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Port Orleans French Quarter Food Court Re-opens

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Port Orleans French Quarter Food Court Re-opens

Unread postby The Sassagoula Sentinel » November 21st, 2016, 1:01 pm

Summary: Port Orleans French Quarter's Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory Food Court re-opened to guests on 19 November following a four-month refurbishment

The Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory food court at Port Orleans French Quarter re-opened to guests on Saturday 19 November after a four-month refurbishment with a brand new menu and completely updated kitchen facilities, along with a new cleaner look. The fully updated menu is now available on our main food court page.

Notable changes include a New Orleans inspired menu, which includes many old favorites (such as beignets of course) alongside lots of exciting new options. New breakfast items include Breakfast Po’ Boys, Cajun Grit Bowl with Shrimp, Molasses-Cream Cheese Cinnamon Roll, Jumbo Sweet Potato Belgian Waffle, Grilled Steak and Scrambled Eggs, and Crispy Fried Chicken on Biscuit with Maple Bacon Jam. For Lunch/Dinner you could try Crawfish Mac & Cheese Burger, Create-Your-Own Signature Rice Bowl or Create-Your-Own Pasta, Southern Classic — ‘Meat & Three’, Cajun Bayou Pizza, Jambalaya, Daily Po’ Boys, Sassagoula Power Salad or French Quarter House Salad. Gelato has replaced the traditional ice cream flavours, which is a great upgrade.

Your food will now be served on real bamboo plates with proper metal cutlery instead of the previous paper plates and plastic knives and forks, bringing a much more upmarket feel to the dining experience. The trash & tray disposal areas have also been improved to allow depositing items for washing separately from general food waste and pizza boxes (although oddly nowhere for plastic bottles?) however only time will tell whether this may create something of a bottleneck when the food court is particularly busy.

The five food service counters have been reorganised slightly (the bakery is now in the middle for example) and the existing windows at either side of the service area have been removed. The redesign has also opened up access through to the main seating area (where the Grab'n'Go cabinets used to be) and moved the registers into that space instead. New taller Grab'n'Go cabinets have been installed in the middle of the already rather cramped space in the middle of the service area, which will surely just cause more congestion to the queues during busy periods? Within 24 hours staff were trying to address this issue by moving the cabinets around, but I'm surprised nobody realised the potential problem during the planning stages. I'm guessing they didn't want the service/register area to extend out any further out in the seating area as they are now quoting the restaurant capacity as 395 compared to the original 300.

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Refillable cold beverages are now available from eight new Coca Cola Freestyle machines - a very popular replacement for the previous two regular drink fountains - offering a far wider range of carbonated, still and diet options. The central beverage island is themed to resemble an unfinished 'work in progress' Mardi Gras parade float - or so they tell us anyway, but it doesn't seem very intuitive until you've been told.

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Which brings us neatly to perhaps the most controversial change: the theming, or perhaps more the lack of it. For a long time, guests have commented negatively on the huge 'creepy' masks hanging from the ceiling as part of the Mardi Gras float factory theme, and removing those faces was always going to be part of the overall plan for the refurbishment. However now there is nothing at all hanging from the ceiling, just industrial-looking steel girderwork and skylights (which admittedly does give the benefit of making the room feel lighter and more airy). The remaining few salvaged Mardi Gras props are now displayed on shallow balconies above doorways, where you may spot Tiana and Prince Naveen hidden within the playing card designs. The colourful New Orleans jester which previously stood proudly just outside the serving area is gone too. Even the flooring is now a nondescript grey rather than the warm earth tones that were featured before, and the chairs and new tall stools are cold metal designs rather than wooden.

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I have been told that there is still some detail work to be completed which won't be ready until January, and that they didn't want to risk delaying the re-opening any further to wait for it. This will apparently include some chandeliers for the main seating area, but it's hard to see how that will make a major impact in mitigating the rather stark and utilitarian feel.


The official ribbon-cutting ceremony, attended by French Quarter General Manager Punam Dayabhai-Jairambhai and one of the Walt Disney World Ambassadors, took place at 8:30am - however the food court had actually opened several hours earlier because it would have been impossible to transition the live food service from the previous day's temporary location back to the main food court during food service without causing major disruption to guests.



