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Guest Review: Disney World’s Paradiso 37

Guest reviewer Bill Iadonisi is back with another great review! This time, Bill takes us to a relatively new Downtown Disney eatery — Paradiso 37. Take it away, Bill!

Hello again Disney food lovers. Before I begin I must offer an apology. I had promised to first review all of the Disney counter-service restaurants for the Food Blog. But as you can see, I had to deviate a bit from my plans for this review. Circumstances brought me to Downtown Disney, and we decided on Paradiso 37 for dinner, hence this review! But I will be back on track for next month.

Orlando Downtown Disney Paradiso 37

Restaurant Background and Info
Paradiso 37 opened on June 5th, 2009, right next to the old Adventurer’s Club on Pleasure Island. I am sure everyone has heard of the new “Hyperion Wharf” rehab and expansion for Pleasure Island, but rest assured that Disney is keeping Paradiso 37 in its expansion plans.

Paradiso 37 Outdoor bar

I am very glad they did, for this eatery made a big impression on myself and party. At first glance you would think this is just another type of Chili’s or Outback, but no. This restaurant is more sophisticated in both its atmosphere and menu. You will find unique offerings like Mahi Mahi Sliders, Argentinean style Skirt Steak or a Colombian style Crispy Hen.

I spoke to Managing partner Leland Lewis. He explained that the name Paradiso 37 means that the menu represents the interpretations of 37 cuisines in the countries of North, South and Central America, Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean. It is a cornucopia of tastes and flavors with a Latin flair.

Atmosphere
The restaurant has two indoor dining areas — one on the first level and a smaller, more intimate one on the second. The tables, booths and even the bar are dark solid wood; the fabrics are gaily colored reds, blues and greens, giving one the feeling of being in the tropics, or a secluded hide-a-way in the Caribbean. The wide floorboards are the same wood as the furniture. Very rustic. Even the napkins are brightly colored.

Upstairs Dining Room

Downstairs Dining Room

The bar upstairs has beautiful, brightly colored glass bottles set into the lower section of the bar; the main bar downstairs has a huge semi-circular wall of glass alcoves with liquor bottles displayed, backlit by windows, all adding to the wonderful ambiance of the restaurant. The atmosphere here is definitely more upscale and geared more for the adult crowd.

Upstairs Bar

Downstairs Bar

In addition, there are two outside seating areas for balmy summertime dining. One small area in the front of the restaurant faces the pedestrians walking to and fro, but there is another, larger area on the first level which offers beautiful views of Village Lake, and a really close-up view of the “Characters in Flight” Balloon. In keeping with the more “Upscale” image, there is a live band nightly, and you will find “Specials” offered on the weekends. In addition to the bars on the upper and lower levels, there is also an outdoor bar. A little trivia, the owners, “E-Brands” also owns “Marrakesh” in EPCOT and this Paradiso 37 is the only restaurant of its kind/name in existence.

Outdoor Seating

View of Characters in Flight Balloon from Outdoor Seating Area

Eats
The menu choices are also a cut above the average “Roadhouse” restaurants. Each and every menu item is crafted to accurately represent the taste and appearance you’d find in authentic Latin dining. For dinner, my wife, Donna, and friends, John and Joe, sampled the menu and all gave it top marks.

Main Menu -- Click for larger image

Main Menu -- Click for larger image

Outside Menu -- click for larger image

For starters, we ordered the P37 Nachos ($13.99). This appetizer comes with unlimited corn tortilla chips, which had just the right amount of salt and tasted very fresh. For dipping sauces, the choices were Queso Fundido (a tasty melted cheese dip), Chili Queso Fresco, Pico-de-Gallo and sour cream. The menu says it serves 2, but our whole group munched on this, and there was plenty. The chips and spices used set it apart from the standard nacho dish.

P37 Nachos

For the main course, Donna ordered the Quesadillas ($12.99) — flour tortillas with choice of steak or chicken, imported cheeses and Pico-de-Gallo. This came with six large pieces — very filling and the taste was unlike any I had sampled (yes, she let me have a bite!).

