The Polite Pig officially opens on April 10th, 2017, in the Town Center section of Disney Springs next to the stairs/escalator to/from the Lime Garage.
Disclaimer: As a sort of rule, I don’t typically go to restaurant previews/media events because I don’t trust people that go to restaurant previews/media events. I’ve actually never been to one. If you’re not willing to spend your money, I’m certainly not going to listen to you tell me how to spend mine. But I was invited by an old friend to be one of the first guests to experience The Polite Pig, so I obliged the invitation. Partially because it seemed rude not to. Partially because like everyone else, I love free stuff. This has almost certainly clouded my judgement. But since this is an opportunity to tell you about a new restaurant before anyone else, I thought I would take it. But consider the fact that this meal cost me zero dollars. I’ll be back on April 10th for a review of the regular guest experience.
The Polite Pig is a fast-casual concept brought to you by acclaimed chefs Julie and James Petrakis. If you know anything about the local dining scene, then you’ve certainly heard about Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder, and Swine & Sons, which are all acclaimed restaurants also operated by the wife-husband team. Here at Polite Pig, the initial order setup is not unlike breakfast or lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant over at Magic Kingdom. Guests first peruse the menu and place their food and drink orders with a cashier, who will then supply an RFID pager so a server can deliver the food to the correct table once it’s ready. After the food arrives, the server will take any additional food or drink orders you might have and take care of anything else that you need throughout the meal.
The food portion of the menu focuses on “modern barbecue:”
Cost is in the vicinity of Disney-operated quick services with pricing on the sandwiches nearly identical to nearby D-Luxe Burger, where hamburgers initially seem relatively inexpensive until you realize that fries are extra. But the Half Chicken served with slaw, Texas toast, and choice of side is actually less expensive than Disney’s version offered at places like Cosmic Ray’s. On the other hand, the Fried Chicken Sandwich, which we’ll certainly order on April 10th, is only $1 less than Homecomin’ across the way once a side is added. The Ribs are the same price as Flame Tree Barbecue.
The Pulled Pork Sandwich with a side is $4 more than Disney’s version that looks like this. So I think we’re in line with other options here at Disney Springs and the theme parks/resorts.
The seven sauces, each of which is delicious in its own unique way, enhance many of the items available.
Your server would be happy to deliver any and all of your selections, or you can grab them yourself.
Cask & Larder operates a brewery and The Polite Pig offers four of their best varieties, in addition to two very good Cigar City offerings, a local choice in the Red Cyprus, and the venerable Oskar Blue’s selection. Bud Light and Yuengling cost a little less.
More interesting perhaps are the “on tap” cocktails, which is a trendy way of saying pre-mixed.
I’m not sure if this is the end of the world considering the $10 price point and option to order an entire pitcher for $25, but we’ll check back in on quality. My Old-Fashioned tasted watered down as part of the test service.
If you’re only interested in a cocktail, beer, or wine, then you can head to an open seat at the bar and place an order inside.
Or out. I was slightly disappointed that the outdoor bar was facing inward as it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to make fun of tourists while guzzling pitchers of Tequila and Grapefruit. But there’s always time for that later.
More than 50 bourbons are available individually or as part of a flight:
Pricing really runs the gamut here from reasonable to absurd. I feel like whoever is in charge got trashed one night, started pointing to the names of the bourbons, and then threw a dart at a price list to determine what to charge. For example, the E.H. Taylor is $11. The bottle price is $50. That’s not bad. On the other hand, the Eagle Rare Bourbon is $24. The bottle price is $29. Bulleit 10-year is $18. The bottle price is $43. Woodford Reserve is $16. The bottle price is $28. Pappy 23-year is a $3,000 bottle…if you can find it. It’s $99 here. So there does not seem to be a whole lot of rhyme or reason to the list. And if something sounds good, you might want to do a little research before you pay the bottle price for two ounces.
On the other hand, something like the Winter Park Bear Gully may not be available where you’re from and $20 might be worth the convenience of not having to search for the $40 bottle at the area Publix Liquors.
The Smoker, which I believe is a J&R “The Little Red Smokehouse,” is one of the first things you’ll see upon entering.
