When we started visiting Walt Disney World as adults, one of the most common ‘tips & tricks’ for maximizing Disney Dining Plan counter service credit value was heading to Downtown Disney for dinner. Along with Earl of Sandwich (pretty much everyone’s favorite out-of-pocket option), Wolfgang Puck Express was the place to eat in this area during the aughts.
Despite knowing this, regularly using the Disney Dining Plan, and staying at Saratoga Springs Resort several times in our first several trips to Walt Disney World together, we never dined at Wolfgang Puck Express during the Downtown Disney era. We were more “Earl of Sandwich People,” and made that sandwich shop a common stop.
Once Pleasure Island closed, we swore off Downtown Disney for several years. We finally returned 3-4 years later during the early stages of construction on Disney Springs to dine at Raglan Road. (Now that we’ve become regulars at Disney Springs, that seems like a distant memory.) Still, we skipped Wolfgang Puck Express because we figured, “surely this will close at some point soon.” Since that inexplicably has not happened, we decided to finally do a couple of meals there to see what we’ve been missing…
In case you’re scratching your head in bewilderment, thinking that Wolfgang Puck Express already did close, you’re not wrong (nor are you alone in that sentiment). The West Side location that was attached to Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe closed a couple years ago. Jaleo and Pepe by Jose Andres now stand in its place on the West Side of Disney Springs. In Town Center, the new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill opened last year, but without the “Express” counter service component.
However, all of this time, there has been a second Wolfgang Puck Express location, nestled behind Disney’s Days of Christmas store in the Marketplace at Disney Springs. This used to be a great location back when there were bus stops over here, but now it sees far less foot traffic.
Unless you’re taking the pedestrian bridge from the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels, walking from Saratoga Springs, or you peak around the corner while stopping into Days of Christmas, there’s a good chance you’ll never even see Wolfgang Puck Express. It’s definitely still there, though…at least, for now!
Wolfgang Puck Express has no theme. There’s seating both inside and outside, but it’s all very spartan. To the indoor seating’s credit, it’s bright and airy, with a number of windows and a raised ceiling, so it feels comfortable in there.
There are also photos of Wolfgang Puck on the walls, but that’s about it.
Outdoor seating isn’t much better, as it doesn’t really offer views of anything. The only thing you can really see is what’s now a pathway/service road for golf carts and Cast Members. Not exactly a table with a view.
Normally in this scenario, we’d recommend taking your food over to a waterfront seating area at Disney Springs, but servers bring your food to you on real dinnerware, so I’m not sure how that’d go over.
There is one exception to these otherwise bland seating options, and that’s in the kitchen. There are a couple of tables in here that offer views of the food being prepared, pizzas being fired, and waitstaff bustling around. The only downside to this is that it’s by far the most active area of a restaurant that’s otherwise pretty chill.
This lack of other guests coupled with the light, low-key interior made it a nice spot to decompress after the chaos of shopping at World of Disney and just being out in the hot Florida sun. As such, we opted for the unthemed seating area over the more interesting, but also more hectic, kitchen area. Your preferences may vary.
After ordering at a counter and getting drinks yourself from the fountain, a server comes to your table to check on you and deliver your food. This is hardly unique to Wolfgang Puck Express.
However, one nuance to the experience here is that you are given the option to tip your server while paying…and that money is simply handed back to you in cash to put on the table at the end of your meal. It’s nice to have this option for those who (like us) don’t carry cash, but it’s also potentially confusing the first time. Suffice to say, if you have cash in your wallet, you don’t need to add a tip at the register.
Turning to the food, we’ll start with the priciest option, the $20 Oven-roasted Salmon with Cauliflower Puree, Marinated Tomatoes and Broccolini.
As you might expect for an entree of this price, the salmon is a winner. It’s mildly fishy yet rich and delicious, mostly thanks to that exceptional cauliflower puree. Sarah thought it was a bit too rich and buttery, but she also prefers dishes on the lighter side. I found this to be exceptional.
Next, the Bacon-wrapped Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes, Crispy Onion Straws, and Port Wine Sauce. At $18, this is another great use of a Disney Dining Plan counter service credit.
This is the best counter service entree I’ve had in recent memory, and that includes Docking Bay 7 in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I normally find meatloaf hit or miss, and am not a fan of the airy and textureless variety that are more “loaf” than they are “meat.”
