We venture out to visit Disney Springs’ newest restaurant, at least for the time being, in STK Orlando.
In order to truly appreciate this review, and all that “not your daddy’s steakhouse” has to offer, I do need to ask you to do something for me. And that is, no matter where you are or what you might be doing, to unplug any and all headphones, crank up your speakers to FULL BLAST, and listen to this quaint string ensemble play a relaxing version of Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15. A personal favorite.
STK is located directly across from what will become The Edison when construction concludes sometime early next year. For now, it’s basically located across from Paradiso 37 and next to Morimoto Asia, though the Morimoto connection is much more obvious from the back side as the front is broken up by a wall of retail.
Orlando’s version is one of 12 currently operating STK restaurants and according to their website, nine more around the world are “coming soon.”
That sort of aggressive expansion is usually synonymous with impending bankruptcy, but with one of only three remaining domestic Planet Hollywood restaurants currently under refurbishment next door, perhaps their DJ will be blasting music while people around the world try to eat their steaks in peace for many years to come.
Prior to the restaurant opening, I looked around online to see what to expect and quickly deduced that I was nine to eleven tattoos, three pairs of sunglasses, and about six inches in the biceps short of their target audience. And while I look pretty good in a dress, I still have trouble dancing on bar tops with heels longer than four inches. So strong shoulders, short dresses, and Decollete 554s are probably out too.
The website has historically refrained from calling establishments “super douchey,” but if I’m ever going to throw that phrase out there, it probably has to be the restaurant with a mailing list called “FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS.” (the capitalization scheme being theirs.)
But instead of going on about what I was expecting to happen, I will instead recall what I experienced. Though I will admit that this was the first time that I think I’ve ever been apprehensive about visiting an on-property restaurant and not fitting in because my interests lie more in “Dumbo the Flying Elephant” and whether “both sides of Primeval Whirl are operating” rather than “slaying workouts” and “girls.”
This will otherwise be treated as an introductory review. I am heading back to STK for dinner tonight and will likely visit again this weekend for lunch. The followup review will focus more on STK vs. BOATHOUSE and which restaurant deserves to be displayed in all caps and which will find itself forever immortalized in LOWER CASE LETTERS.
The good news is perhaps that STK is an entirely unique experience – there is nothing on property quite like it.
You’ll find a variety of booths on the main level set up in a “see and be seen” configuration with angled mirrors overhead.
In the descriptions for every STK location other than Disney Springs and London, you’ll find the sentences, “We want you to mingle and have fun. Say hello to your table neighbors.”
And that is the vibe STK is going for here even if Disney PR made them remove the sentence from their description for this location. STK is a club where you happen to eat steak rather than a restaurant where you go to eat steak.
Music at STK is constant with speakers located behind each table, but it gets louder and louder as the night progresses. Circled is the DJ booth, which comes online around 8pm as the club vibe takes over. Our reservation was much earlier in the evening and the majority of our meal was relatively chill even as “Hey Caroline” got louder and louder as the night progressed.
Those looking for a more traditional dining experience are better served booking a reservation closer to 5pm or 6pm before the DJ arrives or requesting a table upstairs on the patio earlier in the evening.
The other STK locations purportedly do a better job of separating the club atmosphere from the main dining room. While the DJ faces the bar area, the blasting music envelops the entire room by 8:30pm.
STK’s appetizer menu is focused primarily on seafood with a couple instances of beef, not unlike BOATHOUSE:
Pricing here is a bit higher than most of Disney’s signature restaurants and in line with STK’s other restaurants.
The entree menu is reversed with the focus on steaks with a couple instances of seafood. I appreciated the breakdown on steak based on size, though one potentially wonders what makes a 10-ounce strip loin small and a 10-ounce filet medium. Either way, small/medium steaks arrive with one complimentary sauce of your choice while those ordering large steaks have an opportunity to select two. Like BOATHOUSE, your steak arrives sans sides or accompaniments, which are purchased separately.
This is the menu from my last meal at the BOATHOUSE in late April and prices are in line with STK for the most part. BOATHOUSE’s 12-ounce filet is $4.17 an ounce versus $4.60 at STK on their 10-ounce. Sides at STK are $10 versus $9-$12 at the BOAT. So regardless of which restaurant you visit, you’ll pay a similar amount for a steak and a side.
