We’ll first pop into a restaurant at Disney Springs that receives virtually no coverage whatsoever, particularly with all of the new offerings coming online. With Jake Lundley’s Hanger Bar [sic], The bOAThouSe®: Great Food, Waterfront Dining, Dream Boats™, and Fujinaga Asia all opening recently, a review of what is arguably Walt Disney World’s boringest [sic] restaurant is not going to grab many headlines. Yet here we are at Portobello’s pearly gates.
Longtime readers may remember one of the four or five past reviews on this place, which the website once popularized for its plate of three meatball sliders for $5. A deal that is long gone now. Those reviews are otherwise available here, here, here, and here.
Who ever heard of such a thing, right? Two local beers, a pizza, and three sliders for less than $30 with tax and tip.
Like most restaurants in Disney Springs, Portobello offers an expansive bar section with easy walk-up seating most of the time. Around noon on a Friday in the middle of spring break, there are all of three people sitting in the area and only a handful of other tables are occupied. Portobello really only fills up when people can’t get in without a reservation anywhere else. Steve Milz and I are probably two of the only people in the world that have ever eaten both lunch and dinner at Portobello on the same day. A distinction that one does not necessarily put on a résumé.
I’ve offered the same advice at some point in each of my last few Disney Springs updates – which is to go to Disney Springs as early in the day as possible. A lot of people start their day at a theme park with plans to visit Springs in the evening “to get away from the crowds.” But this is a serious mistake as thousands of other people are thinking the exact same thing, particularly later in the week. You may want to consider heading over to Springs first around 10am – all of the stores open then. Shop a bit and grab lunch somewhere, ideally at a restaurant that offers a less expensive lunch menu. Portobello (which offers the biggest reductions) is one of those restaurants – Raglan Road, Fulton’s (which closes April 4th for an extensive refurbishment), and Morimoto Asia (to a lesser extent now) all offer less expensive lunch menus. Hopefully we’ll see more once Springs opens in its entirety. After lunch, shop a bit more and take a look around, maybe bar hop a bit if you’re in the market, and head back to the resort for a break. Then head out in the evening for some rides and nighttime entertainment. Magic Kingdom in particular empties out considerably after 9pm and you can do better from 10pm – 12am than you could from 9am-11am if you’re up for it. Others might want to see the Star Wars fireworks at Hollywood Studios, IllumiNations at Epcot, or Rivers of Light and the nighttime enhancements coming to Animal Kingdom. With three FastPass+ and dwindling wait times you can make a pretty good dent in the evening and the weather is usually cooler.
Anyway, Portobello Country Italian Trattoria’s lunch menu:
This is dirt cheap for a restaurant on Disney property – literally every single item except for one (an antipasti platter specifically designated for two people) is $15 or less. Plaza Restaurant over at Magic Kingdom, which has long been heralded as Disney’s least expensive table service restaurant, only has one entree under $15 in its vegetable sandwich.
Over at Tony’s Town Square, also at Magic Kingdom, this defrosted and reheated chicken breast with a side of 50 cents of limp spaghetti that’s delivered in a 50-pound drum will set you back a whopping 26 bucks at all hours of the day. I compared it to a Lean Cuisine when it was $21 less than two years ago. $26 is unconscionable. The Chicken Parm is $15 for lunch at Portobello for a significantly better dish. It’s not close.
I’ve had pretty good success with their pizzas over the years and they’re the same price at dinner – $13 for this Italian Sausage and arguably better than what you’d receive at Wolfgang Puck for less money in a calmer atmosphere. Via Napoli it is not, of course. A couple other pictures of items that are still on the menu from past meals:
You’ll have to excuse these pictures as they were before my artsy phase, here shot outside at ISO 25,600 on the restaurant patio. This is the Rigatoni Calabrese – Italian sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, escarole, which is $13 for lunch or $22 at dinner.
And here with the Chicken Farfalle – snow peas, asparagus, tomatoes, parmigiano cream sauce – again, $13 for lunch or $22 at dinner.
Anyway, enough of the distant past and fast forward to ummmm two weeks ago with the drink menu:
The signature beverage list has been cut back from nine drinks to six, but now actually offers more variety.
I ordered a $13 Italian Manhattan – Local Palm Ridge Whiskey, Liquor 43 [sic], amaretto, orange slice.
Mine was a little heavy on the Licor 43, which is a Spanish Liqueur made with citrus and fruit juices in addition to other spices and herbs that total 43 different ingredients. Hence the name. Palm Ridge is an intense whiskey that’s truly local and truly micro-distilled as only 500 cases per year are distilled in Umatilla, Florida. So it’s kind of special in that regard. It certainly packed a punch and has about six times the alcohol as your $10 cocktail from Jared Longley’s Hangar Bar.
One other potentially special addition is that your bread arrives with a full bulb of roasted garlic and oil.
They haven’t changed their bread recipe in the five years that I’ve been covering the restaurant and while it’s clear what they’re going for, I just don’t think it’s very good – laden with butter and too dense. The garlic does help dress it up, but there is no Olive Garden breadstick addiction here.
On the advice of the bartender, I ordered the Gnocchi – potato dumplings with Nonna’s Sunday pork ragu, which is $14 for lunch or $25 for dinner.