Regular visitor Steve Denney was on hand to bring us the latest opening news as it happened (all of which was posted live on our Facebook page over the weekend) and he has since consolidated his thoughts and photos into a review article in the comments.

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For other reports, please see Disney Parks Blog post, the DISboards overview, and the excellent AJ Wolfe's Disney Food Blog article (AJ's site is always well worth a visit for the excellent foodie photos anyway).
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Re: Port Orleans French Quarter Food Court Re-opens

Unread postby MardiGroggy » November 21st, 2016, 2:14 pm

No Port Orleans French Quarter event would be complete without a GREETING from Arneil!

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The Sassagoula Float Works and Food Factory is now open indeed! My wife and I were spending the past week at Riverside, scheduled to leave on Friday, when Andre posted the news about the opening of the food court and the scheduled ribbon cutting ceremony. Seizing upon the opportunity, with some little persuasion from Andre and the kind consent of my wife, we extended our visit into the weekend. I spent most of the day Saturday photographing, talking with FQ cast members and guests and communicating with Andre, one ocean and 5 hours time difference away. (He finally signed off at 2:00AM GMT.) I’ll be posting my first hand report here and Andre will be editing and posting photos from the “big event.” So, to begin…

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The SFW&FF re-opened as stated at the beginning of the breakfast hour on Saturday morning and was already a beehive of activity by 8:00AM when I arrived. They opened before the ribbon cutting ceremony because it made for a cleaner transition from the temporary arrangement in the old Bonfamille's Café. The planned re-opening of the food court was officially scheduled for the “Fall,” but the original target dates slipped a bit and management set a hard opening target of being open by Thanksgiving. This is a key item in understanding some of the comments to follow. For those who were questioning the length of time this refurbishment took, please keep in mind that the entire former food court was completely gutted and everything has been replaced and upgraded, from the kitchen equipment to the bathroom fixtures. There was much done behind the scenes that will not be visible to the guests, but will manifest itself in the food service experience. The physical layout of the room has not really changed, the food service area and center drink area are in the same places, with seating filling in the rest of the space. But the food being served and the décor have changed dramatically. The theme of the food court is still designed to be a representation of a “Float Works,” that is: the in-progress building of a float, in a typical French Quarter warehouse environment. If you keep this theme in mind, then the rather Spartan looking interior that some folks have already commented about will make more sense. But there is a bit more to it than that. This is my impression only, but in the old court, which supposedly had the same theme, it felt more like a warehouse storage facility for float props and memorabilia. In fact, much of what was in there was indeed old float items, brought from various New Orleans storage facilities, that were actually used in past Mardi Gras parades. This explained all the stuff sitting, and hanging, around, including those “creepy” but totally authentic Mardi Gras heads/masks that some folks found so disconcerting.

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Well, that’s all gone now. The new court is supposed to represent the actual building of a float, and it is, therefore, a “work in progress.” Keep this phrase in mind! As it stands now, that theme may not be obvious enough for people to grasp on a quick visit. More on this in a bit. But a key point, expressed by several management folks I talked with over the weekend, is that the food court itself is still a “work in progress.” From French Quarter General Manager Punam Dayabhai-Jairambhai on down, the management team emphasized that the food court is still working toward final completion. In fact, like the central theme “float,” it may never actually be “finished,” as there will always be changes, improvements, additions, etc., based on usage, as well as guest and cast member feedback. For example, the priority for now is to have the food service up and running—and it is well and truly that! (More on this later.) But there are still décor items that need to be finished, including items that will help with the current sterile ceiling appearance. Some of these new things are not scheduled for installation until sometime in January 2017. There will also undoubtedly be other changes as things begin to settle into a routine. BUT, I can assure you, not much was “routine” on Saturday. More on that in the next installment.
Last edited by MardiGroggy on November 21st, 2016, 7:41 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Port Orleans French Quarter Food Court Re-opens

Unread postby MardiGroggy » November 21st, 2016, 3:15 pm

The ribbon cutting ceremony took place as scheduled at 8:30AM on Saturday, November 19th. Assorted dignitaries were on hand, including French Quarter GM Punam Dayabhai-Jairambhai, several Disney Ambassadors and a selected Disney Family of the Day. I didn’t catch their names in all the flurry of activity, but it was a nice ceremonial beginning of the new Sassagoula Float Works and Food Factory adventure. I had the pleasure of meeting Rob and Kerri Stuart, from http://www.DisneyTravelSecrets.com, who made an excellent video of the ribbon cutting. They agreed to let Andre use the video for this website, and he has already posted it on the PortOrleans.org Facebook page. Special thanks to theirhttp://www.AllAboardTV.com operation for the use of the video. Really super folks and they are Authorized Disney Vacation Planners as well!

