El Mercado de Coronado Food Court Review
El Mercado de Coronado Food Court, formerly known as Pepper Market, is the counter service restaurant in Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World. In this WDW dining review, we’ll share food photos, thoughts on eating here, and offer a look at the new-look restaurant. (Last updated August 5, 2019.)
One thing we love about El Mercado de Coronado Food Court is that the menu features a wide variety (and we do mean wide) of American and Mexican cuisine. It has one of the most expansive menus of ‘things we’d actually want to eat’ of any counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World. It participates in the Disney Dining Plan, but does not accept Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount. It is one of the best uses of a counter service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.
Over the last few years, this location has experienced an identity crisis, going from standard counter service food court to buffet, back to food court. Most recently, it received a slight aesthetic refresh and changed names from Pepper Market to El Mercado de Coronado. For a location that most theme park guests will never experience, it seems that Walt Disney World has given El Mercado de Coronado a lot of attention…
This is likely because of its strong convention demographic at the new Gran Destino Tower and the rest of Coronado Springs. Disney wants to make a good impression on business travelers in the hopes of luring them back, or they’re 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 Coronado Springs and Gran Destino are the winners. El Mercado de Coronado 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.
Another way that El Mercado de Coronado has changed over the years is in regards to seating/serving. At present, El Mercado de Coronado works just like many other hotel food courts (and even in-park places like Sunshine Seasons). You have separate ordering bays for different foods. Like these other food courts, you can get what you want from the various stations.
In terms of ambiance, El Mercado de Coronado is decent for a food court, but fairly average overall. The colors and design were muted when Pepper Market was transformed into El Mercado de Coronado, and the result is a duller look. The seating area has nice thematic touches, but it’s so huge and open that the feeling is simply one of “food court.”
The biggest blow to the restaurant’s atmosphere is the removal of the giant chicken goddess and pink sheep-dog-man (half man, half sheep, and half dog (file photo from our archives above). We poked fun at these in our previous review, but they were pretty cool. Unfortunately, Walt Disney World wanted to turn Coronado Springs into a more restrained hotel to appeal to convention guests, so they had to go.
In fairness, most hotel food courts take a utilitarian approach rather than going for ornate theming. El Mercado de Coronado is a fun place regardless, and we especially like the tables by the edge of the restaurant that offer window views into the courtyard.
In terms of the food, there are a variety of options at El Mercado de Coronado Food Court, ranging from grab and go sandwiches and ordinary pizza to Mexican cuisine with a bit more pizzazz.
The newest offering is a build your own rice bowl station.
You choose your meat (beef, pork, or chicken), rice base, and beans, and then get to pick from a range of toppings.
This allows for a healthy option (like Sarah’s veggie-forward bowl) or something a bit less-so, like my bowl slathered in sour cream. Either way, this is a fantastic and refreshing option. I’d put it right up there with the bowls at Satu’li Canteen.
“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 hours at the Chef’s Station, this 1/2 slab of ribs was excellent. These tender ribs were perfectly cook and incredibly messy (that, or I recklessly consumed them like a starved hyena).
They come served 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.
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 jalapeÃ±os, guacamole, tomato, lettuce, chipotle aÃ¯oli, 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..
This just scratches the surface of the excellent menu at El Mercado de Coronado Food Court. Additionally, you’ll find Yucatan Roasted Chicken, Pasta Bowl, Paninis, Pizza, Shrimp Po’ Boy Sandwich, a Chef’s Daily Special, and Beyond Burger for vegetarians or vegans. Of course, there’s also a case of freshly-made desserts, too!
Overall, El Mercado de Coronado 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 El Mercado de Coronado 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, this restaurant doesn’t have that. And if you do opt to make the commute out here, you’re better off going all out and dining at Three Bridges Bar & Grill or Toledo Restaurant in the new Gran Destino Tower. However, if you’re staying at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort or Gran Destino Tower and need a quick meal, El Mercado de Coronado is a great option that won’t disappoint!
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Have you been to El Mercado de Coronado? What did you think of it? Do you agree or disagree with this restaurant 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!
We ate at El Mercado in Feb 2020 & Feb 2022. I was looking forward to the rice bowls again-as they were delicious. Unless it’s on a secret menu, they don’t have them now-sadly. I opted for the Philly cheesesteak. I’m not a picky eater by any means, but it was awful. Dried out (bread & meat) and the cheese wasn’t even melted-they gave me a new one-but it wasn’t much better. I’m guessing the nachos would be as close to the rice bowls, but it’s unfortunate they don’t have more Mexican/southwest style food there now. Hopefully they bring the rice bowls back! Love your blog, reviews and opinions!
We ate at Cafe Rix, even after reading the bad reviews. The service was slow- but the place was also empty. So I think the main issue was they were understaffed. The food was very good when it arrived. The waitress must have sensed our frustrations and used some of her pixie dust to bring us a free dessert. Big unexpected surprise & it was very good. Not a value restaurant but overall, I’m glad we went here. That being said it was the only place open when we stayed here. I would absolutely eat at the other 2 on site restaurants before I eat here again. Cafe Rix is too close to the food court. And both of the other restaurants looked more upscale than Cafe Rix. Food court would be faster service and less expensive. But if you have the time to kill, $ to spend & prefer a wait staff and full bar, then Cafe Rix should do fine.