Connections Cafe & Eatery Review

Connections Cafe & Eatery is the new counter service restaurant in EPCOT at Walt Disney World. This dining review features food photos, thoughts on the menu, what we recommend ordering, and whether it’s worth your time given the wealth of cuisine in World Showcase.

For starters, a little housekeeping. Technically, there is no Connections Cafe & Eatery. There is Connections Eatery, which is a quick-service restaurant. Separately, there’s Connections Cafe, which is now EPCOT’s Starbucks. Both dining options are under one roof, but with separate marquees and ordering areas. Although it’s a single physical location with no internal demarcation, there is nothing at Walt Disney World known as “Connections Cafe & Eatery.” It’s not an ampersand kinda deal.

With that said, this blog has made the editorial decision to act as if this is one singular spot. Connections Cafe & Eatery, or simply Connections Cafe, is what it’ll henceforth be known as here. You could say it’s because we don’t play by the rules when it comes to Disney’s naming conventions. Or maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for a good alliteration. Perhaps I’ve already taken to calling it Connections Cafe, and there’s no going back now. It might even be all of the above. Just thought I’d share that rather insignificant detail.

If you do want to delineate between the two for some reason–perhaps navigational purposes so you can caffeinate as expeditiously as possible–Connections Cafe faces Spaceship Earth. Connections Eatery faces Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Both are accessible from all entrances, and neither are difficult to find.

Connections Cafe & Eatery is part of World Celebration, which was previously Future World. It’s at the front of EPCOT, which was previously Epcot, and before that, Epcot ’95, Epcot ’94, and EPCOT Center. It also might be in World Discovery and Epcot–it’s hard to say.

According to Walt Disney World, the theme of the restaurant is quite literally its name–connections.

How humans connect with one another and cuisine; how inside and outside harmonize via the open concept; how friends and family gather together around the table; how show kitchens provide a culinary connection.

All of this is illustrated by the centerpiece mural of Connections, which connects the Cafe side to the Eatery side. This sprawling art installation is a celebration of global food harvesting, and how humans connect via cuisine. It highlights eight regions of the world, and showcases sunrise in the east to sunset in the west.

It’s a vibrant mural that celebrates global diversity with a universal concept: the commonality of food, meals, traditions and memories in human civilization. It also has goats.

Aside from the goat-astic mural, there are other details here and there.

Some display cases with antique coffee objects, flooring with nods to Walt Disney and his original vision for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and classic EPCOT iconography are among the highlights.

As noted above, there are also a couple of show kitchens that allow you to see desserts, drinks, and other menu items being prepared.

I’m a big fan of this; watching food being prepared while waiting for my Mobile Order is a nice way to pass the time. Show kitchens also add to the kinetic energy of a restaurant and give a greater feeling of transparency.

The seating at Connections Cafe & Eatery is abundant and varied. There are booths, regular tables, communal high-top tables, lounge chairs, and more.

Some tables have wireless charging, and many of the benches have USB ports and standard charging outlets. All are nice touches that give Connections Cafe & Eatery modern conveniences that are missing from other Walt Disney World venues. It’s similar to the recent room refurbishments that feature functional improvements–hopefully a sign of things to come with other restaurant projects.

Thematically, Connections Cafe & Eatery is almost identical to nearby Creations Shop. In fact, if I copy and pasted my commentary about that venue and simply swapped out the names, no one would be the wiser.

Connections Cafe is nothing special, but it’s not awful either. I’d call it “aggressively average,” with a level of pre-opening hype that makes no sense for what is essentially a very basic restaurant. It’s better than Electric Umbrella, which is a low bar to clear. Its predecessor was dark and dated–a clear vestige of the 1990s transformation of EPCOT Center into Epcot.

At the very least, Connections Cafe is not that. Speaking of things it isn’t, Imagineering mercifully spared us from their go-to style of “rustic hipsters move into an old barn and find some eclectic decor on clearance at Anthropologie.” For that, I’m forever grateful.

Half-jokes aside, Connections Cafe is open and airy. It features floor to ceiling windows that offer big views of Spaceship Earth, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and the World Famous EPCOT Dirt Pit.™️ It’s bright thanks to natural light and has great views of the lush landscaping outside. While I enjoyed quiet evenings up on the “secret” second floor of Electric Umbrella and evenings outside bathed in neon, I’ll take up close views of the passing monorail over that any day.

With that said, Connections Cafe & Eatery is very much like an upscale Target or mall food court during the day. It’s a sprawling, loud, and cavernous place where minimalism crosses over into austere. I’ve seen some Walt Disney World fans compare it to an airport, but I just don’t see it. Plenty of modern airports are nicer and do a better job of breaking up space–especially ones with the budget and design resources of Imagineering.

This is really the crux of my issue with Connections Cafe & Eatery. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with it and it’s an obvious upgrade over its predecessor. The space itself is bland but fine, and the floor-to-ceiling windows do the heavy lifting in offering great views of the marvels of 1982 EPCOT Center. All of those are pluses.

