Editor’s Note: As of May 2013, hot dogs are no longer being offered and the nachos are served with BBQ Pork.
In light of the news that the Walt Disney Company has already closed or will be closing most of the existing ESPN Zone restaurants, I thought it was timely to pay homage to the ESPN Club in Walt Disney World. This place happens to be a favorite of ours here on Disney Food Blog, seeing as it’s one of the only places to get my favorite food: Buffalo Chicken Wings.
Located on Disney World’s Boardwalk, the ESPN Club is more than a restaurant — it’s a sports fan’s dream come true. With televisions everywhere showcasing current ESPN sports, classic sports, and more; a live studio right in the restaurant; and a huge game arcade under the same roof, there’s really no reason to leave once you arrive! Speaking of arriving, be sure to do so EARLY on game days — this place fills up fast.
Once you enter the restaurant, you get to choose whether you’ll sit in the dining room or the bar area. How to choose? Easy: if you want the potential to watch Mike and Mike in the Morning do their ESPN show, sit in the Dining Room, which doubles as a studio. If you want to play computer games and have your own personal TV at your table, sit in the bar area. See? Easy!
But no matter where you sit, be sure to spend some time just walking around and gawking. There are jerseys, equipment, banners, and all manner of sports memorabilia scattered everywhere in the place — top to bottom. The broadcasting studio in the dining room is very cool to check out as well. This restaurant is an attraction in itself.
And don’t worry about how many refills you get on that soda pop — I promise you’ll never miss a moment of the game, no matter how many times you head to the restroom…
By the way — another thing that’s pretty fun about the ESPN Club is that if you time your photography just right, it looks like the Illuminations fireworks go off from inside the restaurant. That’s neither here nor there, but I wanted to show off my picture.
So, I bet those of you who aren’t sports fans are wondering what’s in it for you. Not to worry. Unless you’ve got an extremely high-end palate, you’re sure to find something on the menu you’ll love.
ESPN Club serves pretty much standard American favorites — burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, salads, ribs, sandwiches, chili, etc. The specialty drinks are fun to try, too. Let’s face it, while this place isn’t going to win any James Beard awards, it’s just about the best tailgating food you’d ever hope to try.
We usually arrive at ESPN Club when it first opens for lunch (we like to get a booth and beat the crowds), so we’re often starving when we get there. Luckily, that means more food pics!
For appetizers on this visit, we ordered “Patriot Clam Chowder,” and “Red Wings,” (get it? Like Detroit?) which can be served Medium, Hot, Flame, Teriyaki, or Barbecue, and are served with Celery and Blue Cheese Dressing. By way of review, the Clam Chowder boldly rivals that of Liberty Tree Tavern as far as my husband is concerned — which means it’s pretty dang good. The chicken wings are served whole — meaning you’ve gotta separate the wing from the drumstick yourself if you want to eat them one at a time. This threw me a bit, but they really do have great sauce, so I was game for the challenge. For those of you who LOVE chicken wings and don’t mind getting a little messy with your food, these will hit the spot.
I added to that order a pretty little Margarita. Doesn’t hold a candle to those at La Cava del Tequila, but it’s still pretty good!
For our entrees, we went standard: bacon cheeseburger and chili cheese hot dog. As you know, the cheese dog made it into my top three dogs in Disney World post, so it’s quite good indeed; really one of those “crunch when you bite it” kind of dogs. The burger is quite good as well. While it doesn’t top the Le Cellier or Liberty Tree Tavern versions, it might give Beaches and Cream a run for its money… .
OH, and I forgot a VERY important detail. ESPN Club has hot melty cheese. It’s not the same hot melty cheese that you get in Disney counter-service spots, but it’s hot melty cheese nonetheless.
And, of course, we HAD to order dessert. Usually we skip it when we come here, because we’d prefer to just go grab ice cream at Beaches and Cream or a cupcake at the Boardwalk Bakery, but these days, dessert is research! We chose the Boston Cream Pie to split and it was…uneventful…bland…pretty boring. Looking at the dessert menu now, I should have chosen just about anything else. Hopefully someone out there will make a comment and refute my less-than-stellar review of the Boston Cream Pie; I hate it when I don’t like my Disney food.
Like I said, I really do enjoy the ESPN Club. I’ve had the luck of seeing Mike and Mike in the Morning broadcast their show, and it’s really quite cool to see and take part in!
You see, I’m really not all that hard to please — a great burger, some chicken wings, a margarita, and a personal TV in my bathroom stall pretty much does it for me!
What are your thoughts about the ESPN Club, or about other ESPN Zones around the country? Will you be missing yours if they’re closing it? Anyone near Disneyland want to chime in about the Disneyland ESPN Zone? Would love to hear your comments below.