We return to Paddlefish at Disney Springs to check out the current brunch/lunch/dinner situation.
The website’s first review includes about 30 pictures of the waterside restaurant and you may want to check that out for a brief history of the establishment as well as a bit more on atmosphere.
Paddlefish’s interior is elegant for the most part, though I thought it was a little dark in the evening with many of the subtler details rendered invisible given the dim lighting. “Dark is intimate” is probably the logic, but that didn’t seem to connect given how incredibly loud the second floor dining room ended up being during our meal.
Here’s the current dinner menu:
It’s a similar idea to the original offering, seen at the end of this post, but at least half of the items have been switched out for something else. Interestingly, the prices of the Specialty Boils have come down considerably since their introduction. The average price of the other entrees has also dropped to $30.26 from $36.40. I think we can all thank an increase in the number of quality offerings available at Disney Springs for that.
Bread is served alongside dinner – it should be available for lunch, but you typically have to request it. It’s a decent little loaf – firm on the outside before giving way to a softer, buttery interior. But it’s far from addictive, in my opinion. The sweet butter with a little cinnamon helps.
Paddlefish typically offers two or three varieties of oyster at $3 a pop. They’re served attractively on the half shell over ice with cocktail sauce, hot sauce, and a lemon wedge. I’m far from a connoisseur, but I could easily tell the difference between the two varieties, which I thought was interesting. One had a crisp brine with firm meat and a creamy finish while the other was much more buttery with a softer finish. If you’re serious about your oysters, BOATHOuSe typically offers 12-15 different varieties, but I would think most people will be satisfied with the couple of choices here. The oysters are sizable and attractively presented.
I had been wanting to try the $36 “Tableside Lobster Guacamole (Serves Four) – Maine Lobster, Tortilla Chips, Tajin” since Paddlefish opened, but never seized the opportunity. On my last visit with Erin, our server assured us that the guacamole was a good choice. “While it’s recommended for four, with that many people, each person is only going to get a little taste. Two people have the opportunity to indulge much further.” Having seen the size of the bowl in the past, I knew this was more than a stretch, but the guacamole sounded refreshing and $36 was only $7 more than starting with the Beef Skewers and Lobster Corn Dogs. So I thought, “why not?”
This picture, which is not really of the guacamole, is as close as I’m going to get to capturing the immense size of what’s created. Amusingly, the gentleman who arrived tableside to create the guacamole while we awkwardly sat there, spent the majority of his time talking about how easy it is to make and that he had been practicing with a variety of different ingredients at home. He did assure us that it “was not always with lobster,” though. This seemed to be a curious point to hammer home while preparing a gigantic $36 bowl of avocado dip, but the thought that I could produce something similar at home was a nice thought before I went back to microwaving myself Lean Cuisines for my next 17 meals.
Anyway, five avocado halves comprise the guac, in addition to as much red onion, tomato, cilantro, green pepper, salt, and lime juice as you want. Our tableside specialist recommended two tablespoons of each, in addition to the whole container of lime juice and what was probably about three ounces of lobster meat. It turned out to be way too much lime juice, the acidic flavor of which overwhelmed everything else. On the plus side, that acidity is the only thing that allowed us to take about half home and enjoy it the following afternoon. Otherwise, it would have turned to brown mush.
Our server also told us that the chips were made in house, which seemed unlikely, though it’s possible that the sprinkle of tajin, which adds some tang and spice to the few chips that it sticks to, makes them “homemade.” I would recommend the Tableside Lobster Guacamole as a fun, very shareable starter for four to six people. But I don’t think there’s any way that two or three people aren’t either taking half home or sending it into the trash. Considering the immense amount of the avocado and other ingredients, the lobster also tends to get lost. There’s ten or twelve small chunks in the bowl and far more chips to go around. But it was a fun little experience overall.
While the prices of a lot of the food items have come down over the last year, the same can’t be said about the beer, wine, and cocktails:
Even a mocktail with Pineapple Juice and Orgeat Syrup will run you $11.
