We’re headed back to Downtown Disney for lunch at Portobello and a look at what’s new or will be new soon. You may remember my gushing over Portobello’s Meatball Bar a couple of weeks ago here: https://www.easywdw.com/uncategorized/new-tinker-bell-meet-and-greet-lunch-at-portobello-assorted-nonsense-part-2/. We’ll see how the dining room and the rest of the menu stacks up. Or maybe we won’t? Okay, we will.
Downtown Disney is more or less a ghost town before 6pm most days, especially weekdays. It actually tends to be busier in the fall when the operating hours of the theme parks are shortened. Come September, we’ll have Animal Kingdom closing at 5pm, Magic Kingdom closing as early as 7pm several nights each week, and the possibility that we’ll be back to 7pm closes at Hollywood Studios on non-Fantasmic nights in October. At the moment, Magic Kingdom is open until 11pm or 12am, H0llywood Studios is open until 10pm every night, and Animal Kingdom is open until 6pm or 7pm. As one might expect, Downtown Disney becomes more popular when the theme parks aren’t open, and weekends when a few locals visit.
We’re arriving around 3:15pm here. The first image is Disney Quest to the right and the House of Blues to the left. The 24-screen AMC Theater and Ridemakerz are up just past Disney Quest. House of Blues has a great happy hour from 3pm to 5pm and 10pm to close. Appetizers are half price, domestic beers are $2.50, and import beers and house cocktails are $3.50. One of the outdoor bars at Raglan Road also offers $2 off draft beer from 3pm to 7pm. The third image is Downtown Disney’s “West Side,” which we’ll be returning to later.
Portobello is located in the Pleasure Island section of Downtown Disney, right next to Fulton’s Crab House and near Raglan Road. I’m always on the lookout for an “inexpensive” meal on Disney property. For that reason, I prefer lunch where a separate lunch menu is offered, because it’s usually cheaper. Note that several restaurants do not offer a separate lunch menu – Yak & Yeti (Animal Kingdom), Mama Melrose Ristorante Italiano (Hollywood Studios), Hollywood Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios), Plaza Restaurant (Magic Kingdom), Teppan Edo (Epcot), Tokyo Dining (Epcot), Rainforest Cafe (Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney), and T-Rex (Downtown Disney) all have the same menu for lunch and dinner. Generally speaking, you receive the same level of service, experience the same ambiance, and many of the items on the menu are similar or exactly the same as their dinner counterparts. Portobello’s menus can be found here: http://www.portobellorestaurant.com/the_menu_lunch with links along the left side to the wine, dinner etc. menus. At the bottom, you’ll see a “Download PDF” button, which is where you’ll find the actual menu along with the prices.
Looking over the lunch menu, I noticed that the pasta items were exactly the same as the dinner menu, only about half the price. For example, the “Chicken Farfalle – snow peas, asparagus, tomatoes, parmigiano cream sauce” is $12.95 at lunch and $21.95 for dinner. Larger portion at dinner, perhaps? We’ll see what comes out of the kitchen.
The restaurant itself is very pleasant looking, with a decent amount of space between most tables. If you’re looking for more of a private conversation, request to be seated next to the window, which also offers a nice view of the water and Fulton’s. Those tables are “single file” along the glass, though I suppose it’s possible that someone could be seated directly on the other side, which would be somewhat less intimate. The patio seating outside is covered and fans adorn the ceiling, which I’m assuming makes it slightly cooler out there. Still, I don’t think you’ll see a lot of people out there in the afternoon in August. Anyway, privacy certainly wasn’t much of a concern at 3:30pm. There are no camera tricks in any of these pictures – I’m the only customer in this section (the few people you see in the back work for Portobello). Lunch is served until 4pm, so as long as you arrive before then, you’ll be given the less expensive menu. Arrive after if you’d like to order the steak or pay twice as much for the pasta.
The only negative thing I have to say about the decor is the butcher paper over the white tablecloths. Easy cleanup, but it detracts from the ambiance and upscale atmosphere the restaurant is probably trying to emit otherwise.
