Epcot’s Connections Cafe (and giant Starbucks) – Orlando Sentinel

Walt Disney World has begun the soft-opening phase of Epcot’s Connections Eatery and Cafe, a spacious restaurant and a grande Starbucks outlet with graphic appeal and views of Spaceship Earth.

Sure, there’s food, but first let’s talk a look-see at the Eatery, which is next door to the newish Creations Shop and, of course, a construction wall, in what Disney now calls the World Celebration section of the theme park.

Notes from the front of Epcot:

· The place is enormous. The Starbucks alone has 150 seats; Connections chimes in with 600 more. The Starbucks side itself (aka the Cafe) basically takes the footprint of the park’s old Electric Umbrella restaurant, and the Eatery moves back into former Innoventions space.

It’s one big room that separated (if not divided) into distinct parts. For instance, the restaurant has white table tops and Starbucks goes darker.

It also will serve as an air-conditioned oasis.

· There are loads and loads of windows. This gives a view of Spaceship Earth on the Starbucks side, then, on the other side, new vistas of Epcot, including flower beds and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride along with passing monorail trains. The glass is practically floor-to-ceiling.

After the construction wall is gone, there will be across-the-park views of the The Land and Journey Into Imagination.

· The seating is varied, from two-tops to long high-tops, rounded booths and mod, cushy single chairs. There are many electrical outlets, and a few tables have wireless charging outlets for smartphones.

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· There are three big, glass-enclosed demonstration areas where visitors can watch chefs in action, including making the dough for the pizzas.

· The colorful mural is 160 feet long along a ramp connecting the levels. It shows the development of food culture around the world, working that international Epcot vibe.

· Imagineers have inserted visual appeal throughout. There are nods to old school Epcot and its logos. The floor at the Starbucks entrance is a homage to Walt Disney’s original Epcot vision (and design on the Eatery floor is more like Walt’s famed sketch highlighting Interstate 4 and State Road 192, but it’s partially covered by a table and chairs.)

Above one of the waiting areas for Starbucks drinks is a dangling piece of art. It’s red, black and yellow and circular. You make the character call.

· We like to wait until after the soft-opening stage to get all critical on the food, but the Connections Eatery menu does include burgers (French Bistro, Mediterranean, Banh Mi, Southwestern, etc.), pizza (meatball and curry-spiced are options), a General Tso chicken salad and wine on tap. There’s a waffle for dessert.

The official opening of Connections Cafe will be April 27.

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