One of the best things about Walt Disney World is Disney Springs. It’s a shopping and dining district that’s part of the resort, but isn’t in any of the theme parks. This means that even if you aren’t on a Disney vacation, you can check it out and experience some of the magic. But with more than 60 eateries at Disney Springs, you’re going to have to make some tough choices about what to try and what to skip. Here are the essential Disney Springs dining experiences you shouldn’t miss.
Best for Small Bites: Jaleo
Michelin-starred chef José Andrés serves modern Spanish cuisine at Jaleo, with a menu designed for sharing. There are fine dining tasting menus for $100 and $135 per person, but the restaurant really shines with its tapas.
Start with the simple perfection of Pan con Tomate (crispy bread rubbed with garlic and fresh tomato), then choose from an extensive selection of Spanish meats and cheeses and tapas like Pimientos del piquillo rellenos con queso Caña de cabra (seared piquillo peppers filled with goat cheese), Piquillos rellenos con brandada de bacalao (stuffed piquillos of bacalao and potato served with Manchego and béchamel) and Chorizo casero con puré de patatas al aceite de oliva (house-made chorizo with olive oil mashed potatoes). The Ibérico de bellota mini hamburguesas are also a must-try.
One of the best-kept secrets at Disney Springs is Jaleo’s Sangria Hour. From 4 - 6 p.m. daily in the bar area, order $6 glasses of wine and $7 frozen or red sangria, and a small tapas menu with bites ranging from $4-$6.50.
Best for Kids: T Rex Cafe
Even if you don’t have kids with you, T Rex Cafe is pure fun. The restaurant is full of animatronic dinosaurs, and each dining room has a different theme. Depending on where you sit, you could be inside a glowing glacier, or in a forest filled with moving dinos like a triceratops and its adorable baby. Every few minutes, there’s a (not scary) extinction event: comets fly across the sky and all of the animals go beserk for a few minutes before everything goes quiet. Don’t worry, though, because in another minute, all is right again.
Order the delicious Mes-o-Bones (St. Louis-style ribs) or the Triassic Trio (Dino-mite shrimp and scallops, a shrimp skewer, and a char-grilled sirloin steak with steak butter) while you watch the show. Under no circumstances should you skip dessert; the Chocolate Extinction is a literal mountain of chocolate cake and ice cream, with an erupting dry ice volcano in the center.
Best Outdoor Dining: The Boathouse
Disney Springs has a lot of options for outdoor dining, and you can actually sit on the top deck of Paddlefish, the restaurant on the riverboat. But the best by a mile is The Boathouse.
The reliably delicious, seafood-heavy menu includes options like a Dockside Shrimp Boil, Coriander-seared Yellowfin Tuna, and an extensive raw bar, and is best eaten on the docks behind the restaurant. In the afternoon or at sunset, take in the car/boat hybrid “amphicars” floating by on Lake Buena Vista and the hot air balloon flying overhead. At night, it’s one of the best spots for watching Magic Kingdom fireworks outside the park. The floating Dock Bar, in particular, is always a fun spot to pop in for a drink and a snack, and there are usually stools available.
Best for Adults: Wine Bar George
With more than 140 wines available by the ounce, glass and bottle—and a staff that’s extremely helpful in guiding you—Wine Bar George is a no-brainer for wine lovers. But you definitely don’t have to love wine to enjoy a meal there. The wine country-inspired menu is designed for sharing, especially the small plates like the absolutely unmissable Saganaki on Fire (mild, salty cheese set ablaze tableside) and the family-style entrees like Grilled Whole Greek Sea Bass with white bean ragout or Skirt Steak with chimichurri. If you don’t end your meal there with one of their ridiculously good espresso martinis, which steep overnight for a depth of flavor like nothing else, you missed out.
Best for Brunch: Art Smith’s Homecomin'
To call the menu at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ "comfort food" is to do the restaurant a disservice. The Southern-style menu is absolutely all comfort food, but it’s the freshest, most inspired Southern food you’re likely to find in all of Florida. The emphasis on local, farm-to-fork ingredients is truly impressive, especially in the middle of a theme park.
Fried chicken is the star of the show here. For brunch, the can’t-miss fish is Fried Chicken and Doughnuts, served with house-made sugar doughnuts, but you can’t go wrong with their Fried Green Tomatoes served with shaved country ham and remoulade, the Church Lady Deviled Eggs, or the Short Rib Hash with grilled corn succotash, potatoes, onions and peppers, served with a cheddar cheese drop biscuit. If you can manage to resist the extensive selection of moonshine cocktails, you should win an award for willpower.
Best Lounge: Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar
You’d never guess from the outside, but Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is Indiana Jones-themed. Jock Lindsey, a member of Disney’s Society of Explorers and Adventurers who appear in rides like Jungle Cruise and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, was actually Indy’s pilot in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Inside, you’ll find tons of Indiana Jones Easter eggs, from the amulet he uses to find the location of the ark to the golden idol he steals at the beginning of the movie that trips the booby traps in the temple, including that enormous stone ball.