$14 seems to be the standard cocktail price for new third-party restaurants, which is on the high side for the quality you receive. In deciding what value to attribute to a cocktail, I start with the base price of $8 and then add $1 for each ingredient that I either don’t know what it is or can’t pronounce.
The $14 Summertime Fling – Brugal Rum, Rose Wine, St. Germain, Cranberry topped with Bubbles is the largest and most refreshing cocktail on the menu with some flavor from the wine and Dominican rum up front, which is then quickly washed away by the tartness of the cranberry and sweetness of the elderflower and citrus in the liqueur. Anybody looking to sip a drink that will last a while is best served by ordering one (or two) of these.
This is sort of the same picture, but the focus is supposed to be instead on the $14 Not Your Daddy’s Manhattan – Bulleit Bourbon, Zinfandel Port, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Bitters. “Daddy” in this context always creeps me out a bit, but this is a solid drink if you like your bourbon sweetened up in a drink that’s virtually all alcohol. Recommended.
The $14 Ginger Mojito – Hennessy VS, Muddled Mint and Lime, topped with Ginger Ale. I don’t usually order mojitos because in addition to all the ice, you’ve got about half a lime and a ton of mint taking up precious space that I would prefer to be filled with alcohol The cognac and ginger ale in place of rum and soda water is interesting here at first blush. But I was surprised that the flavor profile was so similar to a standard mojito, perhaps because the mint and ginger ale were so overpowering and there was virtually no liquor in it. Would certainly skip next time.
The $14 Smokeshow – Don Julio Tequila, Mescal, Aperol, and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth is all alcohol according to the menu, but it certainly tasted like there was some kind of filler and was much blander than you would expect given the ingredient list. The small portion wasn’t particularly sippable and I would skip it on a return visit.
The size of the $14 Secret Affair – Purity Vodka, Lime, Red Chili Pepper, Watermelon, Tajin Rim is perhaps more evident here with the water and wine glasses in the background. With the ice, lime, and watermelon, there isn’t a whole lot of room for anything else in the glass. Refreshing, but again, gone in a jiffy.
Overall, I think the smart money is going to be on your liquor of choice neat or over ice, though the Summertime Fling seems smart for someone that wants to nurse a fruity drink throughout the meal and the Manhattan was decent.
Wine and beer pricing is rough. A bottle of Veuve is $42 compared to what I’m assuming is a glass for $26 here. The glass of Chandon Rose at $18 is actually higher than the bottle price at $17. Like boathouse, there is no beer on tap here, but a modest list of bottles are available – none of which are particularly inspiring. The Funky Buddha is available around property and especially at Animal Kingdom, but it’s your most unique bet.
Moving on to appetizers, here are the $20 Lil’ BRGs – wagyu beef, special sauce, sesame seed bun.
I guess it’s sort of like STK where they remove some of the letters and it’s trendy. Maybe I will rename this site to syWDW.
At $20 or $2 more than their 8-ounce Prime Beef Burger and Fries costs at lunch, you get two of these small sliders and a small bowl of two or three cornichon pickles. The wagyu was perfectly cooked to a nice medium rare and placed in between a fresh roll, a thick slice of tomato, melted gouda cheese, and a zesty, creamy sauce, but I’m not sure that there’s a tremendous amount of value here. If you’re ordering seafood as an entree then it might make sense to start with these or the Beef Tartare to share, but I think we’re in Nomad-Lounge-Territory on the portion size. You could order these and a side and have a mostly satisfying, smaller entree, but you’re still spending $29, which is more than twice as much as an order of Fillet Sliders and a side at BOATHOUSE costs. It’s a winner on taste but easily $5 or $6 overpriced. Whether that stops you is up to you.
The $18 Crispy Rock Shrimp with Chili Remoulade were a bigger, more shareable portion. The batter was a little thicker than I would have liked considering the small pieces of shrimp inside, but they had a nice crunch to them and the remoulade, which there wasn’t a ton of, did spice each bite up nicely. It’s a nice starter and I guess I’ll stop pointing out that everything is expensive.