However, what does the venue itself really have going for that’s innate to its design? What about this is something that only Walt Disney Imagineering could’ve done? Look, I’m not expecting everything to be the pinnacle of themed design or something envelope-pushing in the field of immersiveness. But nothing about this is anything special or memorable, and it’s one of several recent additions that could be described in this manner.

To each their own, but I was expecting a location that thematically strove for a bit more than “slightly better than the dated spot here before.” Given the cost (in time and dollars) of EPCOT’s transformation, that seems more than reasonable.

I should also add that Connections Cafe & Eatery presents much better at night. The moody lighting illuminates textures on the walls and ceilings, and imbues the space with personality and peacefulness that’s absent during the day. I took these photos in the evening as the seating area has been chaotic–and not conducive to interior photography–during the midday dining hours.

So if you’re thinking the photos don’t quite match the harsh description, that’s why. Like much of Walt Disney World, Connections Cafe is so much better at night. This is especially true at EPCOT, and in the front of the park in particular, where the high points of the overhaul thus far have really shined at night.

With that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the food at Connections Cafe & Eatery…

We’ve now tried most of the menu over the course of numerous meals at Connections Cafe & Eatery. We’ll speed through reviews of each item.

First up, the pedestrian pizza. This Five-Cheese Pizza is described as having San Marzano Tomato and Basil Sauce, Cheese Blend, and served with Mediterranean Side Salad.

This is nothing special, but it’s a step up from the likes of PizzeRizzo and Pizzafari, as well as every counter service restaurant serving flatbreads. The crust is thick and doughy, with generous helpings of red sauce and cheese. It’s nothing memorable, but it’s average–which is praise by Walt Disney World counter service pizza standards.

Continuing with this portion of the menu, we have the Meatball Pizza: Beef and Pork Meatballs, San Marzano Tomato and Basil Sauce, Cheese Blend, served with Mediterranean Side Salad.

Same deal as the five-cheese pizza, but with meatballs added. Ours were a bit on the dry side, but we’d nevertheless recommend adding them for an extra 50 cents. The protein here will save you from being hungry 30 minutes after eating here and wanting to buy another snack.

Our final pizza is the plant-based Curry Spice Pizza with Tikka Masala, Carrot, Potato, Peas, Tomato, Plant-based Mozzarella, Lime “Yogurt”, served with Mediterranean Side Salad.

This is shockingly good. It has a convincing and robust curry flavor profile, and you can taste the various spices in the masala. The medley of vegetables provides further flavor, which make it filling and delicious. The plant-based “yogurt” on top helps offset any spiciness, which is virtually nonexistent. Sarah loved this, and even I really liked it–the Curry Spice Pizza is far and away the most interesting and tasty pizza on the menu at Connections. Highly recommended.

Turning to burgers, all of which have a “Gourmet Beef Blend.”

This is somewhere between standard Walt Disney World counter service restaurants and the signature patties at D-Luxe Burger. This is a departure from the norm at Disney-owned counter services locations, which normally feature a dry blend of cardboard, capybara, and hyena. It’s probably not quite as good as D-Luxe Burger, but much closer to that.

First up is the Southwestern Burger. This consists of a Gourmet Beef Blend, Roasted Corn-Chipotle Salsa, Oaxaca Cheese Crema, Chamoy, Guacamole Spread, Toasted Bun.

The toppings elevate this burger and come together nicely into exactly what you’d expect of a Southwestern Burger. My one quibble is that the guacamole spread tasted cheap, but I’d still take this over the vast majority of counter service burgers at Walt Disney World. It would just be my last pick among the interesting options at Connections Cafe.

Next is the Banh Mi Burger with a Miso-marinated Gourmet Beef Blend, Pickled Vegetables, Sriracha Mayonnaise, and Toasted Bun.

The first thing to note here is that ours was served with a regular bun instead of a crispy Vietnamese-style baguette (which is/was pictured in Disney’s stock photo). I’m not sure if they ran out of those or already switched them, but that was a bit of a bummer. Otherwise, the miso-marinated patty was an interesting twist (albeit slightly dry), and made for an interesting Americanization of a Banh Mi. I wouldn’t rush to order this again, but I’d give it another chance if the baguette came back.

Another interesting option is the Mediterranean Burger: Gourmet Beef Blend, Shredded Lettuce, Pickled Vegetable and Feta Relish, Zhoug Mayonnaise, and Housemade Doner Bread.

This is probably the first burger I’ve had at Walt Disney World that I’d describe as “light and refreshing.” It’s the toppings that make the difference, along with the airier doner bread. Personally, I would’ve preferred a heaping helping of the toppings to make this a heavier burger, but Sarah thought it was perfect as-is. She absolutely loved this and would highly recommend it.

Our final burger is the French Bistro Burger: Gourmet Beef Blend, Caramelized Onions, Bacon, Brie, Mushrooms, Dijon Mayonnaise, Toasted Brioche Bun.

This actually reminded me a bit of an underrated Electric Umbrella entree, the French Dip Burger. It existed for at least a few years and was a surprisingly delicious burger topped with brisket and muenster cheese. This is better than my memory of that.

