ADDRESS: 1604 Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Ever since my friends Carlos, Sara, and I discovered the “Frontera Express” to-go window at the back of the main restaurant, Frontera Cocina, it has been a destination staple for every trip out to Disney Springs. I had previously eaten inside the restaurant with my other friend Kevin, but the to-go window was definitely a game changer after they finished the renovation. A quick stop for some tacos à la carte, and then we were continuing onwards to the next Disney Springs destination.
I was familiar with Chef Rick Bayless, after seeing him on the TV shows Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit one of his other restaurants, a sandwich shop called Tortas Frontera, inside Chicago O’Hare International Airport. (If I could plan a layover at O’Hare without it taking me on too much of a travel detour, I would just so I could eat there again.)
Back before my infatuation with Frontera Cocina’s tacos started, I had been walking around Disney Springs one time and noticed Chef Bayless’s photo on the side of the restaurant. Kevin and I had been scouting around for a place to eat, so we decided to give Frontera Cocina a shot. We got lucky as walk-in diners, as the dining room wasn’t all too busy and we got seated immediately.
From the two times I’ve dined in the restaurant, I’ve noticed a different feel depending on if you’re seated out in the front or the back. In the front area, you get to take in the ambiance of the vaulted ceiling along with the Mexican décor elements. You’re also situated right next to the restaurant’s open kitchen, so you can partially hear the food cooking as well as have those aromas waft over to the table.
If you’re seated at the back of the restaurant, you’re away from the hustle and bustle a little bit, and closer to the bar area. There’s also tables that are lined up against the windows to look out at the man-made lagoon. If it’s nice weather outside, you could even take advantage by sitting on the outdoor patio.
My go-to dish inside the restaurant has been the carnitas plate, with a special request to cook the pork extra crispy. Served with refried beans, guacamole, salsa verde, pickled red onions, and corn tortillas, the plate provides everything you need to construct some delicious tacos. But if you’d prefer just eating everything straight up out of the plate, that’s just as appetizing as well.
Now, shifting gears back over to the tacos from the express window around back, you might begin to see why I’ve developed my addiction to them. Priced at $3.50 per taco, the restaurant now offers three different types through the express window: Hatch green chile chicken, beef barbacoa, and cochinita pibil. Each one offers a bit of a different flavor profile combination, but my personal top two are the cochinita pibil and beef barbacoa.
The pork of the cochinita pibil is slow roasted with achiote spice and garlic, imparting earthy flavors as well as a subtle sweetness. Served on top are pickled red onions and fresh cilantro, which definitely add an acidic punch to each bite. For the barbacoa, the shredded and tender beef has a great savory flavor is garnished with diced raw red onions and chopped cilantro, with a finish of Cotija cheese. That entire flavor combination is well complemented with the corn tortillas and their natural earthy flavors.
There is a reason that we keep going back for those tacos every time we visit Disney Springs, and Frontera Cocina hasn’t let us down. Bold Mexican flavors along with fresh ingredients make a dynamic duo, and that certainly shows every time I take a bite. You can be certain that “Frontera tacos” will continue to be synonymous with any trip I make up to Disney Springs.
Let’s now take a look at the Frontera Cocina Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Beef Barbacoa Taco (pictured right) **
Shredded slow roasted beef, topped with diced raw red onions, fresh cilantro, and finished with Cotija cheese.
And finally, here are my rankings for Frontera Cocina:
Food: 5 / 5
Everything I’ve tried from the restaurant is bursting with amazing flavor combinations. The number of times I’ve visited is probably starting to approach double digits at this point, and the quality and freshness of ingredients has always remained consistent.
Atmosphere: 4.5 / 5
The design of the restaurant certainly takes advantage of the natural Florida sunlight, with lots of tall windows to help illuminate the dining space during the day. Ample lighting accentuates the atmosphere at night, with multi-colored lighting around the bar area for a different vibe as well.
Service: 4.75 / 5
The waitstaff here have always been very friendly and hospitable, both inside the dining room as well as at the express window. I’ve also found the food usually arrives very expeditiously from the kitchen.
Price: 4.75 / 5
While the food prices might reside on the higher side, that’s pretty par for the course for being inside Disney Springs. It’s a price, however, that I would gladly pay for the ambiance as well as the quality of food.