Like many restaurants these days, an “open kitchen” is advertised ,and it’s visible through the glass towards the back of the seating area in case you want to peer inside for some reason.
Speaking of seating, there are a variety of table setups throughout the restaurant, including long high top tables in the back, “regular” tables for two or four in the center, and then bench/chair seating against the wall.
In addition to some high top tables near the bar.
“Farmer’s Market” is scrolled across the wall, which probably means we are in a re-purposed one of those, or so the #story goes.
It’s a very casual space that I noticed was very loud even given relatively few people dining.
I otherwise don’t think the atmosphere will make or break your meal here – it’s basically tables in a room in a sort of industrial setting. I’ll see how loud it is during regular service come Monday.
Our food choices were largely pre-determined for the friends and family preview.
This is the $15 “Half Chicken with a citrus rub served with Slaw, Texas Toast, and Choice of 1 Market Side.” The chicken was tender and juicy with a nice smoky flavor that was enhanced by the subtle zesty flavor of the rub with a little pepper and spice showing through. The garlicky, buttery toast on the side aided in sopping up some of the flavor from the chicken, which was kind of hard to handle given plastic cutlery. But we persevered through what was a giant portion. The quality is pretty incredible.
I was even more impressed by the BBQ Cauliflower, which arrived in a large portion with some unadvertised granola, the crunchiness of which really complemented the crispy vegetable. I was expecting the “Paprika Sour Cream” to be more of a sauce or dip, but it did apparently add some spice to each bite and a really beautiful color. Surprisingly good.
The $12 “The Southern Pig”- Pulled Pork, Apple Slaw, Mustard Sauce, and Duke’s Mayo” is a pretty loose interpretation of what I think most people would be expecting from a “pulled pork sandwich.”
I apologize as this is not a particularly attractive picture. But the pulled pork “felt” like it had been haphazardly cut from a pork shoulder into more manageable, bite-size chunks, and it had a really pronounced, acute vinegar flavor against the slaw, which seemed to add a little more vinegar along with a little bit of fruit. The Duke’s Mayonnaise adds a creamy component, but the mustard flavor was so pronounced that there wasn’t much that could be done about tempering it. I like mustard, so it’s not like I’m complaining here, but it was not exactly what I was expecting going in. I would have thought that the pork flavor could be more customizable based on what sauce I wanted to add. But the pork was impossibly tender and there was a ton of it in between the incredibly fresh, soft, slightly crispy bread. I would order it again.
For dessert, we tried a slice of the $7 Orange Blossom Honey Cake. This has a distinct, very citrus-y sweetness to it and was denser than I was expecting as I gazed upon it throughout the meal…waiting…wondering…the icing adds some more firmness to the cake both on the top and on the side. I really enjoyed the flavor and after quickly getting over its lack of fluff, had no trouble demolishing it.
I have no idea how they’re going to do a pitcher of Old Fashioned, but I tried a glass and thought it tasted watered down, perhaps just because so much of the ice had melted before I really got going on it. We’ll see how it turns out on the 10th as pitchers will be flowing.
The Cask and Larder Red Drum Amber Ale comes in at a respectable 5.6% ABV and has a really nice hoppy quality to it, in addition to the beautiful red color and caramel nose. It’s going to be incredibly refreshing in the spring and summer. A real winner and all things considered, a good value in the 20-ounce size for $9.
Self-serve soft drinks are available and Blue Sky Root Beer makes an appearance.
Queue the sweet tea debate.
Overall, I left The Polite Pig impressed by the quality of the food and the variety of flavors offered. Everything on the menu sounds good. And everything we tried tasted great, even if some of the flavors buck tradition. Adding a potentially great barbecue joint isn’t going to make the decision of where to eat at Disney Springs any easier. If the kitchen can consistently execute this menu and push food out quickly, I think The Polite Pig will resonate with a lot of guests looking for familiar flavors with a twist. On the other hand, sandwich pricing is in line with Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ across the way and that will likely prove to be a more relaxed atmosphere with potentially more personable service. We’ll see how The Polite Pig stacks up.