The entree arrived conspicuously quickly. I took the picture of the bread a minute after it arrived at 11:26am; I took the picture of the drink a minute after it arrived at 11:28am; and I took the picture of the entree a minute after it arrived at 11:31am. So I had a total of about four minutes with the bread and two minutes with the drink, so it was fairly obvious that nobody was sautéing the pasta with the pork fresh. With that said, it was a tremendous amount of food – the description would probably benefit from the pork playing a more central role. The quantity easily added up to twice as much pork as you’d receive in any of Disney’s quick service pork sandwiches that would run you around $12 a pop. The pork and pasta were appropriately tender, though the sauce was not as nuanced or robust as you might hope for from a restaurant that you would think was making most items fresh.
Service was incredibly “efficient” though in no way personable. Granted I am sort of an odd duck, but when you’re a bartender and there are three people sitting at the bar, you expect some kind of interaction as forced as it might be. At the end, she mentioned that I had been taking pictures and asked if I owned a restaurant. I guess because I would want to steal their recipes? I’m not so sure.
Overall, I really wish I could recommend Portobello more as it does hold a special place in the space where my heart used to beat. But it really only has two things going for it. One – a real cheap lunch menu with large portions. And two – the fact that people only dine there when every other place is full, so you can probably get in. They’re going to need to undergo a major “reimagination” if they want to survive in New Disney Springs. But then again, they have made it this long doing the majority of their business starting 15 minutes after people can’t get in to nearby Raglan Road or Fulton’s.
On the walk over here, I neglected to post a couple pictures of ST(ea)K, the new restaurant arriving across from The Edison. That’s Planet Hollywood’s shell to the right.
Over the wall.
The walkway leading down to John Langston’s and BOATHOUSe with Morimoto Asia and Raglan Road ahead and on the right.
Speaking of Juke’s, they won/bought a “coveted VIBE Award for ‘Best Beverage Menu” as Disney boasts here on their official blog. Literally every single one of the awards is sponsored by a conglomerate like Boston Beer Company or Bacardi USA. “Vista Award nominations were submitted by sponsors, consultants, agencies, distributors, suppliers and operators and were judged on creating positive initiatives that spark beverage sales, innovations that contribute to operational efficiencies and training and service programs that lead to the highest quality standards and operational practices. All submissions were reviewed by a panel of Johnson & Wales University beverage faculty, staff and alumni.”
So that’s meaningless.
Otherwise, nothing on the menu changed from last time other than a rearranging of the items on the menu.
And some intern read somewhere that removing the “.00” after the price automatically makes your venue appear “classy” and “upscale.” “easywdw.com – 15.5” sounds a lot better than “easywdw – $14.99.”
Otherwise, all of the beers are up in price with the exception of the SweetWater, which is actually a quarter less expensive. The cocktails are all the same price other than the beer-based German Mechanic, which is up 50 cents. The other “souvenir vessels” should be in stock. The red wine list in particular is considerably shorter, now offering six instead of the original ten, and are all up in price.
Even after five price increases since opening last May, The boaTHOuse is still my favorite restaurant at Disney Springs, offering a multitude of different price points:
Service has been hit or miss, but out of trying 17 different items over the last year or so, everything has tasted great and there is some real value in places. Their Filet Mignon Sliders and fries are $2 less than the burger at Pecos Bill, for example. And the asparagus is still $12. Hopefully that will be their version of the Costco hot dog and the price will never go up. It can be a story we tell our grandchildren.
All of those shots were from the top of Fulton’s Crab House, which will close on the 4th for an extended refurbishment:
Over in the Marketplace, Fulton’s Crab House will open a new concept this fall. The re-imagined restaurant will welcome guests with a bow to stern update including interiors reflecting the crisp luxury of modern yachting, and new spaces include a lushly appointed rooftop lounge overlooking Disney Springs, outdoor waterfront bar featuring a “build your own” fish boil and private dining areas. The new menu stars fresh seafood with an oyster shucking bar, Florida stone crab and Alaskan king crab, with hearty steaks and chops, as well as classic and curated cocktails.
This is a departure from the original plans – apparently the restaurant group thinks Springs’ can support BOATHOUSE squared.
Hopefully it will reopen with a moderately priced lunch menu like it currently offers.
Back to where several Town Center restaurants are going in across the water from Morimoto.
That’s STK’s outdoor bar area to the right followed by Planet Hollywood in the distance.
Town Center is expected to open in the middle of May. The Wetzel’s Pretzels and Haagen Dazs kiosks that currently sit on the side of DisneyQuest will close April 4th and reopen in the Town Center on May 15th, so some or all of the area should be ready for business at that time.
At a minimum, we should be able to walk across the bridge and get a better look. This link from Disney’s official news site outlines many of the stores and restaurants that will be arriving: http://wdwnews.com/releases/2016/02/29/disney-springs-continues-to-grow-and-add-even-more-exceptional-dining-and-retail-experiences/. With Sephora opening, my lashes are about to look much more fabulous.
Disney will be opening D-Luxe Burger, which is outlined here: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2016/03/d-luxe-burger-opening-this-may-at-disney-springs/. If Pecos Bill can command $16 for its Taco Burger with a side of tortilla chips, one wonders how much the El Diablo Burger – Chorizo-and-signature-blend patty, fried banana peppers, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayonnaise will cost.
This was an awkward picture.
In the final part of this update we’ll take a look at what’s going on in The Marketplace.
I have otherwise been out of town “on vacation” for the last two weeks as my brother got married last Saturday. We’ll take a good look at how the closures at Hollywood Studios are affecting wait times, crowding, and touring and then see about what’s going on at Animal Kingdom with Rivers of Light and the nighttime enhancements over there.