Lunch is served with an attractive bread basket, olive oil, and a generous helping of roasted garlic. You won’t receive this in the bar, which is a distinct advantage to being seated at a table. Portobello also serves Orlando Brewing Partners beer, which is excellent. Of the three offered, the European Pilz is my favorite.
You can add a bowl of soup or house salad to any pizza or pasta entree at lunch for $3, which seemed like a no-brainer. This is the tomato bisque. It wasn’t served as hot as I would like, but it was rich and obviously made with high quality ingredients. It was a relatively small portion, but sufficient considering the price.
This is the Black Linguine with Florida Rock Shrimp with tomatoes, garlic, and asparagus. $15.95 at lunch and $24.95 for dinner. I’m not sure what the dinner portion looks like, but this was more than adequate. Reheating pasta and shrimp doesn’t usually go very well anyway, so it’s not like you would necessarily want leftovers, especially if it means lugging it around the Orlando heat for another hour or two. This came with with 20 or 30 of those little shrimp, with the linguine elegantly placed on top. It was a nicer presentation than I was expecting. In terms of flavor, I felt like it did leave something to be desired, though I appreciated that it was a “light” dish. If you’ve ever been to Tutto Italia in the Epcot Pavilion, you know that just about everything is drenched in a heavy cream sauce of one variety or another. This was much lighter, with perfectly cooked shrimp and asparagus that was still crisp.
Other than a sauce that may have been a bit subtle for my tastes, I have nothing bad to say about Portobello. The bread service is a great way to start a meal, the soup was a nice addition for $3, and the pasta was expertly prepared with fresh ingredients and a commendable attention to detail. At many Disney restaurants, it feels like the entrees are prepared before anyone orders them and the wait staff simply picks up whatever a customer orders from the heat lamps. This is obviously not the case at Portobello.
Here’s another look around the restaurant. Anyone (including children) can sit up at the Meatball Bar, which is where you’ll find those delicious meatball sliders at the three for five dollar price. In the dining room, the same plate is $7.95, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to decide where to sit. The $3 discrepancy probably has to do with the fact that you get the bread/olive oil/garlic at the table.
Overall it was a very pleasant experience. The staff was pleasant and attentive. You might expect that when you’re one of only seven people in the entire restaurant, but I’ve been in similar situations and received terrible service. Since most people will only be eating one or two meals at Downtown Disney, it’s a tough choice with so many great options. If you’re in the mood for pizza, pasta, or Italian food in general, Portobello is a nice choice for lunch. Dinner is a little out of my price range, but I’ll try to save up some of the site’s revenue and visit sometime in the future.
This is the new Apricot Lane store that opened just this past week across from Raglan Road in the Pleasure Island section of Downtown Disney. It’s part of a large chain of 60+”boutiques.” You’ll find women’s clothing and accessories here. They sell their own brand, along with brands like Rock Revival, Vintage Havana, Miss Me, and others. Most of the stuff isn’t cheap.
This is the Harley Davidson store, which moved to the West Side of Downtown Disney last month. It is more or less a clothing store as well, with just a single Harley that I saw.
Magnetron will be closing September 30th to make way for “BLINK by Wet Seal,” another clothing store for women. They sell a lot of magnets, as you can see. Well, I guess I should say they have a large selection of magnets. Apparently, they don’t actually sell very many.
Sunglass Icon will be closing shortly, but only for a remodel of some kind that will transform it into a “Flagship Store” with improved technology and interactivity, whatever that means. They sell “high end” sunglasses by Oakley, Prada, Ray-Ban, and the like. If I could be in any business, it would definitely be sunglasses and frames. It’s such a racket.
Here’s a recycled image from the top of this post, but word just came out today that Magic Masters will be closing September 30th to make way for “Something Silver,” which offers women’s jewelry. That’s the Magic Master’s hat at the front of this walkway.
I can’t say that I’m particularly excited about these new stores. I’ve always thought that Downtown Disney was a nice eclectic mix of unique stores and brands, but it seems like it’s turning into little more than a strip mall of franchised women’s clothing stores. It’s too bad that some of these more unique stores can’t survive. Obviously, mid to high end clothing is a much more profitable business to be in than magnets or magic tricks. It seems like it’s a shame though.