for 2013.  Reservations are accepted up to 180 days in advance.

I had eaten at Portobello’s years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so on our last trip to Walt Disney World® I wanted to try it again.  We had gone to Typhoon Lagoon all day, and made dinner reservations for 7:10 pm.  Our plan was to head over to DisneyQuest after dinner for a few hours before bed.  Luckily, we had decided to stop in at DisneyQuest before dinner for a few hours, or I am not sure we would have gotten over at all, the service at the restaurant was that slow.

To be fair, there were several tables in our section alone (including ours) that had various types of food allergies, which required the chef to come out each time.  But all told we were there for well over two hours – and that long with a 6-year-old is over an hour too long!  I am not sure if it is always this way, but if it is I definitely wouldn’t recommend going there with kids.

They definitely hit the mark as far as Italian flavor and atmosphere – it felt and tasted like an authentic country Italian trattoria.  The meal started off with warm bread served with roasted garlic in olive oil….mmmm good! From there I ordered the Chicken Farfalle.  It normally comes with snow peas, asparagus, and tomatoes in a parmigiano cream sauce, but I omitted the snow peas and asparagus.  It was a lot of food, but the cream sauce was surprising light.  My husband ordered the Grilled Pork Chop, which was served with polenta, and Florida sweet peppers.  For not being a pork chop guy, he really liked it!   The restaurant has a pretty extensive menu – including a variety of pasta dishes, fish, chicken, beef, and pork – so there should be something for everyone.  The children’s menu isn’t quite as extensive, but includes the usual suspects – pizza, pastas, and even a chicken and steak.  My son went a little rogue and just ordered ziti with butter and some grated cheese, but they were happy to oblige.

Next we were on to dessert – always a hit with our family!!  I ordered the White Chocolate Custard – basically an Italian Crème Brulé – which was good-to-the-last-scrape-delicious!!  Being ice cream guys, my husband and son both ordered the Gelato Sundaes – which came with chocolate sauce, toffee crunch, whipped cream, and a cherry.  I was surprised my son liked the toffee, but he gobbled it up.  Maybe he was just excited to be almost done with the meal…so he could go back to DisneyQuest.

Service aside, the meal itself was delightful.  If you decide to go, hopefully your meal will not take over two hours to complete – and your wait staff will be a bit more attentive.

Disney Springs

March 14, 2013 Cheryl 0
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Things…they are a changin’ at  Walt Disney World® Resort’s Downtown Disney® Area…starting with the name!   Downtown Disney will be transformed into Disney Springs, an updated destination that will be home to significantly more shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities featuring open-air promenades, meandering springs and waterfront charm.

Disney Springs will double the number of shops, restaurants and other venues, resulting in more than 150 places to show, eat, and explore!  This project represents the largest expansion in the shopping district’s history.

Drawing inspiration from Florida’s waterfront towns and natural beauty, Disney Springs’ outdoor districts will be interconnected by a flowing spring and vibrant lakefront.  What’s included you ask?  In addition to a new gateway with a signature water tower and grand entry, and two parking garages, Disney Springs will now include four areas:

  • The Town Center, will offer a cosmopolitan mix of shopping and dining along with a promenade where guests can stroll and relax.
  • A bright and flourishing commercial district called The Landing with magnificent dining and beautiful waterfront views.
  • An updated West Side filled with lively entertainment, along with a series of new elevated spaces that provide both shade and an overlook to the activity below.
  • The family friendly Marketplace that will continue to enchant guests of all ages by combining new experiences – such as an over-the-water pedestrian causeway – with classic Disney favorites, including an expanded World of Disney® store.

Although the names of the new tenants have yet to be announced, Disney Springs will feature an eclectic and up-to-date mix of restaurants and shops from Disney and other noteworthy brands. From boutique shops to unique flagship anchor stores, you will be able to explore a variety of shopping and dining experiences and discover offerings unlike any other currently available in Central Florida.

Walt Disney World® Resort will be breaking ground on this multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney next month, with completion expected in 2016.  Keep posted for additional updates as they become available.

Overview Series: DisneyQuest

October 5, 2012 Cheryl 1

DisneyQuest is an “indoor interactive theme park located on the West Side in Downtown Disney. It is housed in a five-story building, where guests enter the first-floor lobby and are transported via a magic elevator to the third floor atrium at the start of their visit.  All five floors feature opportunities for interactive adventures for your whole family, although it is probably more geared towards the older children and adults.  DisneyQuest requires a separate admission ticket which can be purchased on its own, or is part of the “Water Parks and More” option.  No one under the age of 10 is admitted without a chaperone 16 years of age or older, and strollers are not permitted. Here is a quick overview of the DisneyQuest, including attractions, dining and shopping.