Also from the seafood column is the $18 Seared Scallops – squash puree, short rib marmalade, and pomegranate. Like the wagyu beef, these were perfectly prepared, melt-in-your-mouth quality on top of more quality ingredients from the al dente vegetables to the couple bites of short rib. Truly excellent. Just assume I write “but expensive” for every dish.
Continuing with the seafood theme, we have the $18 Grilled Octopus – purple potatoes, capers, heirloom tomatoes, which was a relatively large pile of meat and tentacles served over a bed of vegetables. The tender octopus was nicely seasoned and natural tasting while soaking up some of the flavors from the capers and other vegetables underneath.
The $16 Buratta – local heirloom tomato, arugula pesto, (and without) serrano ham because they didn’t yet have any. Very fresh, vibrant tomatoes here with two large chunks of fresh Italian cheese and a somewhat unique arugula pesto that gives it more a peppery kick than your traditional basil. It may be hard to impress on the usual caprese, but this did. Very good.
The $14 Blue Iceberg – smoked bacon, maytag blue, cherry tomato is an attractive, albeit expensive (have I mentioned that yet?) garden salad with a nice tang from the dressing with a slightly lemon-y finish. The picture does a nice job of showing how bright and fresh all of the ingredients are, I think, and 14 bucks is about what you can expect to pay for this sort of thing at a “high end” restaurant.
STK offers a Raw Bar with a handful of options, including this $19 Shrimp Cocktail – cocktail sauce, lemon.
Your money buys you four very large shrimp attractively presented on a bed of ice with a surprisingly zesty cocktail sauce.
Besides each of the appetizers costing $2-$4 more than I would have liked to pay, there’s little doubt that the quality in ingredients and presentation is there. Say what you will about the pounding bass and lousy cocktails, but STK is focused on serving quality food.
The $54 14-ounce Bone-In Filet was our favorite steak – flavorful, extremely tender, and a nice charred exterior. I have in mind to try the 10-ounce Filet tonight and will report back.
The $51 20-ounce Bone-In Rib Steak is a bit more difficult to go to town on, but has a slightly richer, beefier flavor than the Filet.
I did not adequately capture the large size of the $65 24-ounce Porterhouse, which is perhaps the best of both worlds with the leaner tenderloin portion and the potentially more flavorful strip loin. This comes out to two 10-ounce portions of meat, which should be enough to share.
The $44 16-ounce sirloin is probably the most steak for your buck at $2.75 an ounce. Interestingly, the 24-ounce Porterhouse is actually less expensive on a per-ounce basis than the 32-ounce porterhouse. This is a bit chewier than the other options, but still offers a robust flavor with light seasoning. And there is a lot of it.
In a humiliating twist of fate, I neglected to take a picture of my $28 Skirt Steak. I initially took this picture for the sake of the side of Asparagus officinalis, a spring vegetable that I have a particular affinity towards. In lieu of a picture, I will use my incredibly robust meat vocabulary to say that it tasted like steak and was surprisingly tender given the cut – more tender and more flavorful than your standard Disney “New York Strip” that they serve at just about every “regular” table service restaurant on property for $31 – $36. I ended up with it because most of the other cuts were spoken for and when I asked the server if he recommended that or the Sirloin or the Strip, he recommended the Skirt. Not a bad call in hindsight.
Steak isn’t the only thing on the menu as this $38 Florida Grouper – miatake mushroom, fingerling potato, truffle, and lobster brown butter attests. The firm, yet delicate fish has a mild flavor that’s subtle on its own before soaking up the richness of the truffle and butter underneath. It’s not a gigantic portion, but the flaky fish and richness of the sauce should satisfy most appetites.
The $28 Grilled Chicken – bok choy, snap peas, baby carrot, and shiso. It’s not unusual for the staff’s favorite dish at a given steakhouse to be the chicken. Our server confided in us that it was whoever the restaurant group had sent to oversee the restaurant’s favorite dish and his as well. And if you ask most Ruth’s Chris servers, they will tell you that they would prefer you to order a hundred dollar steak, but can’t begrudge anyone ordering the chicken because it’s the best thing on the menu. That is perhaps because the chicken, here with Asian-influenced flavors, is so easily seasoned and so easily soaks up the flavors of what’s underneath it. This is probably the best chicken dish that I’ve enjoyed on property and less expensive than chicken dishes at Disney-operated signature restaurants like yesterday’s Chermoula-rubbed version at Tiffins.