Quesadillas

I ordered the Columbian Style Crispy Hen ($17.99), accompanied by roasted seasonal veggies, onions, garlic, fresh Citrus Marmalade and two small grilled corn cakes. One might think this was just a standard squab or Rock Cornish hen, but the crispy skin and wonderful spices used made this meal special. The meat was moist and very tender, and the skin had a crunch and texture like potato chips. The beans were crunchy and had a nice snap to them, and with the citrus and marmalade flavors in the background, they were a treat. The only downside to this dish was the grilled corn cakes. I thought them very bland with no real taste, a sharp contrast to the flavors already experienced. My friend Joe had a sample and he agreed.

Crispy Hen

And speaking of Joe, he ordered the Argentinean Skirt Steak ($19.99). Joe is a meat/steak lover from way back and he raved about this dish! The meal comes with P37 fries, caramelized onions and Chimichurri sauce. The skirt steak was cooked to perfection as ordered (Medium Well). The Chimichurri marinade, which originated in Uruguay and Argentina, totally infused the meat and gave it a flavor that Joe said he’d never tasted before; it was fabulous!

Argentinean Skirt Steak

My friend John is a picky eater, and he loves mainly chicken. So it was no surprise he ordered the grilled chicken sandwich ($14.99). The meal came with a large white meat breast, bacon, Borracho beans, a traditional Mexican dish made with Pinto beans, Serrano Slaw, and Queso Fresco. As with the rest of our orders, this was hot, fresh and because of the unique cooking styles and spices, the food had a flavor unique to this eatery.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Our group only ordered one dessert. That was because we were really full! We chose the Churros and Sopapillas ($5.99), which were dusted with Cinnamon sugar and accompanied with Chocolate and Carmel dipping sauces. This was very sweet and very filling.

Churros and Sopapillas Dessert

Overall
Our group has nothing but praise for this restaurant. We give it high marks for the service, food and atmosphere. However, although the ambiance is subdued and romantic, it can and will get loud and noisy when the crowds start coming in, especially when the band starts playing. I would suggest for a more intimate and romantic experience, come at the quieter times during the day.

There is of course a children’s menu. The restaurant is opened Sunday through Thursday, 11:30am till 11:00pm; the bars stay open one hour later. On Fridays and Saturdays the hours are 11:30am to 12:00am. The bars are open till 1:00am. The eatery accepts Tables in Wonderland, Passholder and DVC (Disney Vacation Club) discounts. When the expansion is complete for the Hyperion Wharf, Paradiso 37 will fit in perfectly!

Thanks again, Bill! For secondary reading, you can see my Paradiso 37 Review right here.

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16 Comments

  1. carolyn says:

    Thank you for the review. I have to admit I thought it was like a Chili’s or Chevy’s but after reading your review I’m glad that they offer so much more. It’s wonderful to see South/Central American dishes popping up. I am a vegetarian, though, and didn’t see a any veg entrees in the menu but I’m sure they could accommodate ( heh, I’ve been to Argentina three times and it’s always a bit of a challenge). :) Thanks for the really nice review! The drink selection looks really fun, too.

  2. Angie says:

    We went here in January, and sadly our service experience was not as good as yours. Our waitress was not particularly friendly and seemed to just want to get us out of there. I believe I got the baja fish tacos, which were ok but nothing special. It’s possible we were just unlucky, as I’ve heard positive things from other people who have dined there too.

  3. Karen says:

    We recently made it here for the first time as well. We had the chips and guacamole for an appetizer. It was fresh and delicious and we were offered a refill on the warm tortilla chips when we started to get low. Our server even brought out a side of salsa so we could sample it. My husband had the skirt steak and kept finding my fork sneaking to his plate for another sample. I had the fish tacos and I thought they were delicious! We didn’t get dessert because we were headed to babycakes, but after trying the cupcakes, I wish I had just stayed at Paradiso for the sopapillas!