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As I said earlier, by the time of the ribbon cutting, the place was in full breakfast swing and was VERY crowded. As can be expected, there were some new-opening glitches, but the entire team of Cast Members, from the GM on down, were scrambling around making sure everything went as smoothly as possible. Two of the key management team for the Food Factory, Stephanie Blair (Proprietor, Disney’s Port Orleans Food & Beverage/Merchandise) and Jill Stirling (Restaurant Guest Services Manager for POFQ), were busy with anything that needed attention, including clearing tables, restocking food shelves, fixing technical glitches and answering all sorts of questions. Many of those questions were mine, and I sincerely appreciate their taking the time to chat in the midst of all the activity. If the rest of the Cast takes their cues from these folks, things should be moving along smoothly in no time.

Once the ribbon cutting was over, it was possible to check out the new facility and consider some first impressions. Well, the most commonly expressed first impression for many was the reaction to the “sterile” or “industrial” appearance of the seating area. The floor is gray painted concrete, the walls are mostly white, and the ceiling is open to the rafters and also white. My first thought was: “We’re not at Mardi Gras anymore!” Well, ok, but let us think about this. It is supposed to be a “Factory” after all. It sure does look like a factory to me. Whether one finds that appealing is another matter, but that is the theme. The tables and chairs are metallic, both in composition and appearance. In other words, like a factory lunchroom. The tables do have wood-grained tops, so that breaks up some of the metallic feel, but the words “solid,” and yes, “Spartan,” immediately come to my mind. There are standard tables, high tables with stools, and a children’s seating area. The children’s area has suitably smaller tables and chairs, a TV with Mickey videos playing, and a huge basket of crayons and paper for kids to express their artistic talents. There are also plenty of highchairs for little kids to use at the big folks tables. The floor in the children’s area has some French Quarter inspired painted stenciling, sort of like sidewalk chalk drawing, which adds an interesting graphic touch. But I couldn’t help but wonder how long it will take the kids with their crayons to want to add to the floor artwork.

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As I mentioned earlier, the theme of the SFW&FF is the in-progress making of a float. Here is where it gets tough for me. The “float-in-progress” is represented by the structure that “caps off” the drink dispensing area. There is probably a proper technical term for this area of the operation, but I don’t know what it is. Anyway, the “float” is on top of the drink dispensing. The problem I see with this is that it will take a bigger stretch of the imagination to recognize it as a float-in-progress than it takes to see the rest of the place as a factory. Honestly, I first though it was just a big mural, it being just a flat-sided slab with about 3/4th of the surface painted. There is a section, at one end of the “float”, that has horizontal wooden slats showing. This is apparently the unfinished part of the float. Unfortunately, at least to my eye, the “float” appears very two dimensional and more like an artist’s rendering than a three dimensional street ready parade entry. In other words, I’d bet that many people will not recognize it for what it is supposed to be until someone points it out to them. In still other words, I find it the most disappointing element of the entire design, although it is supposed to be the centerpiece. Check out the photos and let us know what you think.

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There are other design elements, mostly placed on shelves above doors or service areas. The old huge crown that hung in the old food court is still there, along with barrels of beads, above a mostly blank wall that separates the kitchen from the dining area. There are some Mardi Gras themed fine art style prints displayed in frames on that wall, but it is a big, high wall with a lot of white paint. And a “Float Crew Only” door to the kitchen area. There are float props, barrels, some emblems and a few playing cards displayed high up on shelves. There are Disney Characters depicted on the face cards--see if you can spot which ones. Two of those areas are warehouse style “doors,” complete with markings as “Bay 1” and “Bay 2,” to fit with the Factory theme. There is also a nice display of Mardi Gras masks (Just the face kind…no heads or eyes peering at you) just inside the door from the lobby. At least they kept some representation of those essential Mardi Gras items of attire. It was hard to get a good photo of it because it is a glass front display case, but it is eye-catching in person.

