Jul 28

Best Restaurants in Disney Springs

Find out which restaurant won in Laurie’s book for dietary requests, menu, disabled guests and more.

One man’s treasure is another man’s junk. I chose 5 table restaurants as my top not because I love them but based on my criteria for a near perfect dining experience.

• Top priority is requests. It hurts when staff ignores requests, act like the request is too much bother, or make a guest feel like they are not wanted. When a guest is celebrating a first tooth then celebrate with them. Someone wants a bench seat because of her back which makes her comfortable when they work to accommodate her. Dining out should be worry free while offering a comfortable, stress free meal. At Homecomin’ they gladly gave me a two top with a bench seat. Bongos gladly met my dietary requests.

• Kitchen and menu are next on my criteria list. Parents can’t force a kid to vary from its limited diet. There are kids who only eat one brand of a food and only a dozen items. Vegans and religious people choose their diet but please don’t expect us to eat just a baked potato. Those of us with pharmaceutical, medical, and food reactions also don’t want just a plain piece of fish, carrots, and white rice. Staff should try hard and not make guests feel like they are unwanted or a burden because of their diet. Chefs should train the kitchen how to meet dietary requests before the requests come in. They should immediately know how to prepare vegan dishes. Chefs should have dishes for that oddball who goes with friends to a restaurant even if they don’t like the menu. At a seafood restaurant have a meat and taters dish for the oddball while the rest of the group eats lobster.

• Disabled guests can have their dining experience ruined when they are forced to walk to their seat, are squished into a booth, or can’t see what they are eating. Visually impaired guests need good lighting to see the menu and food. Anxious people or people with PTSD may prefer a quiet corner. I hate carpets as they slow down my scooter and collect germs. I need a bench seat due to damaged knees and large midsection. Please don’t squish me into a seat with arms or narrow booth. I like tables that move because it is hard for me to stand. Access and comfort is one of my top priorities because I can’t enjoy the perfect meal if I am in pain, can’t see the meal, or am overwhelmed by the noise.

• Decor, theme, staff, management and many other things are also on my list. Sitting next to an aquarium is awesome until the tenth guest has leaned in to see the fish. Please, don’t cram into a room, so many tables that guests have no privacy and waiters have their rump in your face. I was at a defunct DLR Latin restaurant, where the whole meal was the waiter scooting past me to get to other diners.

 

Chef Robert Irvine and myself are renown for hating dust collections. The hanging baskets full of dust, shelves that never are dusted, and memorabilia glued to shelves. I have watched the chef rip out carpets that are filthy. When was the last time someone cleaned out the banquet seats? I hate when a busser does not completely clean a table and seats. Management should act on complaints and check the guest to see how they are doing. I love the gorilla animatronic until it goes off for the umpteenth time. There are so many factors but time for my top five Disney Springs restaurants.

 

• The winner is Frontera Cocina with a perfect score. They use free range beef and can tell you where the meat comes from. No soy, agar gum, and other chemical are present. Food is made the old fashioned way with fresh ingredients, no artificial stuff, and lots of knowledgeable cooking. I was soaked in a rainstorm so they brought me guacamole and chips plus a stack of cloth napkins. They are eager to please and they are disabled friendly. I wish my boss could pay me as I’d ask for carnitas, rice, beans, and a caramel and plantain sundae as pay. They are gluten free except flour tortillas, tortas, and desserts.

• The four runners up have issues though minor. I couldn’t choose one.

•. Bongos has all my requirements. Their take out window could not do my diet and sent me into a crowded restaurant. Overall I would go back anytime. Real Latin cuisine, disabled friendly, and great staff who works around any menu limitations. Could they please make a GF Cuban sandwich, please?

Homecomin’ had the most awesome Chef Art Smith. They meet all my criteria except food. Good lighting, a patio, a bar, staff who works hard to please guests and the best burger in Disney Springs. They use a shared fryer so no fried foods for me. Chicken is brined in buttermilk but they can make one that isn’t brined. Then it is fried with oil used for regular chicken. They did an awesome job when I was there but I wish they had gluten free fries and hush puppies.

Paddlefish is a very old building designed like a steamboat. She has been stripped down and turned into a classy coastal cruise ship. They try hard to make guests feel welcome. The would have won first place but they do seafood boils. The air is filled with seafood, potatoes, celery, old bay seasoning, and corn. I loved their shrimp cocktail and was very happy there. They can do vegan and special diets with ease.

• Last and not least is BOATHOUSE. I chose 4 restaurants and couldn’t decide who was best as each has limits and all have made me happy. Boathouse has some special diet limitations and needs gluten free bread. The area I was in was a little too close to other guests. I loved the swordfish. Perfect, nearly, and eager to make every diner a satisfied guest.