Wolfgang Puck’s Bacon-wrapped Meatloaf falls somewhere between burger and really tender steak. That’s not totally apt, but this is truly unlike any other meatloaf I’ve had. This Bacon-wrapped Meatloaf is tender, juicy, moist, and has the ideal consistency.
The bacon wrapping is a welcome touch, but not a “necessary” one to mask subpar flavor of the meatloaf itself. (Bacon is never unnecessary.) The onion straws provide nice texture, the port sauce offers additional savoriness, and the mashed potatoes are a great accompaniment. The perfect counter service dish, and our must-order top pick at Wolfgang Puck Express.
On the cheaper end of the spectrum, there are Wolfgang Puck’s famous wood-fired pizzas. These are not ideal for those using Disney Dining Plan counter service credits, but they’re great for those paying out of pocket.
We tried a couple of these on different days. We’ll start here with the Margherita Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella, Plum Tomatoes, and Basil.
This was excellent. The ingredients were clearly high quality, with the punch of the fresh basil contrasting nicely with the sweetness of the plum tomatoes.
There was a lot going on here, making it far more than just an ordinary cheese pizza. Price-wise, it’s only $1 more than the frozen “Almost Pizza” options at PizzeRizzo in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, despite being at least 10 times the quality.
Next, the Roasted Mushroom Pizza with Goat Cheese, Arugula, Parmesan and Garlic Cream Sauce.
I loved this. It was really rich and heavy thanks to the goat cheese and garlic cream sauce, but the abundance of arugula helped sufficiently offset this. Out of the two pizzas, which were both exceptional, I preferred this one. Sarah, on the other hand, thought it was a bit too heavy.
Here’s a floating of a slice floating through space to give you an idea of its size.
These are big pizzas, and while they’re not deep pies, there’s enough doughiness to the crust to make them filling–and potentially large enough to share. In fact, two people could easily get away with ordering a pizza and a salad each to share for an out-the-door cost of around $20. Not bad for a restaurant that’s also the best use of a Disney Dining Plan counter service credit!
Speaking of which, we want to reiterate with regard to Wolfgang Puck Express is that it is still a great value on the Disney Dining Plan, as reflected in its ranking on our updated 2019-2020 Best Counter Service Counter Service Credit Uses list. When you account for both quality and value, there’s no better use of a Disney Dining Plan counter service credit.
Unfortunately, just as Wolfgang Puck Express has been forgotten by many guests, it has been omitted from some versions of this list you might see elsewhere online. This is probably because the DisneyWorld.com version of Wolfgang Puck’s menu doesn’t list any alcohol, and the lack thereof would make it an objectively poor value. However, as you’ll note if you consult the menu on Wolfgang Puck’s site, this restaurant does serve alcohol.
If you drink alcohol, the maximum value of a meal at Wolfgang Puck Express is ~$30 currently. If you don’t drink alcohol, the maximum value is $20. Either way, Wolfgang Puck Express remains one of the best possible objective uses of a Disney Dining Plan counter service credit. Subjectively, it’s also the best use of one as the expensive entrees at Wolfgang Puck Express are phenomenal.
Overall, our experiences thus far at Wolfgang Puck Express have been superlative. On the cheaper end of the spectrum, the wood-fired pizzas are exceptional, besting both Blaze and Pizza Ponte in terms of taste and value for money. They are, quite simply, the best counter service pizzas at Walt Disney World. On the other end of the spectrum, those seeking the best bang for buck on the Disney Dining Plan will be rewarded with delicious dishes like the Bacon-wrapped Meatloaf and Oven-roasted Salmon, which are superior to at least half of the in-park table service entrees.
From the standpoint of food alone, almost no other counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World can touch Wolfgang Puck Express. However, there’s also the issue of theme. Wolfgang Puck Express is more or less an fast-casual airport restaurant plopped into Walt Disney World. It has no redeeming theme, design, or even a beautiful view (like Flame Tree BBQ).
We are strong believers that atmosphere and theme are what separates Disney restaurants from real-world counterparts, and it’s very tough to reconcile that with our high opinion and praise for Wolfgang Puck Express. Dining here works best when you’re already worn out from a day navigating the congested stores at Disney Springs, or just need a reprieve from the sensory overload of Walt Disney World. From those perspectives, Wolfgang Puck Express is perfect, and deserving of all its accolades. Just keep in mind that it’s not a distinctly “Disney” restaurant and you won’t be disappointed!
Have you dined at Wolfgang Puck Express? What did you think of your meal? Any entrees you recommend or recommend avoiding? Do you agree or disagree with our 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!