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Review: ESPN Club in Walt Disney World

Editor’s Note: As of May 2013, hot dogs are no longer being offered and the nachos are served with BBQ Pork.

It’s been TOO LONG since I’ve done an ESPN Club review for ya, so we finally headed over there on a recent visit. It wasn’t from lack of trying, mind you — I actually like this restaurant a lot and we enjoy going there. But other restaurants kept getting in the way. ;-)

But now it’s time for this paradise of bar food to get its day in the spotlight…here we go!

Atmosphere

Your first impression of ESPN Club will be that you’ve died and gone to Sports Bar Heaven. Seriously, as you will see, no detail is left untouched. This is a world created for the die hard sports fan. From the menu to the television placement (more to come!) you need never miss a second of the game while you’re here.

ESPN Club (with a line to get in on Game Day!)

But never fear, even though the feel is straight-up sports bar, it’s very kid-friendly, with the standard Disney kids’ menu offered. And with an arcade off to the side, chances are you’ll wave goodbye to the kids and not see them again until dessert anyway!

As you walk in, you can choose from seating in the bar area to the right or the dining room to the left. The bar area has ample TVs situated all around the room — even at your table.

Bar

And what goes better with the game than beer? Here are a few of the draft selections, including the very popular local Orange Blossom Pilsner.

Beer on Draft

Although we were there on a quiet weekday, make no mistake: this place gets packed fast when there’s a big game on. And while it’s a fantastic venue to catch the play-offs or a World Cup match, be prepared to camp out or stand in a very long line if you want to be part of the excitement.

Tip: if you aren’t a fan of crowds, long lines, or waiting, catch early season games here and save the Big Ones for another venue.

Bar Seating

High-topped bar tables are available, as well as standard tables and chairs.

Bar Seating

Booths along the wood-paneled walls give you the extra luxury of an up-close-and-personal TV to watch. You also have a better view of the tons and tons of sports memorabilia that covers the walls. And that wood paneling really does give you the feel that you’re in a neighborhood joint.

Table

The TVs also have built-ins for gaming. I haven’t seen them functional for a long time. If you have, let me know! :-)

Game at Table

If you opt for the dining room over the bar, you don’t leave the sports fun behind! Get a load of this HUGE viewing screen, which sits over top the Mike & Mike broadcast desk, where the Mike & Mike ESPN show is taped when the guys are in town for special events!

Dining Room

Sound Booth

There isn’t a bad seat in the house with the huge monitor flanked by several other flat screens. And check out the loungers front and center!

Sports Show Area

A couple of lucky fans can enjoy their meals from this awesome vantage point. The chairs are sort of an homage to ESPN Zones around the country, which (sadly) Disney opted to close a couple of years back.

Lounge Chairs

Dining room tables along the outside wall offer a terrific view for people-watching on the Boardwalk and Crescent Lake.

Dining Room Tables

And remember when I said there were televisions everywhere? I meant it. You will find some of the 100 screens in the bathrooms, guaranteeing that you won’t even miss a moment when you take your bathroom break!

This is my favorite part of the ESPN Club.

Bathroom

TVs in bathroom

There are TVs over the sinks as well, so no slacking on the handwashing. ;-)

TV at Sink

But after capturing all of these pics for you, we were definitely ready to settle down to some good food.

Eats

You would expect a sports bar to have an extensive beer menu, and ESPN Club doesn’t disappoint. There is an impressive selection that will meet the needs of most beer enthusiasts.

ESPN Beer Menu - Click to Enlarge

My friend opted for a Terrapin Hopsecutioner, an IPA made in Athens, Georgia. The description of “intensely hoppy” was appropriate, and although my friend isn’t a huge hops fan, he enjoyed it.

Hopsecutioner

The cocktail and wine menu is actually located on page three of the dinner menu, so we’ll have pictures of it in a sec. As for my choice, I went with The Espy, and I was, well, disappointed. The drink was a new offering, and I found it to be way too sweet for my taste.

The Espy

The menu offers some fun twists on bar food, as well as plenty of classics. I like that they’ve switched up the menu a bit from my last visiting, adding some updated items.

There is also an extensive offering of non-alcoholic drinks.

Dinner Menu 1 - Click to Enlarge

Dinner Menu 2 - Click to Enlarge

Dinner Menu 3 - Click to Enlarge

But you won’t be surprised to find that I went for the obvious: the ESPN Dingers! This is one of the only places I can get boneless wings in Disney World, and they’re quite good.

ESPN Dingers

Next, we had the Macho Nachos for two. Pretty much your standard nachos with plastic cheese, chili, pico de gallo, jalepenos, grated cheese, and sour cream.

With a generous topping-to-chip ratio, how could you go wrong? While the wings and nachos are standard bar fare, both were fresh, hot, and tasted really good.

Macho Nachos for Two

Our entrees were a little more imaginative. I had the new-to-me Italian Hot Dog, topped with fried potatoes, sauteed onions, and peppers. Served with mustard on the side and a generous portion of french fries, this was outstanding! The snappy hot dog itself had terrific flavor, and the wonderfully crusty bun was like a split baguette.

The dogs here definitely stand as one of top three hot dogs in Disney World!

Italian Hot Dog

My friend’s selection was even more impressive, as he chose the Chicago Meets Pittsburgh: Extreme Roast Beef Sandwich. And lemme tell you, it lives up to the name.

Served on a long roll like a Chicago Italian Beef sandwich, the meat is then piled high with coleslaw and french fries. Any fan of Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh will immediately recognize this as an homage (though I’ll admit, I was always a fan of the “O”‘s pile-o-fries as well)!

Chicago Meets Pittsburgh: Extreme Roast Beef Sandwich

And to finish the flavors, the whole thing is served on a Kimmelweck Roll, with its characteristic kosher salt and caraway seeds replaced by poppy and sesame seeds.