Floor 1

Attractions:  Virtual Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold

Dining:  none

Shopping:  DisneyQuest Emporium

Floor 2

Attractions:  Radio Disney SongMaker, Animation Academy, Living Easels, Sid’s Create-A-Toy, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, CyberSpace Mountain

Dining:  none

Shopping:  Guest Gallery

Floor 3

Attractions:  The Underground Arcade, Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam, Race Zone, Venturport, Classic Games, Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlaster

Dining:  none

Shopping:  none

Floor 4

Attractions:  Sports Arena Arcade, Ride the Comix, Kid’s Area (for younger guests ages 2-7)

Dining:  Wonderland Café

Shopping:  none

Floor 5

Attractions:  Invasion!  An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Ride the Comix, Classic Games

Dining:  FoodQuest

Shopping:  none

Parking and Transportation

The Disney transportation bus station that services DisneyQuest is located to the right of Planet Hollywood.  The buses service all of the Disney resorts and Good Neighbor hotels.  Resort boats are also available from Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and Port Orleans resorts.  There is also complimentary boat service between the 3 sections of Downtown Disney.  A taxi stand is located in Parking Lot K.  If you are driving, parking is free, but lots do tend to fill up.  Parking lots I – Q service West Side.

 

Overview Series: Downtown Disney

October 4, 2012 Cheryl 1

This is Part 6 of the Walt Disney World Overview Series.

Downtown Disney is an open-air shopping, dining, and entertainment center located at Walt Disney World Resort.  This very large outdoor area is free to enter, and offers complimentary parking and transportation to all Disney hotels (but not it’s theme parks).  The complex is divided into three areas:  the Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and the West Side.  Each section features a selection of entertainment venues, shops, and uniquely themed restaurants. Here is a quick overview of the area, including all of the shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

History

According to Wikipedia, Downtown Disney opened on March 22, 1975, as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, a shopping complex intended to serve the planned residences within the Walt Disney World property.  However, as resorts took the place of the residential areas, it became more focused as a shopping destination for Walt Disney World Guests, and it’s name changed to the Walt Disney World Village.  On May 1, 1989 Pleasure Island opened as an adults-only area featuring themed bars and clubs that required a separate admission ticket, and the shopping area once again changed names to the Disney Village Marketplace.  In 1995 the whole complex was rebranded Downtown Disney, and in 1997 was expanded again when West Side opened its doors with such offerings as Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba and DisneyQuest.  The World of Disney (in the Marketplace) was also opened.  Then on September 27, 2008, all of the Pleasure Island nightclubs closed as part of a larger refurbishment of Downtown Disney, in order to make room for new shopping and dining offerings.  Pleasure Island was to be rebranded Hyperion Wharf – a dockside-themed shopping and dining area – but the project is on hold indefinitely as the Imagineers re-theme whatever they plan to build.

Marketplace

As the name suggests, the Marketplace is made up of a multitude of Disney-related shops and themed restaurants.  Stores include:  T-REX Retail Shop, LEGO Imagination Center, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, World of Disney, Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, Basin, Arribas Brothers, Rawlings Making the Game, Team Mickey Athletic Club, Ridemakerz, Tren-D, Once Upon a Toy, Disney’s Pin Traders, Mickey’s Pantry, Spice & Tea Exchange, Marketplace Fun Finds, LittleMissMatched, Goofy’s Candy Co., Rainforest Café Retail Shop, The Art of Disney, Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories, Disney Design-a-Tee, and Disney’s Days of Christmas.  These are all great spots to pick up a souvenir, a gift for a friend back home, or just spend a few hours browsing.

There are also lots of places to grab a bite to eat!  There are several quick service and table-service options to choose from.  Options include:  Earl of Sandwich, Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, Marketplace Snacks, Pollo Campero, Wolfgang Puck Express, Cap-n Jack’s Restaurant, Rainforest Café and T-REX.

And if all that eating and shopping weren’t enough, there are other entertainment options too!  You can rent a boat from Cap’n Jacks Marina, ride a train or Carousel, or enjoy a live performance at the Waterside Stage.  And at Christmas, you can even meet Santa!  The Marketplace is a fun shopping experience for the whole family!

Pleasure Island

Although the nightclubs are closed (I sure do miss The Adventurer’s Club), there are still a few restaurants and shops open on Pleasure Island.  Curl by Sammy Duvall, Apricot Lane Boutique, Fuego by Sosa Cigars, and the Raglan Road Irish Shop are unique options for shopping, and Cookes of Dublin, Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant, Portobello and Fulton’s Crab House are great places to grab a bite to eat.

