= Cara's Favorite
American cuisine at Disney Springs™The Landing. Lunch and dinner; call 407-WDW-DINE or 407-560-0100 for reservations; casual dress. Open daily Sun-Thur 11 a.m.-midnight.; Fri and Sat 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
If someone had told me that Southern country cooking would be my favorite new cuisine at Disney Springs, I would have begged to differ. But sure enough, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin' is one restaurant that really stands out from the crowd of newbies. Serving local, farm-sourced ingredients in a cozy, welcoming setting right on the “Springs”, it’s one place that I will more than likely visit with each trip to Walt Disney World® Resort.
Opt to dine in the bar, the dining room, or, if the weather is nice, on the screened porch overlooking the water. The wait staff, dressed in jeans and blue-and-white gingham shirts, is super friendly and really seem proud of what they are serving, as they should be.
Starters here are pretty darn amazing. I couldn’t get enough of the Jasper Board with it’s assortment of pimento cheese (the best!), buttery crackers, smoked sausage, thinly shaved dry-cured ham, bread and butter pickles, and savory spicy/sweet candied pecans. All are made in-house except for the ham which comes from Tennessee. And can we talk about the fried green tomatoes? Here they have a new twist. Lightly breaded then fried, topped with shaved Tasso ham, on a bed of watercress and arugula, all drizzled with remoulade—truly phenomenal!
You just have to order the legendary fried chicken—no more said (Just kidding. I always have more to say!). This is seriously great chicken, buttermilk-brined for 24 hours then crispy fried to perfection. Add to that a sprinkle of the restaurant’s house-made hot sauce and yummy biscuits spiked with just a touch of cheddar cheese, it was love at first sight.
Pan-seared shrimp in a chunky tomato and Tasso ham “gravy” atop creamy grits produce quite delicious results, but almost too rich. The fish-of-the-day entrée wasn’t as successful—just too much going on with fresh grouper smothered in a creamy aioli sauce atop sweet kale and collard greens.
Side choices are plentiful, but what was promised to be delicious mac and cheese was a bit bland. The snap green beans are the ticket here, sautéed with fried onions and bacon, and served in a tiny iron skillet. While the hummingbird cake is the restaurant’s signature dessert, and it did look fabulous, I can’t recommend enough a basket of fried cake mini donuts, orange flavored, rolled in brown sugar, and served with a spiced cane syrup dipping sauce. What more can I say? That is until I head back to try the deviled eggs, the braised short ribs, ...
Cajun/Creole cuisine at Disney Springs™West Side. Lunch and dinner; call 407-WDW-DINE for reservations; casual dress. Open daily Sun and Mon 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Tues and Wed 11 a.m.-midnight; Thur-Sat 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m.
Mexican cuisine at Disney Springs™Town Center. Lunch and dinner; call 407-WDW-DINE or 407-560-9197 or a OpenTable.com for reservations; casual dress. Open daily Sun-Wed 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thur-Sat 11 a.m.-10:45 p.m.
Frontera Cocina is a modern but casual take on old-style Mexico. Developed by celebrity chef Rick Bayless, six-time winner of the James Beard Foundation Award, you'll be delighted by his award-winning dishes.
Its front dining room is set around a lively open kitchen presided over by a bright Aztez-influenced mural and a rich palette of bright tangerine, sky blue, and lime green. I prefer the back room where you’ll find the bar and superb views of Disney Springs waterway. Or on balmy days request a table on the back patio.
You must start with sikil pak, a Mexican version of hummus, but this time made from pumpkin seeds instead of chickpeas. Sprinkled with ground seeds, splashed with a touch of habanero (expect a bit of a kick), sided with fresh and crispy tostado chips (too salty for my taste), cucumber and jicama matchsticks, it definitely puts your run-of-the-mill hummus to shame.