    The only thing I was a little disappointed with was the drinks menu. They have the “coldest” beer apparently, but not many options. Would have liked to sample something new instead of just the same ol’. The twisted margarita (frozen sangria/maragarita mix) was good, but not spectacular.

  4. @Angie…You are not alone. I have had several experiences similar to yours with horrid service here and sadly on two occasions by the same server and her name was Amanda. I sat once with an empty glass for what seemed like an eternity while I watched my server apply makeup at the register. I have also sat and waited for my food for an hour or so while there was only one other table of guests besides ours in the entire restaurant.

    I have been four or five times to Paradiso because I love the food. E-Brands also owns several other popular restaurants in Orlando that are divine! The closest in menu selection to Paradiso was the recently-closed Salsa Taqueria and Tequila Bar in the Florida Mall (R.I.P.) The fire roasted salsa and guac are to die for! You just have to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to the the service in this establishment.

  5. Alan says:

    A nice review and great pictures from Bill. I intended to try this place last Sept. but it was too close to Raglan Rd. and Cooke’s of Dublin and the Hole-in-the-Wall bar. Between the happy hour at the bar and fried scallops and fish and chips I couldn’t drag myself over there.
    It does appear to be a beautiful place with interesting and different menu items. Let’s hope the service and all the dishes will eventually live up to the beauty of the restaurant.

  6. Josh says:

    Great review Bill. I’d have to say they have quite the choice off the menu there!

    By the way is then Hen a Cornish Hen by chance?

  7. Var says:

    I’ve eaten here once, which must have been fairly soon after it opened. I enjoyed the atmosphere and food. I look forward to trying it again. Thanks for the review.

  8. Heather says:

    We ate there last April and thought it was pretty good. Just didn’t like how LOUD it was in there.

  9. Galloping Gourmand says:

    I felt the same way as @carolyn. The menu looks like a Chili’s or Applebes’ or Ruby Tuesday etc. etc. so I thought that it was some regional roadhouse chain and always walked by. I may try it next time I’m down, but it seems like there are so many other eateries there with more interesting menus.

  10. Jeff W. says:

    Hmm. As pictured, the P37 nachos portion sure doesn’t look like “plenty”, especially considering the price approaches fifteen bucks. I have to say that, having never seen any food pics from this place, I was excited to try it during our next trip. Now, after looking at the food in these pics, I can’t say as I’m excited as I was before. I mean, I know that pictures can’t convey flavor, but the food at the new Hacienda de San Angel looks ten times more delectable than the food served here.

  11. Jeff W. says:

    Dude, I just realized: You got the Mexican Dipping Trio, not the P37 Nachos. Not to say you didn’t order the P37 Nachos, but what you were served is pretty obviously (after having looked at the menu descriptions) the Mexican Dipping Trio.

    Get me, I’m all, like, Sherlock Holmes, and stuff!

  12. AJ says:

    Ha ha! Jeff — way to be sleuth…y and stuff! ;-) Thanks for the comments!

  13. Jeff W. says:

    Thanks again, AJ!

    Boy, someone sure has a bit much time on their hands… (::Hangs head, points at self::)

  14. AJ says:

    Ha! No way, dude! Many thanks for double checking! :-)

  15. I thank all of you again who took time to comment! to Angie, sorry about your experience, but after dining at almost every eatery on property for the last 5 years, we never had nothing but the best experience! I am sure my day will come. To Jeff W. you are right abouth the nachos, that was a labeling error, my fault! And to Heather, it can get a tab loud, especially weekend and dinner time, but not as bad as some locations. Again to Jeff W. pics sometimes do not do justice. We found the nachos were enough for all, and we asked for a bit extra they were so good, no problem! I again thank all readers for their comments, please keep ‘em coming! Till the next review…
    Bill

  16. Chloe says:

    @Amanda Tinney
    Just curious when you visited and had bad service by the server Amanda because everytime I have eaten there I had good service recently.

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