REVIEW - Frontera Cocina at Disney Springs

Jun 28, 2016 in "Frontera Cocina"

Frontera Cocina overview
Posted: Tuesday June 28, 2016 7:18am EDT by WDWMAGIC Staff

Disney Springs welcomed another new restaurant yesterday, with the June 27 opening of Frontera Cocina in the Town Center.

With a menu created by famed chef Rick Bayless, Frontera Cocina promises gourmet fresh Mexican food with a modern twist.

Chef Bayless has teamed up with one of Disney’s long serving partners, Vista Springs, to operate the restaurant. The same company also operates the Mexican restaurants at Epcot and Coronado Springs.

Located in the new Town Center district of Disney Springs, Frontera Cocina occupies a prime spot amongst the cluster of restaurants. It has its entrance accessible from the main shopping corridor (near to the Disney Springs Welcome Center), and an outdoor patio overlooking the central spring.

The Dining Rooms

Stepping inside, you are immediately struck by the amount of natural light. Large windows dominate the sides, and the expansive raised ceiling includes a number of windows further adding to the light and airy feeling.

With seating for a couple of hundred guests, the restaurant isn’t large by Disney Springs standards, and it adds to a more intimate feel.

The dining area is split into three sections. The main dining area alongside the kitchen occupies the most space, with seating typically arranged in tables of four, although other configurations are available. 

A central bar area brings a different look to the middle of the restaurant, with dramatic blue overhead light fixtures.

At the rear of the restaurant is another dining room, and the entrance to the outdoor patio seating.

Seating outside will not be a popular choice in the summer, but in the cooler weather, the waterside view will be a much sought after spot.

There isn’t a lot of soft furnishings in the dining rooms, and the ambiance suffers slightly. Even with a half empty dining room, it was slightly noisy. Conversation was not a problem, but it will be worth considering if the restaurant is at capacity.

Like all Disney restaurants, it is family friendly, and there is a good kids menu available. The slightly noisier ambiance will certainly help families with little ones.

The Food

The Frontera Cocina menu has a simple layout of Starters, Salads, Tacos & Tortas, and Entrees, with each section offering around 4 to 6 selections. 

We started with a Verde Guacamole and Chips, priced at $10.

For $10, the starter could be considered expensive, but remember this is all made in-house, and both the guacamole and chips certainly tasted like they were made moments ago. We felt both slightly lacked seasoning, but that may just be our personal preference.

The Chipotle Chicken Tostadas were excellent. Packed with flavor, there are three on the plate, enough to share, but you may well want them all to yourself. 

Moving onto the main course, we first tried the most expensive entree on the menu, the Carne Asada. For $34, you get red chile-marinated Creekstone Natural Black Angus steak, black beans refritos with Cotija cheese, caramelized plantains with crema and queso fresco, tomatillo salsa and house-made warm corn tortillas.

The beef was very flavorful and tender. Nicely cooked at something close to a medium-rare, and beautifully presented on a wooden board. 

The Carne Asada is a really strong dish, and is a stand out at this restaurant. For $34 it it isn’t a large serving, but its quality shines through. 

Many restaurants serve a half chicken, and very few stand out. Frontera Cocina has two on the menu, and we ordered the Cocina Half Chicken, described as Ancho marinated half chicken, with queso añejo mashed potatoes, grilled knob onions, and chipotle salsa, priced at $27.

We are very happy to report that Frontera Cocina seems to really know how to cook chicken. This is some of the juiciest and moist chicken breast we have ever eaten. The skin was crispy, and the flavor of the marinade was there throughout the meat.

If you are looking for something a little less expensive, the Tacos and Tortas section has dishes between $14 and $20.

The Pepito Torta at $16 is a slow-cooked short rib sandwich, with artisan Jack cheese, black beans, pickled jalapeños, arugula, cilantro cream, chipotle salsa, and a taqueria salad.

Like the other two entrees, the sandwich was a really good dish. The meat tender, and full of flavor. The bread was just the way you want it, fresh, warm and with a little crunch on the crust.

The dessert selection consists of three choices all priced at $9, a Pecan Pie Bar, a Fried-Plantain Sundae, and a Coconut Lime Quatro Leches.

We tried two desserts, representing opposing ends of the dessert spectrum.

The first was the light and refreshing Coconut Lime Quatro Leches. Which is a sponge cake soaked with four milks topped with whipped cream, toasted coconut, fresh blackberries, and lime zest. 

This is a great choice if you are wanting something light after a large dinner. 

Then for the serious dessert fans, the Pecan Pie Bar served with Mexican vanilla ice cream. It is heavy, gooey, sweet and delicious.

The Kid's menu has tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas.