The buttery brie cheese works well with the sweet caramelized onions, and there’s no shortage of dijon mayo. The mushroom and bacon (not the normal paper thin stuff Disney serves up for breakfast) take it to the next level. It’s a rich, messy burger that will leave you full and satisfied, but maybe isn’t the ideal thing to eat before getting whipped around on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Mission Space, or Test Track.

The French Bistro Burger is far and away my favorite burger of the bunch, and also the heaviest. It was Sarah’s least favorite. As you can probably glean from the preceding reviews, we are looking for very different things in our burgers!

An additional option in this section of the menu is the Hand-breaded Chicken Sandwich with House-made Pickles, Signature Sauce, and Toasted Brioche Bun.

Remember a few years ago when every fast food restaurant wanted to cash-in on the popularity of Chick-fil-A sandwiches? This is Walt Disney World’s belated entry into that culinary craze. Perhaps they’re late to the party, or maybe they spent several years workshopping the concept. (Probably the former, but we’d like to give the benefit of the doubt.)

The end result is a perfectly-prepared white meat chicken with an expertly breaded exterior. It’s brined in pickle juice and hits that sweet spot between soggy and crunchy, and the pickles and signature sauce take it to the next level. Excellently executed.

Sticking with chicken, there’s the General Tso Chicken Salad: Petite Kale Blend, Broccoli Slaw, Red Bell Pepper, Mandarin Oranges, Edamame, Crispy Wontons, Warm Fried Chicken, and General Tso’s Dressing.

This is another of Sarah’s favorite menu items at Connections Cafe. The chicken is hearty and flavorful–prepared differently than the sandwich, but similarly delicious. The salad itself is far more ambitious than the norm at Walt Disney World counter service restaurants, with a wealth of ingredients that are delicious, abundant, and flavorful. Sarah’s only quibble was that it had too much dressing, but she likes less dressing than the norm. Another highly recommended dish.

For our final entree, we have another salad–the plant-based Niçoise-style Salad with Crispy Mixed Greens, Wedged Potatoes, Tomatoes, Green Beans, Olives, White Beans, and Dijon Vinaigrette.

This is another excellently-executed salad with unique ingredients. We (obviously) ate these dishes over the course of multiple meals, and had this salad before the General Tso Chicken Salad. At that point, we were prepared to sing its praises as one of Walt Disney World’s best standard salads. At this point, we question why anyone would order this when the General Tso Chicken Salad costs only a little more and offers a hearty helping of fantastic fried chicken. Unless you’re a vegetarian, get that instead.

Finally, we have the Liege Waffle: Brioche Dough with Pearl Sugar, Strawberries, Whipped Cream, Chocolate Sauce.

This is already a huge hit with Walt Disney World fans, and we want to start by acknowledging the rave reviews this is garnering. With that said, we weren’t fans. As a vehicle for sugar consumption, it’s highly efficient–we’ll give the Liege Waffle that. Otherwise, there are no fewer than one-dozen superior desserts in EPCOT.

It’s not awful by any means–it would be difficult to take that list of delicious ingredients and screw it up too badly–it just didn’t live up to the hype for us. You might consider ignoring us here and trying it out anyway. (Consider hedging your bets by sharing one to start and ordering more if you disagree with us.)

Ultimately, our take on the Liege Waffle sort of sums up how we feel about Connections Cafe & Eatery as a whole. The menu is an unequivocal upgrade over Electric Umbrella, with a larger lineup and more ambitious options. If this were the new menu at Cosmic Ray’s or Pecos Bill (or just about any Magic Kingdom counter service restaurant), we’d be over the moon.

However, when compared to the alternatives throughout EPCOT–both the festival booths and World Showcase’s culinary powerhouses–it becomes more difficult to enthusiastically recommend anything on the menu at Connections Cafe.

Both literally and figuratively, Connections Cafe & Eatery is best viewed in a certain light. If you’re in this area of the park, wanting to rest and recharge after Cosmic Rewind or Test Track, it won’t let you down. The space is inviting enough and the menu has some options that pleasantly surprise. Connections Cafe brings a much-needed high-capacity restaurant to the front of EPCOT and surpasses its predecessor in every conceivable way, so from those perspectives, it’s a huge success.

However, keep in mind that we compared the interior itself to an upscale Target and one of its best menu items to a Chick-fil-A sandwich, so don’t go in expecting anything inventive or unique. You could say that Connections Cafe is a paradoxical place; clearly better than what came before it, but not as good as it could’ve or should’ve been. Like so many things in life and at Walt Disney World, it’s all a matter of perspective and expectations with Connections Cafe & Eatery.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you dined at Connections Cafe & Eatery? If so, what did you think of the cuisine and atmosphere? Was it better than you expected, or were you disappointed by your food or overall experience? Any of these menu items stand out as things you’d like to try, or will you stick to festival booths and World Showcase? Will you miss Electric Umbrella or are you happy to have something new? Agree or disagree with our Connections Cafe review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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