Over the last few years, Pepper Market has had a bit of an identity crisis, going from standard counter service food court to buffet, back to food court. It has also tested out a variety of different menu items. For a location that most theme park guests will never experience, it seems that Disney has given Pepper Market a lot of attention. This is likely because of its strong convention demographic, and either trying to make a good impression on business travelers in the hopes of luring them back, or simply trying to find a good balance of efficiency and quality in this spot that can be quite popular during events.
Whatever the reason, all guests of Pepper Market are the winners. Pepper Market has a strong, varied menu with plenty of enticing choices and at a full range of price points, which can make it appealing from a value perspective to those on the Disney Dining Plan and those paying out of pocket. Most important, the food is good and unique.
Let’s take a look at the restaurant and the food…
Another way that Pepper Market has changed over the years is in regards to seating/serving. There is a lot of understandable confusion over this, so let’s clarify what the now current (as of March 2014) protocol is at Pepper Market. Essentially, Pepper Market works just like many other hotel food courts (and even in-park places like Sunshine Seasons) in that you have separate ordering bays for different foods. Like these other food courts, you can get what you want from the various stations.
The only difference here is that at each of the ordering bays, a Cast Member stamps your Pepper Market ‘ticket’ with what you ordered, you eat your food, and you pay when you leave the restaurant. There is no server, and there is no gratuity added. Why Pepper Market uses the slip system and has you pay after you eat is beyond us, but it probably has to do with the location of the cash registers…or maybe it’s some traditional Mexican policy and the theming is just that good! 😉
In terms of ambiance, Pepper Market is pretty good for a food court, but fairly average overall. It basically looks like a big market (of pepper?) with decor suggestive of the market. The seating area has nice thematic touches, but it’s so huge and open that the overwhelming feeling is ultimately one of “mall food court.” Maybe mall food court in Mexico. In the 1990s. Just kidding about the ‘in the 1990s’ part, although the vibrant colors and some designs do remind me a tad of a local mall I used to visit back in the day. I guess Mexico is just a colorful place?
In all seriousness, the giant chicken goddess (below) and pink sheep-dog-man (half man, half sheep, and half dog ;), top photo) are pretty cool. Okay, that probably doesn’t sound serious, but seriously, they’re cool.
In fairness, most hotel food courts take a utilitarian approach rather than going for ornate theming. Pepper Market is a fun place regardless, and we especially like the tables by the edge of the restaurant that offer window views into the courtyard.
“Where Dreams Come True” is what this menu item should be called, with your stomach, after you eat it, being, “Where the Magic Lives.” Available certain days at the Chef’s Station, this 1/2 slab of ribs was excellent. It’s my understanding that this is a new item that’s now available fairly regularly, but don’t send me hate mail if it’s not there when you visit–the Chef’s Station theoretically changes what it serves daily. These tender ribs were perfectly cook and incredibly messy (that, or I recklessly consumed them like a starved hyena). They came with cheddar-spiced cornbread, and on top of potatoes and vegetables. I made sure to immediately get the vegetables off my plate after this photo, as I didn’t want them desecrating the ribs, but the cornbread was very good and the potatoes were fine.
It’s been too long since we’ve been to Flame Tree BBQ so my memory isn’t completely clear, but these ribs just might give Flame Tree a run for its money. I know ribs aren’t exactly the most interesting choice at a Mexican restaurant, but I could not resist, and I highly recommend these ribs. They are about $15, so not a great value if you’re paying out of pocket, but they are an excellent value if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan.
This is the Aztec Burger. It might take the cake (of beef) as the best counter service burger at Walt Disney World. Not only does the 1/2 pound of meat seem of a higher quality than the standard counter service beef patties, but the bun seems nicer, too. The burger is topped with fried onions, fried jalapeños, guacamole, tomato, lettuce, chipotle aïoli, and pepper jack cheese. Plus, it’s served with delicious garlic Parmesan potato wedges. The burger isn’t too spicy, but has great flavor and texture thanks to the toppings. Disney has tried its hand at a lot of unique burgers over the last few years, almost all of which have been flops. This burger is a rarity in that it’s unique and delicious. At a regular counter service restaurant, it would be the menu standout. At Pepper Market, it’s a good pick, but is overshadowed by other options.
Sarah likes to go for lighter options, so these chicken tacos are more her style. She thought they were good “for what they were,” and I think that’s about the only way to put it. Nothing mindblowing, but for basic tacos like this, what do you really expect?
Instead of going this route, or with something equally ordinary like the chef salad or pasta, my advice would be to try one of the more interesting items. The Crabcake Sandwiches, Grilled Chicken Torta, and Philly Cheese Steak all looked good, and even choices like the Empanadas or Market Nachos seem better.
Overall, Pepper Market is a great counter service option that we highly recommend. While the prices are a tad on the high side, the food is excellent, with more variety than just about any other Walt Disney World counter service restaurant. We were both really impressed by the exhaustive menu, and had a difficult time narrowing it down to only a few things to try. The only problem with Pepper Market is location. While it’s easy to recommend spots like Contempo Cafe or Roaring Fork because they’re easy to access and make a nice midday break while in the parks, Pepper Market doesn’t have that. If you’re not a guest staying at Coronado Springs, local, or fellow Disney blogger, it might be difficult to justify the hour-plus round-trip commute out to Coronado Springs to eat at Pepper Market. If you can, somehow, justify the commute or have another reason to visit Coronado Springs, by all means, dine at Pepper Market.
Overall Score: 9.5/10
To read other Disney restaurant reviews from Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland, organized by location, check out our Disney Dining Reviews Index.
Have you been to Pepper Market? What did you think of it? Is it something you’d like to try? If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please post them in the comments. We love hearing from readers!