View Frontera Cocina menu.

The Walk-Up To-Go Window

Just like the nearby Morimoto Asia restaurant, Frontera Cocina also includes a walk-up window with a To-Go service. It is located on the side of the restaurant, just across from Sprinkles.

The walk-up menu is limited, but if you are in a hurry and want something to eat on the go, this is another option. We’ll be back later for a review.

The Service

Although perhaps bordering on the slow side, the service was very good, and at the same high standard that you would expect at Disney World. With it being opening day, the speed of service will likely increase.

The Verdict

We had very high hopes for Frontera Cocina, and it certainly delivered. This isn’t your typical Mexican restaurant. The modern interpretation of Mexican cuisine by Chef Bayless is very apparent throughout all the dishes we tasted.

Disney Springs began its restaurant revolution with the higher end options in The Landing, and Frontera Cocina offers a great option at a lower price point. Expect to pay around $40 per person here, instead of the closer to $80 at the more higher priced Landing restaurants. We expect the upcoming Homecoming restaurant to be priced similarly, which along with Blaze Pizza and D-LUXE Burger, gives guests a real choice of restaurants to fit any budget. Disney Springs management should be given credit for not only offering a varied line-up of cuisines, but also for hitting all three price points so effectively.

It is clear that Frontera Cocina has been thoughtfully put together, and even if you are not a fan of Mexican food, this is one Mexican restaurant that you should try. It might just change your mind of what Mexican cuisine can be. Frontera Cocina goes straight to the top of our list for Mexican cuisine at Walt Disney World.

Reservations will be available later in July, with the restaurant currently operating daily as a walk-up only.

Operating hours are 11am to to 11pm daily. The restaurant is on the Disney Dining Plan, at one table service credit. Tables in Wonderland and other discounts are likely to be added later.

Like all WDWMAGIC dining reviews, all food was paid for by the reviewers and was not part of any promotional visit.

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TDogg76Apr 18, 2017

Service and cleanliness!

danyoung56Apr 18, 2017

What was so bad at Paddlefish?

TDogg76Apr 17, 2017

In late March, my wife and I tried Cocina! The previous day we had a very bad experience at Paddlefish and hoped this would be better! We were not disappointed! The service and food were great!!!! I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Mexican cuisine!!!

BuddyThomasJul 08, 2016

I said the way it LOOKED. I said nothing about the food.

worldfanaticJul 08, 2016

I have to agree. It just seems a bit "sterile" to me. I'm sure the food is great, and I'll no doubt eventually dine there. But with all the other new options at Disney Springs, I think I'll go somewhere else with a bit better atmosphere on my upcoming trip.

Hockey89Jul 08, 2016

I can't even wrap my brain around this post... How does it look like high end hospital food from the review? Rick B is one of the best chefs of Mexican food in the country... High end hospital good lord

ajrwdwgirlJul 07, 2016

My husband and I ate at Frontera a few days ago. We have enjoyed one of his restaurants in Chicago and like using Bayless' products from the grocery store. So we may have had a bias, but we loved Frontera Cocina. The food was flavorful and fresh, and the service was great. The atmosphere was lively and I enjoyed the music they played too. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip, my husband said he slightly preferred Morimotos but Frontera was right near the top.

BuddyThomasJun 30, 2016

Argh. Not liking the look of this place at all. It really looks like a high-end hospital cafeteria. Maybe it's better in person. I hope so. :confused:

wdwmagicJun 29, 2016

Yes it hasn't been updated yet. Enjoy your trip!

tem325Jun 29, 2016

Thank you for the review! We were looking to dine somewhere for one table service credit at Disney Springs when we are there in December. You commented that it is one table service credit on the DDP, but the WDW website does not have that listed. Perhaps WDW just hasn't updated that yet?

Sans SouciJun 28, 2016

Wow. That looks delicious. That coconut lime dessert and fried plantains are right up my alley. I just made a reservation through Open Table. :hungry:

Kylo KenJun 28, 2016

I am excited to give this a try. All the pics presented show a great fresh product. The carne asada looks great and looks to be served the way it should be (sorry I love me some carne asada). It is definitely a welcome change from San Angel Inn and La Hacienda. Both to me have become a little stale. Definitely enjoying all the new Disney Springs offerings.

Hockey89Jun 28, 2016

Agreed... Disney needed new high end places...So badly....

senor_jorgeJun 28, 2016

At the top of our list along with Morimoto. The Rick Bayless involvement is pretty evident in the menu. If the pics reflect the norm the execution is pretty impressive as well. Partnering with Creekstone Farms is another plus. Their products address some different priorities, and the Natural line is a great choice here. Lots to like.