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Finally, as mentioned before, not all of the design elements are installed. I was told that there are some themed chandeliers that are due to be installed in the dining area, as well as a new chandelier in the peaked ceiling section in the middle of the food service area. One lighting change that has occurred, and I think for the better, is the skylights. In the old food court, the skylights were pretty well covered over/hidden and really did not contribute much light. Now they are unobstructed, allowing plenty of light into the area, making for a bright and airy feel. Again, like a factory. At least in the daytime. I did note that in the evening it was much darker and more subdued, in fact and in feel, so the additional lighting fixtures they are planning will certainly be a big help to the globes they have hanging there now. I also think that, depending on guest responses and feedback, there is still plenty of opportunity to add more design elements to the overall theme, if they feel the need to fancy the place up some more.

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But for now, the emphasis has really been on the FOOD. Getting the food service up and running was, as I said before, the top priority. The rest can be done just as other decoration changes are done by the Disney Elves. Speaking of which, the Elves brought the Christmas/Holiday decorations to both French Quarter and Riverside this past week, so the season is upon us, ready or not! But I digress. Food is the priority, so stand by for FOOD!
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Re: Port Orleans French Quarter Food Court Re-opens

Unread postby MardiGroggy » November 21st, 2016, 6:34 pm

Ok, the atmosphere is nice, but not actually nourishing, and it is first and foremost a FOOD court, so here are some of my impressions regarding the food service part of the operation. I’ll start by saying a big “THANK YOU” to Chef Tony Marotta for all of his efforts, new ideas and also for taking some time out of his hectic day to chat with me about how he sees things for the future of the Food Factory. First let me say that he is justifiably proud of what has been done and what is planned for the future. As mentioned earlier, the entire kitchen area was gutted, along with everything else, so they have had an interesting time keeping the food service going in the temporary location. Tony said that he and his crew have, by necessity, been very “close” during the refurbishment work. I got the sense that no one was happier than Tony that the place was open again, finished or not.

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One thing we discussed is his keen awareness of the absence of a table service restaurant at the French Quarter. That has inspired him to try to elevate the food choices and quality of the food served to a higher level than you might expect at a counter service operation. Andre has already posted the latest menus, so I won’t repeat that information. I will say, yes, the beignets are still there, along with some new breakfast starches, like buttermilk pancakes and waffles. Some of the other choices, like Po’ Boys, and Jambalaya will look familiar. Personally, we loved the Freshly Made Custom Omelets station during breakfast. We didn’t get a chance to try the Crawfish Mac ‘n’ Cheese Burger, but heard good reports from others on this new creation. The carving station during dinner was also a pleasant surprise. The choices were beef, turkey or catfish the first night.

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There are five serving counters for breakfast and dinner, and four for lunch. The fifth counter at dinner accommodates the new made-to-order pasta and made-to-order rice bowls. Check out the menus—there is some good stuff there! One thing Tony and I talked about was one of my food court pet peeves: getting the food from the serving counter, through the cashier, then to your table before it gets cold. One of the great things, to me, about French Quarter is the compactness of the overall resort, as well as the smaller, more intimate size of the food court. It doesn’t take as long to make the journey from service to table, and they are trying hard to keep that going here. There are five registers, if needed, so things can keep moving. The only time I saw things really backed up was the first morning because of the opening festivities. The other peak times were pretty much like you would expect for a food court, but the waits are not as long as, say, Riverside during rush hour. We had a bit of that experience during the earlier part of this visit and can do without that chaos! Chef Tony agrees that the best food served will lose its appeal as it start to cool off, so expect them to try to keep things humming along.

