Theme Park of the Day: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Portobello makes a strong comeback at Downtown Disney

February 18, 2009, 3:12 PM · Scott Joseph just sent over a link to his recent review of Portobello in Downtown Disney. [Apparently, it's not a "Yacht Club" anymore. :-P ]

Scott gives the new team running the restaurant a strong review:

The restaurant I found at Downtown Disney recently was very different from the old place. The food was top-notch – creative interpretations of Italian dishes that were flavorful and filling. And I suddenly find myself able to once again recommend it as a destination.

When it first opened, Portobello was my favorite restaurant in Downtown Disney, and not just because the husband of one my friends and co-workers in Magic Kingdom West Attractions cooked there. After growing up in Indianapolis (bleech) and spending four years broke as a college student in Chicago, Portobello was the restaurant where I discovered that food could be something better than cafeteria or fast food. I thank Portobello for my ever-since-then addiction to roasted garlic, for example. So it's nice to see that they've got folks in the kitchen again who care about food as much as my friend Gene did back in the day.

Here are a couple other notes today that I wanted to mention, but for which didn't feel like creating separate blog entries:

  • The new owners of Hard Rock Park got off to a good start, announcing that they will cut one-day ticket prices to under $40 and give last year's annual pass holders admission to the park this year for free. The park will add a few new children's rides, too.

  • Universal Orlando is offering free admission to U.S. military personnel, too, joining Disney and the Busch theme parks. Through June 28, personnel with a valid military photo I.D. can get a seven-day, two-park ticket free. Family members can buy them for $35 off. Tickets are available at base ITT/ITR offices, or at (and I found this worth a chuckle) the Shades of Green at Walt Disney World.

    Replies (11)

    February 18, 2009 at 3:33 PM · They need to aim lower with the HRP price. $35 is still a lot of money. The economy isn't good, and the park has a pretty strong negative buzz that it has to overcome. I also have to flinch at their 800,000 attendance estimate.

    On the plus side, they're absolutely correct to add more children's attractions. I hope they make them more permanent looking than the Banana Splits area - while the rides looked good, they were just positioned over pavement - it screamed carnival ride.

    But I'm thrilled that my AP is still good...

    February 18, 2009 at 3:45 PM · If you take a look at a few Disney rides you can see how Carnival they are, especially in DinoLand USA. Just look past the woood and paint next time you are there and you'll see.

    In fact DinaLand really needs some work on it to make it look Disney Standard!

    Hard Rock, Good call on their behalf, lowing prices, honouring last years APs.

    Military discounts - Should Apply to allie countries too, like the UK.

    If they want more business in these tough times it would be a great ad campaign in UK TV offering free entry to UK Military. My Bro would be over (again) in a shot if he could save 148 british quid on ticket prices!!!

    February 18, 2009 at 4:08 PM · I agree, Portobello is great! That is one downside of FL, at least in the tourism area: pretty bad Italian food. I guess you can call my family Italian resturant snobs. Their picks for FL are Giordanos in Crosswalks, Portobello at Downtown Disney, and Wolfgang Puck's
    February 18, 2009 at 4:12 PM · Were you making a funny, Gareth? The whole point of Dinoland USA is that it's supposed to have the atmosphere of a roadside carnival circa the 60s and 70s. Whether or not this theme was a good idea is certainly open for debate, but I think they nailed what they were going for.
    February 18, 2009 at 4:28 PM · lol, I was, you got it very quickly too :( So unfair...
    February 18, 2009 at 5:31 PM · Intent doesn't excuse being lame.

    That said, I'm not as opposed to carny rides in a kiddie land. Just landscape 'em and decorate them well. (See Camp Snoopy for the original rubric.)

    Also interesting to see how the new HRP's attendance goals have shifted. Remember when we were attacked by park backers for suggesting that there was no way in heck that Hard Rock Park was going to do "30,000 visitors a day," as the original management team promised?

    February 18, 2009 at 7:01 PM · Thanks for the Portobello review....I have heard several very good reviews about the new menu. I doubt it will take the place of Raglan Road as my favorite, but it is definitely worth a visit.

    Adding a few kiddie rides to HRP should not be an issue provided, as Steve and Robert said, they dress em up with some flair and panache. Take a look at the kiddie rides at, everything at that park looks awesome.

    I still think HRP needs their version of DCA's Blue Sky Cellar: a place to showcase their new 10 year plan for the park. Nothing works better at ensuring long term customer loyalty than showing the folks what you plan to do to make their theme park experience even better.

    As for DinoLand USA, that Chester and Hector area just blows. It is the Paradise Pier of WDW. Where's the $1.1 billion to fix that travesty, Iger?

    February 19, 2009 at 8:41 AM · I know that it seems 'chuckle worthy' that Shades of Green at WDW is selling the Universal tickets, but you should know that SoG is NOT a WDW resort - it's an Armed Forces Recreation Center located on Disney property. Their ITT office also sells Sea World, Busch Gardens, and all other Orlando-area tickets.

    And FYI, staying at SoG doesn't even get you free parking in the WDW parks. Well, it might if you get a cool parking attendant, but I was told last time I was there that they aren't supposed to let you park for free anymore.

    I have to add, though, that this year is a great year to be a military member (or retiree for that matter) living in Central Florida! :)

    February 19, 2009 at 10:42 AM · I did know that SoG isn't an "official" WDW Resort (although it was one of the original WDW hotels - the Golf Resort - before Disney sold it to DoD). But given the diligence with which Disney has kept out from its property all references to other area attractions, it's noteworthy that there is this little island within WDW boundaries that does acknowledge the outside world.

    And, by the way, Disney, c'mon, give the SoG guests free parking! You can't tell me Disney wouldn't earn some nice goodwill, not to mention some positive press, by doing that.

    February 19, 2009 at 12:42 PM · You're right - I find it odd and yet kind-of cool that this is the only place on Disney property that DOES make reference to other Orlando-area attractions. It is a definite benefit to those eligible to use it because otherwise they'd have to drive to Patrick AFB (south of Cocoa Beach, also where I'm stationed) or MacDill AFB (in south Tampa) to be able to purchase tickets.
    February 20, 2009 at 7:02 AM · As recommended by Robert, I'm posting my tips regarding the Universal Military deal. I'll also post it in the "Top money saving tips" section.

    As an active duty military member living in central Florida, and an admitted Theme Park Nut, I make every effort to be as informed as possible on deals regarding admission to the parks.

    The Universal deal for military is really only good for the military member, and *maybe* a non-FL resident visitor. The reasons are:
    - The price for a 'companion', 7-day 2-park ticket is $10 less than the Annual Pass ticket you can buy at the local Publix.
    - You can get a 1-day 2-park ticket on base (and at SoG) for $65, which is the same cost (before taxes) as a FL resident ticket purchased through Universal's web site. And that ticket doesn't have the FL resident restriction.

    In short, for any military member's planning on using this benefit, I'd recommend the following:

    - If you LIVE in FL, buy annual passes for your 'companions'. You can get one for yourself to for subsequent visits after your free ones.

    - If you're NOT a FL resident and you're coming to Orlando on vacation, just get the 1-day 2-park ticket, unless you REALLY think you'll go more than one day.

    Personally, I don't think the entire Universal 'complex' is worth more than one day - you can see the best of both parks in one day EASILY (assuming low crowds). We just did it last month. :)

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