Shrimp mojo de ajo, roasted in a somewhat garlicky chipotle sauce, spiked with grilled zucchini and served over rice mixed with plantains, is cleverly served in a small iron skillet. There wasn’t enough spice to make me happy, but the shrimp were plump and tasty. A platter of roasted pork carnitas were slightly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside accompanied by chunky guacamole and refried black beans topped with my favorite Cotija cheese—if you don’t fat with your meat then choose something else. Both plates were served with superb baby corn tortillas.
Ask for sides of both types of salsas: a smoky red chipotle and a tart green (salsa verde). The creamy queso añejo mashed potatoes are a pleaser, again topped with Cotija cheese then quickly oven browned to perfection, although I prefer them mashed without the skins.
Pan-Asian cuisine at Disney Springs The Landing. Lunch and dinner; call (407) WDW-DINE, or 407-939-6686 for reservations. Open Mon-Thurs 11:30 a.m.-midnight.; Fri, Sat, and Sun 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Dim Sum brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dining at Morimoto has long been associated with the merging of Japanese culinary tradition and the American palate. At Morimoto Asia Restaurant at Disney Springs, the Pan-Asian cuisine also extends to the food of China, South Korea, and Thailand. Operated by the Patina Restaurant Group, the restaurant is a visually stunning, two-tiered affair lit with impressive 20-foot long chandeliers, an open exhibition kitchen where diners can watch the preparation of the restaurant’s signature dishes such as crispy Peking Duck, a lounge in the Shanghai tradition, an outdoor terrace, and a sweeping staircase that leads to an additional dining space, a sushi bar and second-floor lounge. I would ask to sit in the downstairs, orchid adorned, main dining area to really catch the flavor of the happening scene.
If you’re clever you’ll insist on ordering the light and crispy rock shrimp tempura doused with spicy Korean gochujang red chili sauce. And be sure to share a half rack of Morimoto spare ribs. None like you’ve had before, these gems are thick, meaty, and sticky, crisp on the outside thanks to a quick fry in cornstarch, tossed with a hoisin sauce and sprinkled with cilantro—quite the indulgent treat.
Duck "Nasi Goreng", an Indonesian duck fried rice dish spiked with edamame and tomatoes, is interesting with its topping of a sunny-side-up egg, but certainly not memorable. Lobster Chow Fun is innovative and quite tasty, a whole, but small lobster, wok fried and served atop fiery rice noodles stir-fried with crispy Chinese vegetables. The shell is left intact, but no real work is required since the lobster meat simply pulls out with a shellfish fork making for easy eating. However, not a terribly filling dish with only about six bites of meat.
Tender and tasty, a side of Szechuan long beans is a good choice, but perhaps a bit less sauce is preferable. I do feel as if too many dishes have the same, slight cloying, hoisin-style sauce so be careful when ordering that you vary the dishes to avoid this issue.
While I’m not exactly blown away by the food like I was the last time I dined at a Nobu (Chef Masaharu Morimoto was once Executive Chef at the original Nobu in New York City) and the wait staff can be fairly indifferent, the restaurant does bring a fresh sense of style and sophistication to the Disney scene.
Beware that the sushi and sashimi menu is a bit bare bones, something you would not expect from a restaurant who built their name on sushi.
North, Central, and South American food at Disney Springs™The Landing. Lunch and dinner; call 407-934-3700 for reservations; casual dress. Open daily Sun-Thur 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri and Sat 11:30 a.m.-midnight
Italian cuisine at Disney Springs™The Landing. Lunch and dinner; call 407-WDW-DINE or 407-934-8888 for reservations; casual dress. Open daily; lunch 11:30 a.m.- 3:50 p.m., dinner 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Starters such as the too-simple arugula and fennel salad or a the ho-hum caprese should be skipped in lieu of thinly sliced, wood roasted portobello mushrooms on a bed of rich, rosemary-balsamic reduction atop creamy polenta sprinkled with a light touch of gorgonzola. Then again, others might argue that the Sambuca shrimp is the first course ticket, nice and garlicky with a hint of anise.