West Side

Downtown Disney’s West Side is the most eclectic of the three areas and offers the most entertainment options.  These include Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba, DisneyQuest, the House of Blues, AMC Theatres Downtown Disney 24 and Dine-In Theatre, and Splitsville (opening fall 2012).  Dining options include:  FoodQuest, Wetzel’s Pretzels, Wolfgang Puck Café and Express West Side, Bongos Cuban Café and Window, House of Blues Restaurant, Paradiso 37, and Planet Hollywood.  Last but not least the shopping:  the Cirque du Soleil Boutique, Bongo’s Gift Shop, Blink by Wet Seal, D Street, Disney’s Candy Cauldron, DisneyQuest Emporium, Hoypoloi, House of Blues Company Store, Orlando Harley-Davidson, Planet Hollywood Shop, Pop Gallery, Something Silver, Sosa Family Cigars, and Sunglass Icon.

Parking and Transportation

As Downtown Disney is such a large complex, knowing where you are going, where you are going to park or where to get a bus or taxi is important.  Disney transportation Bus Stations are located at the far end of the Marketplace and to the right of Planet Hollywood.  These buses service all of the Disney resorts and Good Neighbor hotels.  They do not, however, service any of the Theme Parks. Resort boats are also available from Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and Port Orleans resorts.  There is also complimentary boat service between the 3 sections of Downtown Disney. Taxi stands are located in Parking Lot B (Marketplace by Basin), Parking Lot H (West Side by Planet Hollywood) and Parking Lot K (West Side by DisneyQuest).  If you are driving, parking is free, but lots do tend to fill up.  Parking lots A – D service the Marketplace, lots E – H service Pleasure Island, and lots I – Q service West Side.

What to do when you aren’t going into the Parks

September 24, 2012 Cheryl 1
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After a few days in the Parks, trying to pack in as many rides, shows, character meet and greets, and fireworks as you can, it is nice to have a free day to actually relax and enjoy the other options that Disney has to offer.  What?!?   Disney World has more than just theme parks?!?  Why yes, yes they do!  Here are some of the things that my family likes to do on our down day:

Swimming

The Disney Resorts have some of the best pools around.  Many have great water slides like the Pirate Ship at the Yacht Club, and all of them have amazing themes that really make you feel like you are right in the middle of the story, and some even have beaches!  Parents and teens can relax and catch some rays, and the kids can run around and splash all day long at their own speed.  No lines, just lots of play!  The Disney Water Parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, are also great options, but these do require a separate admission ticket, and I can’t guarantee there won’t be lines for those rides!

Other Sporting Activities

You can go for a run; work out at the fitness center; play tennis, volleyball, or basketball; go fishing; rent a boat; go parasailing; tubing; waterskiing; wakeboarding; play at the playground; head to the arcade; go horseback riding; drive a racecar at the Walt Disney World Speedway; or, just relax at a spa!

Golf and Miniature Golf

There is no shortage of golfing options at the Walt Disney World Resort – both the standard variety and the miniature type.  There are 4 18-hole courses, Magnolia, Palm, Lake Buena Vista (all rated 4-stars by Golf Digest), and Osprey Ridge, which was rated as one of the best golf courses in Florida by Golf Digest.  There is also a 9-hole course – Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course.  Disney offers golf lessons, and equipment is available for rent as well.

The Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course is located within the Epcot Resort Area, and consists of 2 courses: Fantasia Gardens and Fantasia Fairways ($12.00 for adults, and $10.00 for children 3 to 9).   The Fantasia Gardens course is inspired by Walt Disney’s classic animated movie Fantasia, and includes many characters from the film.  Fantasia Fairways is an 18–hole course, which looks a traditional golf course, and is geared more for older kids, as it requires more skill than chance.  Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course, located next to Blizzard Beach, is an elf–sized course with two different Santa–themed courses: the Snow Course and the Sand Course ($12.00 for adults, and $10.00 for children 3 to 9).

Downtown Disney

Shop to your hearts content at Downtown Disney.  You can also grab a bite to eat, see a show, or catch a movie.  It is fun to catch the latest Disney release at the AMC, and La Nouba is performed at theater built especially for Cirque du Soleil.  Walt Disney World is the only place you can see this amazing show.

Bike Rental

We rented a surrey once at the Boardwalk and took a ride around the lake.  It really did feel like we were on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore!  Other hotels have bike rentals as well – Fort Wilderness Lodge and Campground, Old Key West, Port Orleans, Coronado Springs, and Caribbean Beach.