Order bar snacks like Club Obi Wan chicken wings (where Willie performs at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) or the Air Pirate’s Pretzel (Jock’s flying squad is the Air Pirates) with beer cheese dip while you sip on an impressive array of fun cocktails like the Fountain of Youth, the Scottish Professor, or the Cool-Headed Monkey.
Best Dessert: Gideon’s Bakehouse
Yes, the lines are long, but the wait is absolutely worth it to get into Gideon’s Bakehouse. Each cookie is a half-pound of decadence. The classic chocolate chip is a must-have, and there are also flavors like peanut butter crunch made with candied peanuts, cookies and cream, and banana bread chocolate chip. An especially fun touch is that there’s always a coffee cake cookie that’s only available during the day, and a dark coffee cake cookie made with chocolate that’s only available at night, and one special flavor a month that benefits a charity.
Gideon’s also sells gargantuan slices of cake like red velvet and an ever-changing variation on decadent chocolate cake. Pro tip: order their to-die-for cold brew coffee without ice, then put it in your hotel fridge to enjoy the next morning with breakfast (which will be cookies, of course).
Best Seafood: Morimoto Asia
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto has created a global culinary empire serving upscale Japanese, Chinese, and Korean food. Everything on the menu here is delicious, especially the Morimoto Peking Duck, but Morimoto Asia serves some of the best sushi you’re likely to find in America.
The extensive selection includes rarities flown in daily from around the world, like Fujisan salmon farm raised in the rivers of Mt. Fuji, Bluefin tuna from Baja California, Ora King salmon from New Zealand, flounder and Pen Shell clams from Korea and Sea Urchin from Santa Barbara. For a truly memorable experience, splurge on the $250-per-person omakase, a tasting menu of up to seven courses, which Chef Morimoto has been known to oversee when he’s in town.
Best Entertainment: Raglan Road
On any given night, you can find bands performing outdoor concerts in Disney Springs, but for dinner and a show, head to Raglan Road. The dining room has a stage in the middle, where musicians perform traditional and modern Irish music, and Irish dancers wow the crowds with their intricate footwork.
The menu is full of perfectly executed Irish standards: the Chicken Pot Pie has chicken, wild mushrooms and leeks in a white wine cream sauce; the Irish Boxty Potato Cake is made with ham and caramelized onions and topped with Dubliner cheese sauce; and the Braised Be Beef is 12-hour short rib in a red wine reduction with colcannon mashed potatoes. There are also lots of accommodations: the Fish and Chips has a gluten-free option and the Shepherd’s Pie is vegan.
Best Quick Meal: Chicken Guy
Chicken tenders are chicken tenders, right? Not when they’re from Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy, where the chicken tenders come grilled or hand-breaded and crispy fried.
The real star of the show is the 20 house-made sauces. Two come with your order, but with choices like Wasabi Honey, Bourbon Brown Sugar BBQ, Avocado Crema, Spicy Mayo, Peri Peri and Fieri’s signature Donkey Sauce, you’re definitely going to be tempted to order more. If you still have room afterwards, order a Flavortown Shake like Triple Double Mint or Apple Cinnamon Cereal.
Best Pasta: Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante
When you think of a traditional Italian restaurant, you probably don’t think about a 1930s airline terminal. But the vintage travel-themed Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante will transport you somewhere you never expected, and will serve you pasta freshly made in-house while it does.
Start with the Focaccia della Casa (house made rosemary-lemon focaccia topped with whipped ricotta and lemon extra virgin olive oil) or the Calamari with hot cherry peppers, spicy marinara and garlic aioli. Then move on to the Rigatoni Bolognese (house made mezzi rigatoni with pork and beef ragu), Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Con Polpette (spaghetti with meatballs), or the Cannelloni Quattro Formaggi (fresh egg pasta stuffed with spinach, ricotta, parmigano and pecorino). True adventurers should make their way downstairs to Enzo’s Hideaway, a speakeasy under the restaurant that serves largely the same menu but with the added bonus of having a secret entrance.
Best Steak: STK
STK is well-known for its steak, and for good reason. The stylish restaurant delivers a true steakhouse experience, with steaks ranging from a 6-ounce filet mignon all the way to a 34-ounce dry-aged tomahawk, with three different wagyu selections to choose from.
For the ultimate indulgence, top your steak with the wagyu umami butter, which is torched tableside, or pick a sauce or two like STK Bold or Au Poivre. If you’re really going for it—and you should—add a lobster tail and some sides like bacon mac and cheese and confit mushrooms. The restaurant definitely trends pricey, but at happy hour, you can score a 3-ounce filet and jumbo prawn for just $19, and A5 wagyu tacos for $9.
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