In between pounding mimosas and arguing over whether American or Cheddar belongs in a ham and cheese omelet at brunch on Saturday, I was pontificating to my roommate(?) about your want for Downtown Disney drinking information. No, your need for Downtown Disney drinking information. Why people ask me about drinking at Walt Disney World continues to befuddle me, but in the sake of thoroughness and knowledge for America, I’m willing to look into it for you. As a Disney blogger, and generally an obnoxious person in general, I continued to discuss the various Downtown Disney establishments as we proceeded to the automobile. Sara (my roommate’s code name and also her real name) seemed open to accompanying me on a research expedition of this variety, even going so far as stating outright, “Let’s go now.” I said “I love you” and we picked up Tom on the way.
Full disclosure: I like Downtown Disney. I’m not crazy about the strip-mall-ish vibe it has taken on in recent years with the addition of generic stores like Sunglass Icon, Curl (BY SAMMY DUVALL!!!!), Something Silver, and the like, but these stores at least stock items people (international tourists) are interested in purchasing. I hear a lot about people staying at the Epcot Area Resorts because of their proximity to Epcot, but I have a statement that may be incendiary. Downtown Disney has better restaurants, better food, better drinks, and better prices than Epcot. To take it a step further, the Festival of the Masters event over Veterans Day Weekend is worth taking a day away from the Food and Wine Festival to experience. I have a full recap of last year’s event here. Outside, you’re right. Epcot wins on ambiance. There’s nothing quite like passing the Eiffel Tower on your way to the Morocco Pavilion filled with mosaics created by artisans sent by King Hassan II himself. But once you step foot in many of Downtown Disney’s restaurants, it doesn’t really matter that outside sits a strip mall and hordes of teenagers.
You’ve got Raglan Road. Each of its three bars are at least 130 years old and imported directly from Ireland. The house band and dancers are a lot of fun. With legs (skill) like that, it’s one area where I don’t care if the dancers are really from Albuquerque rather than Athlone. At Fulton’s Crab House, you can dine inside an authentic (replica of a) riverboat, with a menu consisting of seafood flown in daily. The House of Blues serves up creole/American favorites along with live music and strong drinks. Portobello is as pleasant as Via Napoli or Tutto Italia and comes sans creeper servers. While T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe don’t appeal to me personally, there’s no doubting the kid-appeal. They may be the most “kid friendly” restaurants on property. The absurd waits and popularly are a testament to that. And there’s a place for Wolfgang Puck Cafe, Bongos, and Paradiso 37 too. Planet Hollywood and Cap’n Jack’s Restaurant? Not so much. But we’ll try them out anyway.
With the Congress Park section of the Saratoga Springs Resort in easy walking distance, a stay there may be attractive for those interested in spending some time drinking/dining
“Around the World.” Or at least around Downtown Disney. Saratoga Springs Resort is generally less expensive than the Epcot area resorts and availability is much greater. Old Key West is also an easy bus or boat ride away, though walking to Downtown Disney isn’t possible. Port Orelans Riverside (discussed in depth here and here) and French Quarter (discussed here) are also reasonably close and offer boat transportation.
Someone had asked about pictures of this “water tower.” In my dreams, it’s a scotch tower. Full size: http://i.minus.com/i16nr6nqpCOE6.jpg.
If it isn’t obvious, I only know how to do things one way. Full size: http://i.minus.com/iHe7Q1e6M1DTp.jpg.
We’re going to start Downtown Disney Drinking In-Depth at the far corner of the West Side and move chronologically to the Marketplace. Full size: http://i.minus.com/il8hmBrNoWvcP.jpg.
If for some reason you want a full size version of any of my pictures, feel free to post a comment directing me to whichever one(s) you want. I’m happy to upload them. Full size: http://i.minus.com/ikrQjAnmCjKVS.jpg.
As you can probably tell from the first picture, House of Blues is located near DisneyQuest and directly across from Cirque du Soleil. Because I’m an idiot, I neglected to take pictures of the menu. This should be accurate if you’re interested in food. As far as I know, House of Blues no longer participates in Restaurant.com or other promotions. Correct me if I’m wrong (you know I love it) in the comments section if you’ve seen “discount certificates” around the ‘Net.
Stepping inside, the restaurant is huge. Which isn’t that obvious with the terrible angle of this shot.
House of Blues is one of the rare Disney restaurants that offers a Happy Hour. The outdoor bar at Raglan Road being the other.
If you’re wondering what time we’re arriving, it’s not coincidentally exactly 2:59pm right now. Unfortunately, appetizers are no longer half price during happy hour. That was really a lot of bang for your buck, which is probably why they no longer offer it. On Disney property, there’s nothing worse than thinking, “This is a good deal” or, “We like it because there’s never anyone there.” Both of those are a recipe for “Going bye bye.”
That’s a little better. The lighting isn’t conducive to photography.
Booths line the walls with tables for two on the other side.
Samesies over here.
Behind the bar in the back of the restaurant is another large room.
I would guess it’s busy before and after shows next door, but it’s hard to imagine this place filling up to capacity. These shots were taken at 3:42pm, so it’s not exactly peak meal time.
Request a water view table in the back if it’s of interest.
The atmosphere? It’s probably best described as a mashup of Americana and sacrilege:
You’ll see a lot of this sort of thing.
And this sort of thing.
I’m not sure if it would be a turn-off for anyone or not.
We enjoyed it.
Looking up to see artists looking down.
