Tag Archives | Downtown Disney dining

Spotlight: Bongos Cuban Café at Downtown Disney

Created by music superstar Gloria Estefan and her producer husband Emilio, Bongos Cuban Cafe transports you to a Miami hotspot.  This vibrant Orlando restaurant is a mosaic of colors and flavors set against infectious music. The internal architecture and mosaics were designed by the well known Luciano Franchi de Alfaro, and the outside was designed by Bernardo Fort Brescia.  Both the interior and exterior are exquisitely themed.  The ambiance is that of a lively 1950s Havana nightclub, and the bar is housed inside a 75-foot tall pineapple sculpture and features bongo drum bar stools. There’s lush greenery, a fantastic mosaic mural, and waterfall. There are two levels which offer indoor and outdoor seating.  The pulsing, Latin rhythms add to the great ambiance, however, sometimes it’s so loud, it can be difficult to have a conversation.  This tropical theme brings South Beach to Downtown Disney.

Each night, the official Desi Arnaz impersonator takes the stage and brings back old Havana.  Along with state of the art sound systems, there is a fascinating light show every Friday & Saturday night.  In addition to the two story restaurant, there are three bars featuring specialty drinks, including Mojitos, and an Express window. The Express window is open daily from 9:30am till midnight.  There are live bands on Friday and Saturday nights from 9:00 to 2:00pm. There may be an entertainment venue scheduled which requires separate cover at the door or pre arrival ticket purchase.

The food consists of traditional Cuban cuisine like the delicious paella de mariscos (seafood paella) Cubano (Cuban sandwich), pan con lechon (pork sandwich), pollo asado (roast chicken), and flan de leche (traditional flan).  Reservations are suggested, especially on the weekends.  Although the atmosphere is lively, the food and service get mixed reviews.

$$, casual dress, Cuban cuisine, full bar, Reservations suggested, lunch and dinner
Downtown Disney West Side, 1498 East Buena Vista Drive Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-8422 – (407) 828-0999
Special & Unique Dining
A la Carte
Price Level:
$$ ($15 to $35.99)

Spotlight: Rainforest Café at Downtown Disney

Well, it’s a jungle out there, especially if you’re dining at the popular Rainforest Café at Downtown Disney. This restaurant is wildly decorated with lush tropical vegetation.  It even has banyan trees and waterfalls! Just to make sure you feel like you’re in the actual rainforest, there are simulated thunderstorms, trumpeting elephants, gorillas, and animated animals roaming around.

Along with the ambiance, you’ll enjoy a variety of American fare, from salads and sandwiches to burgers, poultry dishes, as well as vegetarian selections and kid-friendly meals.  The ‘Best of Citysearch’ even voted The Rainforest Café best family-friendly restaurant of 2006.  So, enjoy a great meal, but leave room for dessert.  Their signature dish is the Sparkling Volcano, which is a chocolate brownie with ice cream, whipped cream, caramel and chocolate sauce, yum!

There is also a retail village where you can find souvenirs for the whole family.  Since this is such a popular place, you definitely want to make a reservation at the Disney reservation line: (407) 939-3463.  If you have any special dietary needs or allergies, they are happy to accommodate you; just let them know when making your reservation, which can be made up to 180 days in advance.

See you in the jungle!

$$, casual dress, American cuisine, reservations recommended, full bar, open for lunch and dinner
LOCATION: Downtown Disney Marketplace
ADDRESS: 1800 East Buena Vista Drive Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830 – (407) 827-8500
Hours: Lunch: 11:30AM-4:00PM; Dinner: 5:00PM-10:30PM (Does Not Include Characters)
Service Type: Full Service
Price Range: entrees from $15-$35.99

Spotlight: Planet Hollywood

Movie buffs, this is the restaurant for you!   Planet Hollywood Restaurant and Bar offers an extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia.  This planet-shaped restaurant is huge!  Towering on the outside is a spinning globe with “Planet Hollywood” in bright red neon lights. By the entrance to the side, anchored down, sits the Shrimp Boat ‘Jenny’, used in the movie “Forrest Gump”. They have Father Merrin’s cross and purple scarf from “The Exorcist“, Madonna’s high school yearbook AND one of the original blue/white dresses Judy Garland wore in “The Wizard of Oz“.  This place is loaded floor to ceiling with tons of stuff like that, everything from the rubber model of Christopher Lloyd that was run over with the steamroller in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” to Terminator’s body cast. In addition, some vehicles used in blockbuster films like Herbie the Love Bug and the Terminator 2 motorbike are hanging by string wires from the ceiling. Scary but cool!

I would recommend requesting a table on the 3rd floor, as it provides a great view of the entire restaurant.  Since this place is literally shaped like a planet, it is split into three separate levels…the rounded off edge of the planet structure makes the inside truly a grand sight to see.

It generally is super-busy here…partially because of its location at Downtown Disney, one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the world, but also because it’s so unique and everybody wants to see it.  Reservations are recommended, especially for parties of 8 or more.

I thought the food was decent, although a bit over-priced, but I have seen mixed reviews regarding the food quality.  One of the most popular meals is the World Famous Chicken Crunch, which are tender strips of chicken with a crunchy-sweet coating, similar to that of ‘Captain Crunch’ cereal.

Planet Hollywood is a fun place with plenty to see, including wall-to-wall memorabilia and a huge projection screen; a great atmosphere!

$-$$, casual dress, American cuisine, reservations accepted, full bar, open for lunch and dinner
LOCATION: Downtown Disney® West Side Walt Disney Resort – Located adjacent to Disney’s Pleasure Island
: 1506 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
HOURS OF OPERATION: Restaurant: 11am – 1am; Bar: 11am – 2am; Merchandise Shop: 10:00am – 2am
: 407-827-7827
CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED: American Express, Diners Club, Discover, JCB, MasterCard, Visa
RESERVATIONS: For group reservations of 15 or more, contact their Sales Office at 407-827-7836.