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Another interesting change, designed to elevate the dining experience to another level, is the switch to real metal eating utensils and bamboo plates. That is correct, BAMBOO! Ok, so it doesn’t look like something straight out of a rain forest, but I am told by the management that it has been tested and used elsewhere and has been very successful. First of all, it does help to hold the heat of the food. Second, it washes well and holds up over time to repeated handling, washing, and use. It is “Green,” as in environmentally friendly, cutting back on the plastic and paper, while still using a sustainable resource. No one seemed to know how it is made, but it looks to me like the bamboo is turned into pulp, then molded and hardened into whatever shape you need. I saw regular dinner plates, bowls and small side plates. Very interesting concept. Now all they have to do is get the guests to separate the dishes and flatware from the trash, a process assisted by the labels on the self-bussing stations. They told me that where this has been tried, they have not experienced much loss of reusable goods to the trash can. People seem to understand the recycling nature of the system. The cups are still either paper or foam, depending on hot or cold drinks. The cups have the microchips on the bottom to track serving and usage.

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One obvious and much anticipated change in the beverage dispensing area are the Coca Cola Freestyle machines. MANY more drink choices at the push of a few buttons. There are eight of the machines in the drink area, and they were getting a workout from the outset. One did have a wiring harness problem and couldn’t dispense most of the diet drinks, several initially had “timing” problems, and at least one sprang some kind of a leak. Most of the problems were corrected by a technician on the scene and I had a few lessons on how they operate. Although they have been around for about 9 years they are new to me. For example, I found out you still have to push the bar in on the cup shelf to get ice. Silly me, I thought it would be automatic. I also found out the hard way that you have to push AND hold the dispensing button if you want a full cup. The machine doesn’t tell you that. Since you can only dispense into the cups at certain intervals, if you don’t hold the button, you have to wait a couple of minutes to try again. I’ve got it now, but I come from a time of bottle and beer can openers, so I admit to my Luddite Learning Curve. Anyway, the machine should be able to give everyone something to like. I’m also told that you can even use your smartphone to read the bar codes on the front of the machines, which will take you to an app that allows you to preprogram your favorite drink into the app. Then all you have to do is scan the code on the front of a machine and it dispenses your drink without all the button pushing. What will they think of next? For those who are worried, once the initial timing issues were fixed, everything was fine interfacing with the Disney microchip program, including the refillable mugs. I don’t see much downside, unless the techno stuff glitches up. But that never happens with computers, so I’m told.

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One bit of apparently unfinished business in the food service area is the positioning of the Grab-and-Go cabinets. They are in the center of the food service area, but as of Sunday lunchtime, when we departed, they were still moving them around. I think that one issue in that area is there is not a lot of space between the cabinets and the serving lines. It could get a bit cramped during peak usage, so we’ll see what they come up with.

I, for one, am excited about the new operation, the choices available, and the receptive attitude of the management about future changes. For example, while I was talking with Chef Tony on Saturday, I made mention of another of my pet peeves at FQ: No muffulettas! To me, muffulettas are as French Quarter as beignets or Po’ Boys, so I never have understood why they were served at Riverside and not at French Quarter. Well, Tony has it covered. He said they were ready to go, but they didn’t get the word to the printer in time to get on the menus. Then he went back to the kitchen and returned with—wait for it—a Muffuletta! It might even be the first one served to a guest. I accepted it like some kind of trophy, feeling a genuine sense of satisfaction that the French Quarter sandwich is now available at the Port Orleans French Quarter. They were first made available to the guests at lunchtime on Sunday. YES!!! I told Tony that I was going to have it bronzed, but…it was delicious. I was also told to expect a Muffuletta salad in the near future. Well Tony, we’ll be back in December…

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All I can say is, some of the excitement that I feel for where the new SFW&FF is headed may be as a result of my being able to talk with the management. The casual visitor may not have the chance to really dig into the whole concept. But I think folks will really be pleased at where things are, and where they are going, because there is a lot more happening than early reports lead us to believe. Give it a try folks. I think you’ll be really pleasantly surprised!

Thank you, Chef Tony and Jill:

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And you too, Stephanie:

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Comments or questions are welcome, of course.
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Re: Port Orleans French Quarter Food Court Re-opens

Unread postby MardiGroggy » January 5th, 2017, 3:36 pm

Well, we made it back to POFQ in mid-December, so here are a few updates/comments from that visit. Sorry for the delay in posting, but the holidays have been more demanding than we anticipated and things are just now starting to settle down.

First of all, the most obvious change in the food court was the new chairs. All the metal chairs and stools that were in place on re-opening are gone, replaced by nice looking wood grain versions.