The bar is located in the back of the restaurant. Like any Disney bar, the kids are perfectly welcome here or anywhere else in the restaurant. Hence, the child at the bar.
What the bar does look like straight out of the camera.
What it doesn’t look like.
Getting more popular every day with the “clarity” turned up.
There’s no drink menu, which seemed a bit odd to me, but Sara assured me that it’s fairly normal. It seems like it’s difficult to sell those $10 upcharged drinks if they aren’t circled as “signature drinks” on a menu. Anyway, there are apparently only two “house cocktails” – The Margarita on the left and the mostly drank/drunk Long Island Iced Tea. It’s made with “Desert Island Long Island Ice Tea Mix,” which is a 75 proof mixture of vodka, gin, rum, tequila and triple sec. You just add the sour mix and cola. I have had some past experience with this particular concoction and let me tell you one thing – it will put you in the ground. If you like Long Island Ice Teas, but don’t want to deal with having to mix multiple types of alcohol together, then this is a good choice. It’s dirt cheap. Just be aware that it’s nothing “special” in this instance. Still, you’re not going to get a better drink for less than four bucks on Disney property and it’s not even a bad price off-property.
I opted for a second margarita. Those Long Island Ice Teas are dangerous. This is made with Matador Blanco tequila and (don’t quote me on this) Finest Call Margarita Mix. Again, this isn’t the world’s finest cocktail, but it isn’t intended to be. For $3.75, they’re great. Salt was an option, but they didn’t offer to blend it. For $3.75 you can also get any house liquor mixed with a soda/juice/mix of your preference.
Your beer choices – St. Pauli Girl, Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Yuengling, Michelob Ultra, Blue Moon, and Pabst fall in the $3 category. Corona Light, Corona Extra, Stella Artois, Amstel Light, and Heineken run $3.75. The Magic Hat #9 is more expensive and I think the Guinness is as well. The Blue Moon would ordinarily be the most expensive domestic and the Stella Artois the most expensive import.
There’s a better shot of the Long Island. It’s a nice, large drink. Sara started with a Milelr Lite. I (not so) calmly explained to her that this would be the last Miller Lite that she would be ordering. After a lengthy lesson on bloggability and how we do things because they are bloggable, not because we want to, I think she got the point. Anyway, it’s a Miller Lite. $3 is about as cheap as they get at Disney World and you could expect to pay around that at just about any sports bar.
On Fridays and Saturdays beginning at 10:30pm, a blues band plays inside the restaurant. That would be a lot of fun to couple with the cheaper drinks that come online again at 10pm. They’re open until 1:30am on Fridays and Saturdays and 11pm weekdays.
Not sure why it says 1 margarita at $7.50 instead of two at $3.75 like we ordered. A reminder to always check your receipts, especially at bars. They don’t necessarily mean to, but they screw up orders and pricing all the time. You’re not going to get out of too many places with six drinks for $21.75. Also a reminder that you can use your Tables in Wonderland card to knock an additional 20% off the price.
If you’re looking for a drink between 3pm and 5pm or after 10pm at Downtown Disney, House of Blues is a no brainer. The House Cocktails are nothing special, but they have plenty of liquor in them and they’re cheap. The bartenders were friendly. The food here is good too. It’s a shame they no longer do half price appetizers during happy hour, since that was an even better deal (Bye bye). I miss the Voodoo Shrimp. Sad panda.
We didn’t have to stumble far to find another bar, since there’s one right outside the restaurant. Despite stating that Happy Hour is “in the restaurant” on the sign, pricing is the same at the outdoor bar too.
A few specialty drinks listed:
Out here, Happy Hour pricing/availability is similar.
Beer is served in cans since Disney doesn’t want you walking around with glass bottles. So if you’re looking for a Blue Moon, Stella Artois, or something similar, you may have to go inside.
It’s hard to pass up a drink called Swamp Water. It seemed decently strong, though there’s probably just an ounce of vodka in it along with orange juice and a splash of blue curacao for color. Nothing special here, but it’s more bloggable than another house margarita and you can easily make one at home.
The Swamp Water and House Long Island Ice Tea in their respective outdoor cups. The drinks are certainly larger inside and the price is the same.
From the bar you can look out at DisneyQuest and Cirque du Soleil. Our bartender Howard informed us that it’s a popular place with the Cirque Du Soleil performers at the end of the night. We will definitely be returning at the end of the night sometime.
Or sit around the tables off to the right and enjoy the live acoustic music daily. The Times Guide says it starts at 4pm, while the sign inside listed 6pm – 11pm. It might be both.
Outside of Happy Hour, the Miller Lites go for $4.50 and the House Cocktails bump up to $6.50. That’s still pretty reasonable all things considered and still some of the cheapest drinks on property.
You’re welcome to take the beers with you wherever you go.
The “Vortex Bottle?” Gimmick. “Cold Activated Cans?” Gimmick. “Taste Protector Lids?” Gimmick. “Vented Wide Mouth Can?” Gimmick. But let me tell you. This punch top can thing is not a gimmick. Basically, there’s a little indentation for you to push in on the top of the can. Press it and the beer is going to come out way faster. You actually have to be sort of careful if you have a normal can/velocity tilt (mine is 4.7 velocibytes) because you might find yourself pouring half of the beer down your shirt. I always get a kick out of how it’s marketed as a “cleaner pour” or whatever, when they really want to tell you that it makes it a lot easier to drink beer a lot faster.
That’s the House of Blues. We’ll move onto Wolfgang Puck Cafe and Bongos next.