But despite the high prices, I’ve been satisfied with many of the cocktails that I’ve sampled, including this $20 “Gold Rush -Kinahan’s Irish Whiskey, Fever Tree Ginger Beer, Fresh Lime.” While certainly expensive, it does come with the full bottle of Fiver Tree, a nice pour of the vanilla-forward whiskey, and quality mint. The fact that it’s also mixed tableside is a nice touch.
Since my first visit, I’ve tried most of the other drinks, here with the $17 “Prohibition Mai Tai – Scarlet Ibis, Orgeat, Banana Liqueur, Fresh Lime, Scrappy Orleans, Amarena Cherry.” This is far removed from the usual Mai Tai that you’d find around property, instead using a high quality Trinidad Rum in additions to the Scrappy’s Orleans Bitters, which adds a potent anise quality backed up by cinnamon and orange peel. Very nicely balanced.
I’m typically brought a $16 “Captain Handsome – Boyd and Blair, Fresh Raspberries, Framboise, Thyme” upon being seated for whatever reason. This drink does use a smooth potato vodka in the Boyd and Blair, but I’ve found the thyme to be overpowering with pieces of the herb floating around in the cocktail, making it difficult to drink without finding yourself chewing on something green.
You might go straight for the Double Tito’s and Cran instead. What a life.
The $16 “Mayan Empress – Santa Teresa Anejo Rum, Passion Fruit, Fresh Lemon” is more straightforward and considering the $16 bottle price of the rum, perhaps the most overpriced.
On our last visit earlier this month, Erin ordered the $20 “Bloody Mary – King Crab, Jumbo Shrimp, Candied Neuske’s Bacon,” which is served with a crab cracker and a large metal bowl for the shells. There was a ton of meat in the crab leg, the fat end of which is sitting at the bottom of the cocktail. But it was difficult to get to that meat with all of the pointy spines. We were originally planning on ordering the Crab Duo Seafood Boil, but decided that the hassle of cracking this one leg was enough to make us change our mind. The shrimp is a good size and the bacon remained crispy with a nice brown sugar flavor even after soaking in the drink for a while. Considering the amount of seafood that arrives with the drink, it seems like a bargain compared to the other options, but the cocktail itself was just okay. The mix didn’t have much spice or any flavor to differentiate itself from your standard grocery store mixer. That was disappointing, but the whole package seemed worthwhile. I’d still skip it if you’re not into the seafood.
Having forgotten which drinks I had tried previously, I went with one that I knew I hadn’t ordered. This is the “Mad About Saffron Martini – Cathead Vodka, Bertina Elderflower Liqueur, House Sour, and Safron Syrup,” which was taken off the menu nine days after I ordered it. That probably makes sense as it was awfully sweet and syrupy.
On a previous visit, Tom Bricker of the excellent DisneyTouristBlog.com made a rare stateside visit to join me and the Other Tom. We began our day at STK happy hour, a review of which you can find here, because who else would you want to be seen with at a “place to be seen” than those two guys. You should have seen Bricker’s face when our server was surprised that we were planning on sharing a $75 “New England Seafood Boil – Maine lobster, Littlenecks, Mussels, and Chouriço served with Plant City Farmer’s Market Corn, New Potatoes, and Cornbread,” stating that each person typically ordered one for themselves. Surprise. Disgust. A perplexing look of how many quinoa bags he could buy with that much money. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but times are very rough for jetsetting millennials. Very rough indeed.
It again seemed unlikely that this is meant to be a bowl for one. We’ve got a whole lobster, a dozen-plus of both the mussels and clams, big sausage, corn, potatoes, plus the fact that we added three medium-size shrimp for ten bucks. It was a fun and satisfying dish, particularly when served upstairs around sunset. In my experience, the Seafood Boils are the safest bet on the menu.