The old standard here is rigatoni calabrese, a dish I fell in love with on my first visit twenty years ago, one that is still my favorite. Featuring Italian sausage, kalamata olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, and escarole with perfectly al dente pasta, the sauce has just the right touch of richness without being overwhelming. Now I wish I could say the same for the gnocchi which is chewy and undercooked, and worse topped with an overwhelming shredded pork ragu. Much better would have been a basic bolognese sauce or perhaps tiny pork meatballs instead of what is now a heavy and unappetizing dish.
The grilled fish of the day, whatever it might be, is crispy-skinned with a side of chunky oregano-flavored roasted potatoes topped with a vinaigrette-tossed arugula and pickled red onions. Chicken pizzaiola, an updated version of the traditionally heavy chicken parmesan, is made fairly healthy with a flour-dusted and sautéed chicken breast in a light, garlicky broth with a hint of oregano and anchovies topped with freshly chopped tomatoes, slivers of garlic, a dusting of capers, and just a touch of melted cheese. Order a side of sautéed zucchini, red onions, and green peppers to go along with it and you’ll be pleased as punch. Then again there are the paper-thin crusty pizzas brought out bubbling hot from the restaurant’s wood burning ovens. Decisions, decisions.
The super rich cappucino gelato is still amazing after years on the menu (used to be espresso gelato, but little has changed), so just go for it and save yourself the trouble of deciding. On pleasant evenings ask to dine on the outdoor patio overlooking the lake
Irish food and music at Disney Springs™The Landing. Lunch and dinner; call 407-WDW-DINE for reservations; casual dress. Open daily, lunch 11 a.m.-2:45 P.M., dinner 3:00–11 p.m., bar menu 11 p.m.-1:00 a.m., Rollicking Raglan Brunch Menu 10.00am-3.00pm Saturday & Sunday.
Steakhouse at Disney Springs™The Landing. Lunch and dinner; call 407-WDW-DINE or 407-560-0100 or at OpenTable.com for reservations; casual dress. Open daily for lunch 11:30 a.m-3:30 p.m.; and for dinner Sun-Thur 5 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri and Sat 5 p.m.-midnight. Brunch Sat and Sun, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., live DJ on Sundays.
STK is quite the glamorous Disney Springs hot spot offering tender steaks and plenty of bling to go along with them. It’s red brick exterior is in stark contrast to the upscale interior, not your average masculine steakhouse. Rather it’s clubby and glitzy, a place where DJ music blares, and not exactly conducive to fine dining. So if it’s a quiet meal meal you are looking for then look elsewhere, or at least book an early dinnertime ahead of the DJ’s arrival.
There are several seating areas to choose from, the best and most alluring being the two-level, downstairs dining room (dinner only) with white leather banquets on its upper level towered over by stunning white floral arrangements and strange angled mirrors. The lower level wood tables with curved white leather chairs share the space with a swanky bar. Climb a steep but enchanting marble staircase to reach the much more casual upstairs bar and dining area and adjoining rooftop terrace overlooking Disney Springs, where both lunch and dinner is served.
The crunchy Rock Shrimp is a definite winner, lightly fried in a tempura-like batter and dressed with a slightly spicy chili remoulade. The restaurant’s Blue Salad is made perfect with tender baby iceberg lettuce, a smattering of smoky bacon, and baby cherry tomatoes, but the savory Point Reyes Blue cheese is absolutely the highlight of this dish.
If you’re a burger lover than you can’t get much better than STK’s Wagyu version, thick and flavorful, made perfect with Point Reyes Blue cheese and bacon (yes, more blue cheese and bacon!), and, best of all, sliced cherry peppers to liven things up a bit. That said, it certainly should be good for a $28 price tag! The fat, crispy side of fries helped ease the pain.
A wide range of delicious steaks are on offer, but consider the 32 oz. porterhouse, enough for 2, which arrives at the table beautifully sliced. Strangely enough, the skirt steak was what I felt the need to try. Quite flavorful, also arriving pre-sliced, and made even tastier with the peppercorn crust and chimichurri sauce options.
Seafood at Disney Springs™The Landing. Lunch and dinner; call (407) WDW-DINE, or (407) 949-2628, for reservations. Open Sunday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 11:00 a.m.-2 a.m.
