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.
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.
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.
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.
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).