Of course, this would not be easydubz without a good dose of negativity to make you feel bad about yourself, so we move on to the most disappointing part of the STK menu, which is the sides.
This is a $10 side of Wild Mushrooms served in what I would ordinarily say is just about the cutest miniature dish of all time (of all time), but it is a paltry amount for the money.
This is not a giant serving spoon inside this $10 side of Sweet Corn Pudding.
This is maybe eight bites of “Creamy Yukon Potatoes” for ten bucks?
Usually, steakhouse sides are gigantic and while I am saving the BOatHOUSe comparison for later, this is $9 worth of roasted new potatoes over there. There’s enough for a group of five to have four or five potatoes each versus MAYBE one and a half bites of mashed potatoes here.
This is five pieces of asparagus for ten dollars or $2 per piece. Is it nicely seasoned? Sure, but the four sides I’ve pictured cost $40 and if you were sharing among four people, you’d be lucky to come away with more than three bites of anything.
So I’m not sure what I would suggest on the side front. It’s nice to have something else to nibble on when you’re digging into a 24-ounce steak, but you might pick one side that you really want to try and plan to eat most of it yourself as nothing we tried was remotely shareable.
There is one exception in the $10 Mac & Cheese, which spans perhaps most of the length of a fork on the long end. This would happily serve two people, but I’m not sure it’s the best accompaniment to a high end meal.
Things improved with dessert, as they usually do:
STK does have a dedicated pastry chef that serves a dessert menu consisting of six desserts offered at $10 each.
The $10 Warm Baked Cookie – caramel, chocolate sauce, and vanilla ice cream was my favorite of the desserts. It might sound rudimentary, but the cookie underneath is gloriously rich and chocolate-y and the ice cream on top somehow stays intact for a good while before melting away into sweet, caramel-y, ooey-gooey goodness.
This is two orders of the Bag O’ Donuts – Dulce de Leche Filling, Spiced Chocolate Sauce, Raspberry Sauce.
The plump donuts enjoyed a soft but sturdy exterior before giving way to a sweet caramel sauce inside. The thick, fudge-like chocolate sauce was the favorite of the two dips, though the raspberry-coulis-like sauce offered a fruitier bite if you don’t want to double up on decadence. Each bag arrives with five donuts and one each of the sauces.
The Ice STK is a Mini Ice Cream Cone Sampler and perhaps the lightest way to finish a meal with three small cones filled with one of three flavors.
It reminded me a lot of Citricos’ Tasting of Gelato.
The Bag O’ Donuts was also similar to Territory Lounge’s version. I am not sure if the brown paper bag or STK-logo bag is more presh.
Anyway, the ice cream was a cool, tasty way to finish the meal, but considering I just finished writing 2,500 words about whether a small ice cream at Ample Hills is worth $5.79, it seems difficult to assert that this is ten bucks worth of ice cream. On the other hand, $3.33 for gourmet ice cream scooped on top of an itsy bitsy cone might be worth the money.
So where do we come down on STK? I think a wait-and-see approach is going to be best. They are trying to replicate the atmosphere of their other restaurants in New York City, Milan, Ibiza, and New York and I am not sure the Downtown Disney *ahem* Disney Springs crowd will be into it. On the other hand, if they turn the music up and push their gyrating, short-skirted hostesses outside the main entrance, they may be able to attract the pretty crowd that can’t wait to show off the fact that they just spent $60 on two glasses of Veuve for their new lady friends. STK is, after all, one of what will be a couple dozen very different places to eat at Disney Springs and the atmosphere does not need to appeal to all or even a majority of potential diners.
Your experience will also differ greatly based on the time and day you visit. On a Tuesday at 5pm, you basically just have the radio playing in your ear. Fast forward to 10pm on Saturday night and you’re going to wish you packed your most-bedazzled Ed Hardy shirt and your most-conspicuously-torn jeans.
STK is not your typical steakhouse, blending expensive food with a club vibe. And it’s probably not my jam as I am somewhat adverse to fun or would at least prefer to enjoy my steak and martinis in peace before working up the confidence to hit the dance floor. But STK is your one-stop-shop for those looking to enjoy a $65 steak while singing along to Mr. Worldwide.