Refreshing Disney Springs making changes
In the modishly decorated dining room of a lakeside restaurant, a young man wheeled a cart to the side of a beautifully set and clothed table and prepared one of the specialties of the house, lobster guacamole for four.
It is a pretty, flavorful dish, a higher-end riff on the current tableside guac trend.
Then again, Paddlefish, the restaurant in which it was made and served, is a higher-end riff on its predecessors, not to mention a glimpse of things as they are and will be at Disney Springs, and that means “ambitious.”
Paddlefish is in the famed old paddlewheeler in what formerly was the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, then Walt Disney World Village, then the Disney Village Marketplace, then Downtown Disney. But Disney Springs’ continuing transition makes it nothing like its previous incarnations.
Those changes include the recent end of Disney Quest, on the district’s modern-looking West Side, and its replacement by the NBA Experience, the opening date of which remains unannounced. So too will Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba” disappear after Dec. 31, and its replacement remains a mystery.
“Given Disney’s strong relationship with Cirque du Soleil over the years, we may soon have news to share about exciting new entertainment coming to Disney Springs,” Disney Springs marketing manager Darcy Clary said.
Up the street, Wolfgang Puck’s Grand Café will depart the West Side this summer as well, though Wolfgang Puck Express will remain in the Marketplace and a new Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill will open next year in Town Center. Its look will be farmhouse-style and intended to remind diners of Spago, Puck’s famed restaurant in California
Planet Hollywood, now the “Planet Hollywood Observatory,” has reopened too, and it is little like its former self, though the entertainment artifacts are there along with the outdoor terrace and lounge. So is the influence of TV Chef Guy Fieri, who redesigned its family-friendly menu.
Say goodbye to the venerable Portabello, across the way from “the boat” too. Celebrity Chef Tony Mantuano and Levy Restaurants, which also operates Paddlefish, will open Terralina Crafted Italian, which is designed to imitate the style of Italy’s Lake District. It will serve wood-fired pizzas as well as Italian entrees and it is expected to open this fall.
Meanwhile, Disney Springs’ retailers thrive, United World Soccer having morphed into Pelé Soccer, the Greatest of All Time having lent the shop his name. Savannah Bee Company, a honey seller formerly housed in a relatively tiny kiosk near the bridge at The Landing, has moved to a bigger, permanent location in the traditional-looking Marketplace.
And as other retailers, like Japan’s Uniqlo, that two-story seller of surprisingly inexpensive apparel, thrive (“I love it. The clothes there are cotton, stylish and cheap,” said Charles Stevens of Viera), the focus this year remains on food and beverage.
Paddlefish, the former Fulton’s Crab House and once-elegant Empress Lilly, opened earlier this year and so did Town Center’s The Polite Pig, a sister restaurant to the well-reviewed Ravenous Pig, DoveCote and Cask & Larder. The quick-service venue features barbecued/smoked fare, St. Louis ribs being the most expensive thing on the menu at $19.
“It’s owned by the (Julie and Jim) Petrakis family, which tells you something about quality, but it is a quick-service restaurant with a full bar and an extensive selection of spirits,” Lamason said.
“The Edison is coming later this year too,” Lamason said, and she did not mean Thomas, but an “industrial Gothic restaurant, bar and nighttime destination” based on a venue of the same name in Los Angeles, with classic American food, cocktails and entertainment, including a cabaret. The theme will be a 1920s-era electric company and entertainment will include contortionists and aerialists.
By year’s end, Wine Bar George, the namesake of world-class Master Sommelier George Miliotes, will open with wine list that will include more than 100 selections by bottle and glass in a range of varietals, vintages and prices. Cheese and charcuterie will be offered and “wine education will be served up in an approachable and fun manner, including special events and visits from renowned winemakers,” according to Disney’s publicists.
Finally, there is perhaps the most heralded addition to the Disney Springs culinary lineup, the multi-level Jaleo, the work of Chef José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup. Contemporary Spanish in theme and flavor, it will feature the likes of paella cooked over a wood fire, hand-carved Jamon Iberico de Bellota and wood-grilled Iberico pork. It also will have a grab-and-go storefront on the street.
From the beginning, it has been a destination for Brevardians.
Elizabeth Anziano of Merritt Island is a frequent visitor.
“The new food options are incredible. … It’s pretty and aesthetically pleasing, the garages are great and I do love walking around there. (We) go over often. I ran into Kevin Buck there in December; he was my drama teacher at Cocoa Beach High School, and that was a fun surprise.
“Overall, it’s a great upgrade, the selection of shopping really hit the mark. Now I have to save money because they have my favorite shoes and purses, (and) I can’t pass Sperry or Kate Spade without at least walking inside and imagining wearing everything in the store,” she said.
“I like the choice of restaurants and I like the live (entertainment),” Christa Vermillera of Melbourne said. “It definitely is adult-friendly, with alcohol and shopping.”
Meanwhile, the grand old paddlewheeler originally, named for Walt Disney’s wife, now gray-colored and far less ornate, rolls on with its new name and concept.
“We celebrate the nation’s fresh seafood,” executive chef Mark Boor, who was there when it was Fulton’s, said as he handed out overstuffed lobster rolls and crab ceviches, more Paddlefish specialties, and spoke of lobster corn dogs and fresh oysters. “This is a landmark and it deserves the best.”
Retailers: 109 now
Lounges and restaurants: 54 now; five new ones by 2018
Districts: Town Center, with shopping and dining in Florida-themed, Spanish-revival-style style architecture; The Landing, with more boutique-style shopping and dining in 1920s-style architecture, with waterfront views; The Marketplace, the former “Disney Village” area, with the huge “World of Disney” store; and the West Side, formerly Downtown Disney, with more entertainment, retail and dining.
Parking: In addition to traditional lots, two covered garages, “Lime” and “Orange,” serve Disney Springs, with specialized, updated signs that tell drivers where empty spaces are. Paid, preferred parking also is available for $10 and valet parking is $20. A third garage is in the works.