For comparison’s sake, here’s the $75 “Original Lobster Bake for Two – 1.25-pound Whole Maine Lobster, Shrimp, Mussels, Clams, Oysters, Andouille Sausage, Red Potatoes, Corn on the Cob, Boathouse Lobster Broth” from ThE BOathouse. That’s excellent too and I’m not sure which one is objectively “better.” The shrimp from the BOATHOUSE were significantly larger, but the lobster from Paddlefish provided much more meat. It could probably go either way.
Speaking of romance, on our last visit, Erin and I ended up going with a bit of a surf and turf, here with the $49 “Prime Strip – 12-Ounce, Caramelized Onions and Crimini Mushrooms.”
And it was a whopping strip of beef, though I “feel” like we might have been tricked with the “Prime Strip” name of the steak without the specific mention that it’s designated prime. But the steak was flavorful and actually cooked to a nice medium-rare, even if it wasn’t exorbitantly tender compared to similar cuts that I’ve tried elsewhere. The Mushrooms in particular were prepared nicely with a pleasant garlic and butter flavor and a nice chew, while the Caramelized Onions provided a sweet, often-piquant contrast to the meat. Strictly from a quality perspective, steaks are probably a little better at The BOATHOUSE, but I would still recommend the one served here at Paddlefish.
We added a $20 side of Snow Crab, which looks like this. I was satisfied with the portion and there was a ton of meat, but it was also stringy and “felt” overcooked, which was a bit surprising for a kitchen that must prepare a lot of this sort of thing. Hopefully you’ll have better luck.
Overall, I was impressed with my latest experience at Paddlefish, even if my expectations had been lowered a bit by previous visits. Per person, before tax and tip, our meal of lobster, steak, and crab came out to $52.50 per person, which seems reasonable given the quality and the location. We also took enough food home that we had steak and lobster guac for lunch the next day.
But you will see more complaints about service at Paddlefish than most other restaurants, which is cause for some concern. I didn’t personally care much about being upsold on our appetizers, but our server basically lied to us about what we were going to receive. On my previous dinner visit, the server tried to convince us that we were going to need another $150 worth of food to leave satisfied, which proved untrue. So there is that, in addition to what will “feel” like high prices for those unaccustomed to dining at Walt Disney World.
Speaking of prices, here’s the lunch menu:
It’s largely salads and sandwiches, though there are some opportunities to grab some more expensive entrees and the same Seafood Boils are also available. The website’s advice on visiting Disney Springs is typically to go during the day and instead visit a theme park at night, rather than doing what everyone else does and head over to the shopping and dining district after an abbreviated day at a Park. You’ll enjoy lower crowds and lower prices at most restaurants.
On a separate lunch visit, I tried the $14 “Buffalo Chicken Sandwich – Fried, Hot Sauce, Tomato, Lettuce, Onion, Blue cheese, Brioche.”
It was a bargain for the money – the vegetables were fresh, the bun nicely toasted, and it was a significant hunk of chicken along with a large side of fries.
I was less impressed by the $15 “Crab Ceviche – Blue Crab, Avocado, Bell Pepper, Jalapeno, Cilantro, Lime, Tortillas,” which is also available for dinner.
The crab was gummy and the overwhelming flavor again was lime juice. I’d put the money towards an actual side of crab.
Paddlefish has its place in Disney Springs. The vibe is a little more upscale than The Boathouse, which is occasionally what I’m in the mood to experience. And the location on the water is hard to beat, though the outdoor bar at The Boathouse is pleasant in its own right. Still, you’re not on a boat. Bite for bite, I think the food at Boathouse is typically better, but Paddlefish’s menu is quite a bit different, even if steak and seafood are featured at both. If you’re looking at just one meal at Disney Springs then I think The BOATHOUSE is the safer bet, but if you’ve been there a couple of times, then you may want to give Paddlefish a shot.
Just don’t make a reservation for one and let them convince you that you want what is apparently a very-easy-to-make Tableside Guacamole for four.