Dream boats from the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s found both inside and out on the water and dining in a replica of an old boathouse are this Disney Springs restaurant’s claim to fame. Most of the restaurant is built out over the water, certainly adding a nice touch to the theming. Arrive ahead of your reservations for a drink at one of three bars: the front room’s Captain’s Raw Bar with 30-foot ceilings, the smaller Admiral’s Club Bar, or, my favorite, and the one-of-a-kind Dockside Bar built out over the water with fabulous sunsets. Then get ready to feast on fresh seafood, steaks, and selections from the raw bar. On balmy days request a seat outside for dockside dining, but otherwise you’ll enjoy one of the various inside dining rooms where you can entertain yourself gazing at a variety of antique props including restored boat motors, Tiffany-style fixtures, old boating photos, even a vintage Chris Craft boat that has been redesigned into a boat booth (certainly a great seat to request on arrival).
Starters such as yellowfin tuna poke set the experience in motion. Formed with an avocado and mango base, piled high with uber fresh tuna marinated in a soy lime vinaigrette, served with won ton chips dusted with chili, it’s a sure winner. Fish tacos are stuffed with jerk spiced grilled fish, slaw, slices of avocado, and a drizzling of spicy serrano chili cream sauce – too bad they are served on flour tortillas instead of the traditional corn.
Quite reasonable is the steamed whole Maine lobster, tender and juicy, but, of course, lots of work. The seafood buckets are fried with a malty beer batter, but not too thick like some.
CARA’S TIP: Plan your meal around a tour of Disney Springs onboard a vintage Amphicar or a romantic spin on a Venetian Water Taxi complete with Italian music, champagne, and chocolate-covered strawberries. At least take a tour of the rare boats on display outside on the restaurant’s wharf.
American cuisine at Disney Springs Marketplace. Lunch and dinner. Open daily Sun-Thur 11:00 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Fri and Sat 11:00 a.m-11:30 p.m.
Contemporary cuisine at Disney Springs™West Side. Dinner only; smart casual dress; call (407) WDW-DINE, or (407) 938-9653, for reservations. Open daily 6:00 p.m. to 10 p.m.
This Disney Springs spot comes with comes with lovely lake views through giant picture windows. Located upstairs in a four-restaurant complex, a quiet, hushed atmosphere prevails, much different than its downstairs sister café although some of the same menu items are to be found at both restaurants including Wolfgang Puck’s famous smoked salmon pizza and butternut squash soup.
Dive into the divine, creamy oyster chowder, super smoky with bacon and Pernod, swimming with cubes of potatoes and giant, plump oysters, all topped with a hefty sprinkling of herbs; rich, but not overwhelming and quite the pleaser. Long on the menu here is a organic baby beet, arugula salad adorned with Humboldt Fog goat cheese and crunchy toasted pistachios, the pistachios being the icing on the cake so to speak, drizzled with a light and tasty vinaigrette. Nicely seared to a golden brown the firm, plump scallops come with an Asian slant and a bit of spice, with zingy roasted and charred eggplant and a smidgen of Thai coconut broth. Now if you choose the butternut squash soup think about saving it for dessert, so rich and sweet it is with cinnamon and, believe it or not, a swirl of maple syrup and brown sugar (forget that it more than likely also has a quart of cream in each and every bowl).
A filet mignon arrived overcooked, was promptly returned, and arrived at the correct temperature the second go-round. While it was made ever tastier if not a bit overpowering with its port wine reduction, it didn’t light a candle to the best garlic mashed potatoes on the planet. A hickory smoked pork chop was made savory with a bourbon honey mustard glaze, but again, it was somewhat overcooked making it drier than necessary although an accompanying sweet potato puree was a perfect match with only a mere hint of sweetness.
While a bit passé, the warm lava cake served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of fresh cream is the favored dessert in my opinion; although the somewhat cloying carrot cake, whose claim to fame is batter that has been stirred for an hour before baking, is what is touted as the restaurant’s signature dessert.