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As you can see, they are a better match with the table surfaces. The Disney explanation is that these chairs were not delivered in time, so they rented the metal furniture in the interim. The look is certainly more appealing, but some folks have expressed concerns about the large opening in the back bracing, fearing that small children might fall out the backside of the chairs. Something to keep an eye on, if you have small kids who squirm around a lot when they eat. Also note in the photo that there are now condiment baskets on the tables. I've never been a fan of tearing open a bunch of slippery little ketchup or mustard packets, so this is fine by me. It also fits into the concept of this operation being a bit of a step up from the usual food court level of service. There is also a dispenser for plastic utensils, for the convenience of people taking their food away from the court. The metal variety is still there for the eat in folks.

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The center Grab-and-Go cabinets are still in the middle of the serving area, so when it is crowded they do restrict movement. To make things worse, some people seem to think it is a good place to park their strollers and ECVs while waiting in line, which just makes it even harder to get around for everyone. Another thing about the G&G cabinets is that they don't have any kind of list of contents, or prices thereof, posted anywhere on the units. I mentioned before that I was happy that they have Muffulettas available, but they are only one option among several pre-made sandwich items in the G&G cabinets. In other words, if you aren't looking for them, you probably won't find them. Some sort of menu or list for the cabinets, along with the prices of the items, seems like a good idea to me.

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They also have a selection of teas, which should make our Admin man (Andre) from across the pond feel even more at home.

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There are also some other decor changes, most notably more framed displays of Mardi Gras masks on what were previously blank or nearly blank walls. There are also some stylized Mary Poppins-ish umbrellas that have been added over the kid's seating area.

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As you can see from the photos, there were plenty of additional Christmas decorations on the walls. We'll have to see what is done with those areas after the holiday decorations are removed.

As far as the food is concerned, everything we tried was excellent, although I have to admit we generally only ate there for breakfast or for snacks later in the day. We like to take the boats to Disney Springs for our main meals, so we have a long way to go before we get around to sampling all they have to offer at the food court.

We will be trying to return for Mardi Gras at the end of February, so hopefully we'll see what else they have added/changed by then.

Most of this info, by the way, was posted at the time on the PortOrleans.org Facebook page, so a big THANK YOU to Andre for keeping things as up to date as possible. Thanks also to him for helping me with the technical aspects of getting these photos ready for posting. There are others at my link in the Photo Gallery section, if anyone is interested in more on this topic.
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Re: Port Orleans French Quarter Food Court Re-opens

Unread postby MardiGroggy » April 6th, 2017, 11:05 am

We were able to visit French Quarter during the Mardi Gras festivities on February 28th, so here are a few photos and comments about the new food court as of that time.

First of all, the new chandeliers are in place. They do add color:

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Here is a before and after of the dome in the serving area:

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Another change I noted was that the Muffuletta sandwiches are now available at the Po' Boy counter, instead of in the Grab-n-Go cabinet. I think this is good, as their availability was kind of hit or miss in the cabinet, and I suspect that a lot of folks didn't even know they were there.

On the down side, there are already areas of the new painted floor that are showing wear, particularly around the trash receptacles and some of the other heavy traffic areas. I hope they don't have to shut the place down again to repaint the floors.

Also, while I love the concept of having real dishes and utensils, the clearing of those items seems to be presenting some issues. First of all, the receptacles are getting full quickly, especially during peak periods, and it sometimes takes time for folks to get to the sorting bins in a timely manner. People have to stand there and sort their stuff into "Food-Dishes-Trash" bins, which takes time, and then the CMs that clear them out have to take longer to empty everything into separate containers as well. This does seem to slow things down enough that some people are just leaving their dishes on their tables. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be enough CMs around to keep up with all of this, so the tables don't get cleared and the trash bins are overflowing. We try to hit the food court during off times, but I can see how it would be a detraction from the overall appearance and guest experience if they can't keep the place cleaned up. I also saw people carrying their food away from the food court to Scat Cat's to eat, and not taking the dishes and trash back to the food court when they finished.

Otherwise, I sent Andre a full set of menu photos and he has already updated the menu information elsewhere on this site. It still seems to be fluid, with both menu items and prices changing fairly frequently. Hope this update helps!
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