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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.