Character Meals or Specialty Dining

We like to make our reservations for Character meals on our days out of the park.  We head over to Chef Mickey’s for breakfast, or 1900 Park Fair for dinner or the afternoon Tea Party, so we don’t have to feel rushed to get back to a Park.  We also like to make reservations at resorts around the Seven Seas Lagoon (Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary) close to fireworks time, so that we can enjoy Wishes without all of the crowds.

Other Nighttime Activities

We like to head over to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground for Chip n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-along.  This is a nightly free event where you can roast your own marshmallows, hear some music, see the Characters, and then watch a movie under the stars.  Most other Disney Resorts also have movies under the stars as well.  Carriage rides are available at Port Orleans and the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, and private and Pirate Fireworks cruises are available from The Contemporary.

There really is no shortage of options for you and your family at the Walt Disney World Resort.  So relax, have fun, and enjoy your day off!

Dining Review: The T-Rex at Downtown Disney

August 31, 2012 Cheryl 3
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My son T’s favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World is the T-Rex, located in the Marketplace in Downtown Disney.  He likes it much so that I have (on multiple occasions) had to show him YouTube videos of the restaurant just so he could get his dinosaur fix.  To be fair, he has wanted to be a paleontologist since he could say the word…and when you combine life-size animatronics dinosaurs with macaroni and cheese, you have a real hit!!  J and I on the other hand are not as big of fans.  Atmosphere I would give it a 10, but food, well, not quite as high.

This restaurant is actually celebrating its 4th anniversary at Downtown Disney this fall.  It is part of the Landry Restaurant family – the same group that brought us Rainforest Café.  The T-Rex is quite similar in idea – lots of life-size prehistoric animals, the occasional meteor shower, and several different rooms/areas that represent different habitats.  They have an underwater area in the bar complete with a huge octopus, an ice age area where you sit inside an ice cave, a fern forest, a geo-tech room, and the “fire area” where the meteor shower is most visible. As far as prehistoric animals goes, it features tyrannosaurus, apatosaurus, triceratops, mammoths, stegosaurus, parasaurolophus, and multiple pterosaurs, sea jellies, large insect models alongside a pachycephalosaurus, a 13-foot wide octopus, and 2 fish tanks.   The décor is very well done, and you can walk around taking pictures of the moving dinosaurs, so that is pretty cool.  If you do go, and if you have little kids that do not like storms or loud noises, just be aware that there is a meteor shower every 20 minutes or so, and it gets loud.  You can take them into the bathrooms though; the sound show doesn’t get played in there.

As for the food, well, it took me quite a few visits to find an item on the menu that I actually liked.  I did find one – the Triassic Tortellini – and it is good.   It is tri-color tortellini with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and chicken in an Alfredo sauce (it comes with peas, but I omit them).  Pretty tasty!  J usually gets the burger (which they can never cook to the right temperature) but this time he tried out the Tyrannosaurus T-Bone, which they still didn’t get right.  He likes his steak still mooing – medium rare, and the first steak was closer to medium well to well.  They did remake the steak.  He said the second steak was ok, and that the seasoning was tasty, but the steak itself was chewy – not something you would expect of a $30 plus dollar steak.

Dessert on the other hand was delicious!  We have never gotten it before, but since we were on the dining plan, we tried it out this time.  J got the Ice Age Indulgence, which was layers of ice cream sandwiches, fudge sauce, whipped cream and Heath Bar Crunch, and I got the Cosmic Key Lime Pie.  Both were large and very good.

T always gets the Cosmos Cheesy Macaroni, which comes with piece of flat bread with cheese on it.  For dessert, he tried out the Saber-Tooth Sundae – which was a chocolate chip cookie covered in ice cream and chocolate sauce.  It was devoured pretty quickly and given double-thumbs up!

In addition to the restaurant, T-Rex has a Dino Store with all sorts of dinosaur related goods – t-shirts, toys, and even a Build-A-Dino store.  We have gotten two different dinosaurs from this store and they have both held up very well.  It is the same company as Build-A-Bear, so in addition to building your new buddy you can dress him/her as well.

There is also the Paleo Zone, which is a great outdoor dinosaur dig area that will keep your kids busy for hours if you let it. Go can on an archaeological dig, pan for treasures in Discovery Creek, and learn about prehistory on the Paleo Screens.  Best thing about this no-shoe area is the sand they use – doesn’t stick to clothes.  Wish I had that at home!!

We go to this restaurant every time we are at Walt Disney World – mostly because of T.  If your kids love dinosaurs, this is the place to be.  If you like the Rainforest Café – double bonus, you will be right at home.  If you don’t like either of these things – well, maybe look for somewhere else to eat.

Planning Tip:  T-Rex accepts the Disney Dining Plan this year, but in 2013 they will not be participating.  Reservations are definitely needed for this restaurant.