Raglan Road was my favorite restaurant. The place is packed tight, after 9 pm drinks rule, loud at times, and it was too dark to see a menu or the food. I have had to send back raw scallops and over breaded onion rings. The staff is awesome, as is the entertainers. I recommend them because they usually do awesome with special diets and offer a great experience. Splitsville fails on attitude toward special diets and the fajitas were NOT fajitas. They can be very loud. Service was on point. I won’t go back probably, but will recommend them with the diets and noise warning.

• AMC has full service in the lobby. I had a cheeseburger on corn tortilla twice. I think they are needing more attention. Great service in tall tables and lounge seating. I haven’t tried the rest of the menu so still waiting to see how they do.

Jul 20

WDW Water Parks and other Water Parks – Tips and Advice

Laurie gives us advice and tips for visiting the water parks – at Disney and beyond.

You are in charge of this trip. Explain to your group what is allowed, what can’t be done, rules, itinerary, and what to bring. You don’t want Uncle Harry grumbling because the slides don’t allow rivets on clothes. Don’t dash the hopes of kids who are too short at the park. Talk about limits, as I did 2 laps too many recently.

•Rules

Rules can be government mandated, insurance mandated, or be made by staff. Some rules are firm while others are not enforced. It is up to you to make sure that your family knows the rules and the park rules are obeyed.

Casts, amputees, medical devices, and weight are covered at many parks. All parks will remove a rider who can’t use their feet to balance, can’t hold on, or can’t sit up. Whether written or unwritten, most Water Parks prohibit horseplay, diving, and interfering with the safety of others. Water Country bans hookahs. Smokers at Disney parks have designated areas.

Aquatica prohibits cotton board shorts. Baby swim diapers are required. Do not wear jewelry, scarves, or anything that could be caught on slides and rides. No plastic or metal rivets, buckles, studs, or decorated clothes that could harm slides. Appropriate attire is required.

•Food and Beverages

WDW is very lenient about bringing in coolers stocked with food. Most parks prohibit glass and food that needs heating. Most, if not all parks, prohibit bringing in alcoholic beverages. Florida weather makes picnics risky due to the heat. It is best to save up shelf stable packets of mayonnaise and salad dressing. You can bring unopened small jars of mayonnaise and salad dressing then trash them when done. Spam, cashew butter, tuna, bread, and canned corned beef are some shelf items you might want to bring. You can buy food from your hotel to bring, but again, remember that Florida is hot and food spoils easily. Plan on having a designated person to watch your stuff if you camp out. The lockers are not big enough for a family picnic.

WDW water parks have one main kitchen that does allergies. TOUGH! That is the attitude I received when I tried to get something gluten and soy free. Another issue is getting from where you are camped out to food. Last time I packed in ice, soda pop, salad, cooked hot dogs, buns, and snacks. Read the menus as some folks will find it hard to find something they like.

•Weather

Most amusement and water parks will close outdoor activities when lightning is nearby. I recently visited Blizzard Beach. I drove my van while wearing wet clothes. At the parking garage’s bathroom I changed clothes. 10 minutes in the rain and I was wetter than at the water park. Chills can set in when the high winds kick in. Air conditioned buses will feel like a deep freezer. When Disney closes the lazy rivers they don’t let you wait to get to your camp or the front. You might have to walk halfway around the park. Tampa storms are eastbound and extreme. If a storm is coming out of the west (Tampa) GET OUT! Sometimes waiting an hour will change things. Storms out of the east (Miami) are lightweight, usually, and tend to do little damage.

•Fun, entertainment, and tips

Having read the rules, told the group the rules, and packed for a week trek, should make this a fun outing. Check the schedule as there are events during the year such as the Olympics themed bash. There is usually one character per park with limited hours and they don’t come out during storms.
There are many things to do at Disney water parks. The short kids can start off in a safe play area with splashing features, slides, activities, lifeguards, and shallow entry kiddie pools. Disabled guests might be able to get a water wheelchair that requires someone to push them. There are bump steps at the creeks and the main pool is shallow entry. There is a gondola on the ski lift for wheelchairs and disabled guest who can’t use the ski lift. There are single and double tubes as well as toddler tubes with a solid bottom.

•Cabanas

There are private umbrellas with a couple of towels, umbrella and chairs for at least $40. Save your money!

Cabanas are expensive and worth the cost if you can afford it. They include private locker, towels, table and chairs, waiter who fetches drinks and food (you pay for items), cooler full of ice, and bottled water. This may have changed. 6 people who don’t have to worry about protecting their space and personal belongings.