Disney’s BoardWalk is an area often overlooked by many visiting Walt Disney World. Unless you’re staying at the Boardwalk Resort, Swan & Dolphin, or the Yacht & Beach Club, chances are you don’t even know this area exists.
But it does.
Designed to take you back to the old-fashioned boardwalks like Atlantic City, Disney’s version is a quarter-mile long and features shops, restaurants, bars, a dance hall, and more. All complete with street performers who entertain guests throughout the day and night.
BoardWalk happens to be the home of one of my favorite bars at Disney World in Orlando, AbracadaBar. A magic themed bar/lounge that serves up some pretty crafty cocktails including the Elixir 13 made with Absinthe.
When it comes to dining, there are a few spots to have a full meal as well as a walk-up pizza window. ESPN Club is the BoardWalk’s sports bar, Flying Fish is an upscale seafood restaurant and Trattoria al Forno which serves up Italian classics and is also home to that pizza window. The one remaining eatery is the one I’m talking about today, Big River Grille & Brewing Works.
Big River Grille is a small spot, with a few outdoor tables right on the boardwalk, a bar with about a dozen seats and a small, tight dining room. I visited around 8pm on a Wednesday, and the restaurant was busy. Immediately upon entering, you can get a sense to how cramped this place is because it’s pretty much wall-to-wall people with very little space in between tables.
I managed to find the last remaining bar stool after squeezing around tables and stanchions that were placed around to prevent people from standing in service and exit areas. I did my best to pull my barstool in as close to the bar as I could, but I was still almost back-to-back with diners at the counter directly behind me.
Lee, the bartender came over, welcomed me, provided me with menus and made some recommendation on beer which is brewed on site at the only working brewpub at Walt Disney World.
I tried two different beers, the Red Rocket Ale which was a little too on the hoppy side for me, and another, the Southern Flyer Lager which is their low-carb/low-calorie beer which was good enough that I had a second. If you want to try a sampling of all the beers currently on tap, you can order a sampler. Wine and a full bar are also available.
The menu itself offers up appetizers such as a Beer Cheese Soup, salads, and nachos. Nothing too exciting on the appetizer front. I ordered up an order of chips and salsa, which tasted pretty much like Tostitos chips and some Old El Paso salsa.
For entrees, a strip steak is on the menu for $18.99 for 8oz, meatloaf, a 12oz ribeye, a few chicken dishes and a handful of burgers. Prices range from $11.50 for a basic cheeseburger to $25.99 for a strip and shrimp combo.
I asked Lee what his favorite menu item is and without hesitation, he said “the ribs.” So I ordered the full rack of Rocket Red Ribs ($23) that were dry-rubbed and basted with Rocket Red BBQ sauce and served with garlic mashed potatoes and veggies.
The ribs were St. Louis style and were very tough. The BBQ sauce was average, not too sweet but a tad but on the sour side. The mashed potatoes were homemade and good, but the vegetables were so overcooked they lacked any vivid remains of color and were mushy.
I added on a house salad for $4.99 and asked for oil and vinegar as dressing. I was warned that the oil is not olive oil, but vegetable oil and that the vinegar is red wine. The salad was a nice size, but there were several pieces of lettuce that should not have made it into the salad as they were beyond their prime.
I read mixed reviews of Big River Grille & Brewing Works before coming, so I was interested in giving it a shot to see how my experience fared with others. Unfortunately, I have to take the side of the ones who say, “there are better places to eat.” Granted, I only had one entrée and should give it another shot, if only for a beer and a burger.
Lee, the bartender provided great service, so no complaints there.
Self and valet parking is available at the BoardWalk Resort main lot. Big River Grille and Brew Works is also walkable from the Epcot area if you’re wearing your sneakers. If you happen to be a Tables In Wonderland cardholder, the 20% discount is applicable on food and beverages. Park admission is not needed to dine at this Walt Disney World restaurant.
** UPDATE **
Wanting to give Big River Grille & Brewing Works a second chance, I stopped by again. It wasn’t nearly as busy as my last visit and I was one of only four people at the bar having dinner with a few tables taken inside the dining room.
I started off with the house salad, and again, was given a salad with spoiled lettuce. I picked piece after piece of lettuce from the bowl that was well beyond it’s prime. Here is how many pieces looked:
I called the bartender over and told her that I was “very afraid” to eat the salad and showed her all the bad lettuce I picked out. I told her that when I was here last week, the same thing happened. She came back with another salad and the manager stopped by and apologized saying “I told them they need to be more careful.”
Be careful folks, don’t get sick from bad lettuce!
For dinner, I chose the Kobe Burger ($14.50 – 8 oz. American-style Kobe beef burger served with lettuce and tomato) and added bacon. This was a great burger! Juicy, cooked just right, full of flavor and unlike the salad, the bun was fresh. While some aren’t a fan of shredded lettuce on a burger, I am and this one had it along with pickle slices. There are no French fries on the menu here, so potato chips are served instead.
I was disappointed by the salad again, but the burger provided some redemption on my second visit.