Kevin Klose - April 7, 2008
I’ve been asked if there are any “out of the way” dining spots at Disney that I would consider to be “worth the trip”. It seems people are looking for a new experience….something fresh…..something different.
You’ve all heard the ravings (whether deserved or not) about Le Cellier and Jiko….but where is the next hot spot? What restaurant is worth a ride on a Disney bus?
In an effort to find this experience, we’ve started visiting some of the restaurants that you don’t hear about as often.
Now….where to begin? Here is some background information.
It was a regular night during the week and we decided to go out to eat. Our destination…a neighborhood Mexican restaurant with great food and awesome prices. Two of us can feast for $22.00 including an appetizer, two entrees and two soft drinks.
While on our way, we started talking about our schedule for the rest of the week and realized that we had little free time to visit a Disney restaurant for this week’s review. It was obvious our plan needed to change so we headed for Disney.
As I said earlier, we had decided to go off the beaten path looking for “hidden gems” and with a taste for Mexican food….we decided to head for the Coronado Springs Resort. This is a just a little insight into the scientific way we choose which restaurant to review.
We have previously extolled the virtues of the Pepper Market Food Court, so our obvious choice was the Maya Grill.
I am sad to say that after blowing 100 bucks…and missing our favorite Mexican place…this is definitely not a “hidden gem”
We approached the podium without an ADR at approximately 6:00pm. Looking into the vast and nearly deserted restaurant, the hostess asked if we had reservations. The old joke of “yes…but we’re still going to eat here” came to mind but we said no and asked if that was an issue. We were quickly shown to a table.
The Maya Grill is a very large space. The main section is a soaring room containing what I assume is supposed to be a Mayan temple but looks more like 1960’s era modern / modular church. It has windows and natural light and is much more appealing than where we were seated.
We were shown to the low “ceilinged” Mayan Denny’s section of the restaurant.
This section has stiff backed booths and chairs that look like they were purchased at one of those discount furniture stores and described as “modern”. It also has the very worst lighting imaginable for people and food. There are recessed fixtures in the ceiling that are a dark yellow color and give everyone a jaundiced pallor.
It amazes me that a place famed for it’s imagination and creativity would allow the use of yellow lighting in a high end restaurant…and make no mistakes folks…the Maya Grill is high end…..well at least the prices.
On to our dinner…..
We decided on the Pulled Pork Empanada ($9.00) served with a Chipotle cream and the Seafood Margarita ($10.00) which is shrimp, lobster and mussels marinated in lime and tequila. We also decided to try the soup of the day, Beef Barley ($7.00).
There were 2 empanadas served. They were each about the size of a playing card and drizzled with brown gravy and lying on a bed of shredded lettuce. If this appetizer had been 3 or 4 dollars, I would tell you that they were tasty. At $9.00…it’s a rip off.
The Seafood Margarita came served in a margarita glass. It was basically a salsa with three mussels and a few bits of shrimp and supposedly lobster. There was a lime and tequila sauce over everything. I’m going to take their word for the fact that there was lobster in there…but I couldn’t find it. Again….overpriced at $10.00 but tasty.
The Beef Barley soup had a smoky, wood fired flavor…but not to keep abusing the dead horse…overpriced at $7.00 a bowl.
While getting ready to order our entrees, a server walked by with something stacked up on a plate. I asked our server what it might be and she said it’s Mmmmpphh….excuse me….it’s mmmmmppphhh…it’s a dessert. Ok….we’ll get to that later.
John decided on the Mixed Grill ($32.00) which consists of Filet Mignon, the Fresh Catch and St. Louis Style ribs. It also included a potato choice and mixed veggies.
I had the Chilean Salmon Filet ($27.00) which also included the potato and veggie.
Our server described the fresh mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and we both said yes.
John’s dish consisted of the smallest, saddest piece of beef I think I have ever seen. It was roughly ¾ of an inch thick and over done. There was also a small piece of non-descript mahi-mahi and the highlight of his dinner, the St. Louis Style ribs. I know what you’re thinking….what makes them St. Louis Style and why would you have St. Louis Style ribs in a vaguely Mexican restaurant? The answer to both is…who knows? The good news is that they were very good barbecued ribs. The mashed potatoes were a let down of basic mashed potatoes with some overdone onion bits. Blech!
I had asked the server what Chilean Salmon might be, thinking it might have a spicy rub or some exotic flavors. Nope…wrong again….it’s salmon from Chile and served in a house butter sauce.
The fish was oily and greasy and layered over the poorly described mashed potatoes and served with a few huge chunks of barely cooked zucchini and yellow squash.
I can only say that this food was sloppily prepared and even more sloppily presented. It looked rushed and messy and like something you would get at a department store buffeteria. And to top it all off….it was served under that awful yellow light which made it look un-healthy.
To finish this mess….we decided to try that un-decipherable dessert. Again…the description was lovely. The reality was that it was three hard meringue cookies with a dollop of chocolate mousse between the layers and it was $8.00.
With one soft drink and what was listed above….the total came to $99.00 for two people.
We gave our server our Disney Dining Experience card. She returned with our bill and explained that she had taken the 20% discount but had NOT added the 18% mandatory gratuity. Smart server! She got the full 20% plus on the pre-discount total and she deserved it. She had worked for it and her only fault was her descriptions. We found it interesting as this is the only place that this has ever happened.
Going back to our original idea of finding Disney’s “hidden gem”…..look elsewhere…..there are no gems in this temple.