My wife and I got got married 15 years ago and honeymooned at Disneyworld for nearly 2 weeks. At that time I was already a homebrewer and beer geek, but there was no good beer to come by around the Disney properties. For our 15th anniversary we decided to go back, and I figured I’d do a blog series focusing on the boozy options available now. Organization of this series may be a little scattered since we moved around quite a bit from park to park, and more. By no means consider this a complete list, I could only eat and drink so much in one trip. I’ll do my best!
I started this series with Epcot since it had so many options around the World Showcase–you can check that out HERE. The second issue HERE focuses on the other three Disney theme parks. The third issue HERE paid attention to some of the Disney resorts and restaurants. This last of my Disney posts focuses on Disney Springs and some of the food and drink options there. While we did visit several of them, we didn’t get everywhere by a long shot!
Disney Springs is a rebranded and amped-up Downtown Disney–pretty much of a fancy mall with large specialty shops and plenty of restaurants and food options. While Disney operates some of the stores here, you can find a big Lego store, upscale boutique clothing stores, Circue du Soleil, and lots more. Some of the food places are big chains (a-la Planet Hollywood and House of Blues) while others are unique or offshoots of popular restaurants like Morimoto and Wolfgang Puck. Much of the set-up is similar to the old Downtown Disney, but there are a lot of new bars and restaurants since the last time we were here. Consider this a more adult area to hang out once the kids are tired out from a long day at the parks…or just a cool place to visit if you don’t have kids with you!
Rick Bayless’ Frontera Cocina
This place is awesome. Chicago’s Rick Bayless has been at the forefront of elevating Mexican cuisine for many years. When I was in Medical School in Chicago we were able to visit his Frontera Grill as one of the fanciest (and best) dinner’s I had ever had up to that point. His brand new Frontera Cocina is a new take on the upscale Mexican eatery.
We ate here for an early lunch and were seated in the back of the restaurant with a fantastic view of the man-made lagoon that winds through Disney Springs. We started with appetizers of bacon guacamole and sikil pak (a crazy good pumpkin seed and habenero dip) that were both stellar. I ended up getting the cochinita pibil torta (spicy Yucatan pork shoulder) for my main course and probably didn’t really need half of it after out large apps! Inspired by this dish, I just made a big batch of pibil for myself once I got home and harvested some fresh habeneros from my garden for it! They had some really cool cocktails and margaritas, as well as tequila and mezcal flights! They had a few Mexican lagers as well as craft beers including some local options like Coppertail ( a wonderful Mango Lime IPA), Crooked Can, and Orange Blossom breweries. I would love to go back for dinner!
Raglan Road is a very large Irish style pub that’s been around for many years and is usually pretty busy. We snuck into a couple spots at the bar one early evening and even caught the start of some live Irish music. Being an Irish pub, they do have a pretty good selection of beers (bottle and draft) available–probably the largest I saw on our trip to Disney. The top of the list for me was Terrapin Liquid Bliss–a rich chocolate and peanut butter porter.
Raglan Road has two beers brewed for them by Irish craft brewery McGargles, and had these and two other’s available as a flight. I felt I should go into more detail on these beers…
2) Granny Mary’s Red Ale: Not bad, but not great. Still more flavor than Smithwicks though.
3) Raglan Road IPA: Very lemony. Bitter and astringent finish. Better than I expected it to be, but not great.
4) Raglan Road Irish Stout: An Irish brewery should be able to figure out this style. Strong green apple (acetaldehyde) in aroma and flavor. Roast bitter burnt coffee ground finish. Reminds me of burnt apple peels. Yuck.
I appreciate that they have a real Irish brewery doing these beers instead of AB/Inbev, but I think they should consider trying out somewhere else since these beers were pretty mediocre to awful. This is still a cool place to visit in Disney Springs though!
Jock Lindsey’s Hanger Bar
With the closing of the old jungle/hunter themed Adventurer’s Club, this niche has been filled by Jock Lindsey’s Hanger Bar. A little known and flitting character from the original Indian Jones movie, Jock and his pet snake have apparently started their own bar in an abandoned airplane hanger. The place is small but filled with eclectic 1940’s era kitch memorabilia that gives you plenty to look at. There was a pretty good selection of beers with bottles and drafts from around the world (mostly lagers like Tsingtao, Tusker, and Kingfisher), but with a few southern craft beers like Florida Beer’s Devil’s Triangle Tripel, Orlando’s I-4 IPA, and Sweetwater’s 420 EPA.
Cocktails and tiki drinks are where’s Jock’s shines. Not as cool and fancy as Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto but still a decent selection of unique drinks. Despite the good beers, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to snag another unique tiki mug for my collection: The Hovito Mojito–now with special poison dart for flavor!
Famed Japanese chef and restauranteur Morimoto has put his stamp on this brand new (under 1 year old) restaurant and bar in Disney Springs. The space is beautiful and serene despite being crowded and bustling–the Feng Shui is tight in here! One continuous white ribbon of bartop twists from the downstairs bar to become the bar in the second level in a cool mad moebius strip of bar architecture. We ended up here late at night after a long day of park-hopping and found space in the less crowded upstairs bar. Each of the bars has 3 tap towers but all have the same four beers on–this is a missed opportunity for more beer options! We lucked out and got a bartender named Brantley who really knew his beer, probably the most beer savvy of any server we found in our entire Orlando trip. He suggested I try the bottled Japanese Baird Beer Wabi-Sabi IPA made with wasabi and green tea (quite nice but more subtle than expected). I also got to try a Hitachino Nest IPA with Tangerine that was quite tasty. He mixed up an unusual cocktail made with a dairy based Japanese soda called the White Lilly for Sarajo that was beautiful and right up her alley.
We ended up eating some food and pairing the mellow Rogue Brewery/Morimoto collaboration Soba Ale with a great spicy tuna roll. Manager Garin stopped by to check in and got to talking beers with us as well–at his suggestion we later made a trip out to Player One–an arcade and craft beer bar in Orlando proper. When Brantley went off shift we were served by Elier, another friendly and sharp fellow who seemed to know his stuff. On our way out we passed several low couches festooned with passed-out children while their parents tried to eat a nice late meal or have some drinks. This was actually one of our favorite stops on our grand tour of the Disney area and I look forward to having a real meal there next visit. Make it a priority if you visit Disney Springs!
So that’s the end of my litany of great restaurants and bars in the Disney area to check out! If anyone has any other hints of great places to eat and drink in the Disney Springs area, please post here so I can put it on my list for next time. And don’t fear, I have one more short piece to write about our 2 day excursion to Universal Studios coming…