Beef on Weck, anyone? We loved this fantastic sandwich, which reminded me of college days near the Burgh!

Inside Roast Beef Sandwich

Once our meals were out of the way, it was time to turn our attention to dessert. They have some really fun dessert drinks – appropriately called Slap Shots – as well as some interesting desserts to choose from.

Dessert Menu

We opted for the Deconstructed Key Lime Pie with Blueberry Mousse, which arrived at our table disguised as a baseball. Adorable. (Note: baseball=whipped cream)

Deconstructed Key Lime Pie with Blueberry Mousse

And please, do not dismiss this dessert because of the themed presentation! I’m predisposed to love key lime pie anyway, but this was outstanding.

Key lime custard, layered with blueberry mousse, and topped with chocolate cookie crumbs. There was complexity to the flavors from the chocolate and a perfect tart-sweet combo due to the key lime-blueberry layers. Don’t skip dessert, because this was pretty awesome.

Key Lime Pie - Inside

Overall

Really, how can you go wrong with ESPN Club? If you’re a sports fan, you’re going to love being absolutely inundated with every kind of broadcast sports that you can think of. And even when there aren’t live events, the monitors loop “Best of” highlights of ESPN shows. (Although to be honest, I was a little puzzled by the occasional broadcast of menu items. That seemed a little weirdly unnecessary.)

If you aren’t a sports fan, you’ll still find some great eats (as long as you’re a fan of bar food like I am) as well as good views from this Boardwalk hotspot.

Definitely stop into ESPN Club on your next visit to Walt Disney World. Because it competes for business with Epcot eateries, you’ll often find a table with no problem here. Just remember to bring your patience if it’s a big game viewing opp you’re coming for. :-)

Do you love catching a game at ESPN Club? Leave us a comment and tell us about your most recent experience here!

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18 Comments

  1. Frank says:

    My favorites are their wings and pulled pork.
    Great “comfort food!!”
    Frank

  2. Alan says:

    We have always liked the ESPN Club. Easy to get in without reservations and decent bar food. It’s a great place to catch up on sports while on a Disney vacation. My problem is with them is calling the roll that comes with the beef sandwich a Kimmelweck roll. If they replace the caraway and salt with something else it is not a Kimmelweck roll. The word basically means carraway. They do redeem themselves by calling the chicken bites with hot sauce zingers and not boneless wings.

  3. marcellina says:

    I really need to take my husband here sometime.. since he’s not such a HUGE Disney fan I need to find the little things within the Disney realm that will make him happy and I’m pretty sure a trip here would do that! Even though I’m not a big sports fan, I’d love to see a taping of the Mike and Mike show here too! Thanks for the great review AJ, I’ve always wondered what it was like inside this restaurant!

  4. marcellina says:

    btw, how do you get to sit in those lounge chairs in front of the big screen tv?? That would actually be pretty fun!

  5. Beth says:

    Wow, AJ! Thanks so much for your “homage” to Pittsburgh! Us “Yinzers” really love it when our drinking town with a sports problem gets it’s Props!

    Primanti Bros. is a staple here, as is the Dirty O. Twice-fried in peanut oil fries, with a “small” size being enough for 2-3 people, who can beat the “O” fries?

    In our house, my husband is the sports widow. I can’t wait to head over to the ESPN Club in November to catch a Stillers game, some wings and a good IPA while he dozes by the pool! Thanks for the great review!

  6. Andrew C says:

    Ate here twice in 2008-had the Reuben sandwich and the chicken dinger sandwich. I thought the Reuben was mediocre while the chicken dinger sandwich was very good. The roast beef sandwich looks great, though I’d think I’d ask for my fries on the side.
    Oh, and sorry your Espy drink wasn’t award winning!

  7. Galloping Gourmand says:

    I have had two friends go here, although I have not. One of my friends told me that he mentioned what he was there to see and they turned a TV near them to the game. Good service.

  8. Mike Venere says:

    You may call it plastic cheese, but the loaded nachos are a bar food paradise that are delicious!!!!
    HIGHLY recommend….great to help soak up the beers you can put down.

  9. ESPN is sort of a family tradition. I feel like many dismiss it and I’m telling you, I spend a lot of time in NYC and I cannot get a boneless wing close to those dingers at the ESPN. I dream about them. So so so good. It’s nice to get in there without a reservation too and sort of sit around and chat while catching a game (or not). As frequent BoardWalk guests, we used to stop in here before our flight back and my husband I try to uphold the same tradition now that we travel there by ourselves. :) Definitely shouldn’t be missed & their beer selection is also pretty impressive. Okay, now I’m sufficiently hungry. Great review!

  10. Jayne says:

    We had a lot of fun here when we went in 1998. Nice to know it’s still going strong!

  11. Gary K says:

    We would always make sure to stop at ESPN Club on every visit for the bucket of wings, which do not exist any more.The Dinger are awesome & I am glad to see they have improved the beer selection & the menu has several new items which I can’t wait to try. We are going to Disney next week & will try out the new sandwichs along with a few cold ones.

  12. Janet says:

    We just “found” ESPN last trip and ended up there twice. Both times we ordered the nachos and were thrilled with them. However, we found the dingers to be really vinegary – in fact the waitress took them off our bill once she realized we really ere only gonna eat two of them! I agree it is very family friendly.

  13. Tammi says:

    I haven’t eaten at the ESPN Club in Florida, but my husband and I ate at the ESPN Zone in the Downtown Disney district at Disneyland in Anaheim and the food was ok; it reminded me of Applebee’s or Chili’s and the like. Certainly nothing memorable but the menu had a good variety that even the pickiest of eaters should find something to munch on.

    We’ll have to try the ESPN Club on our next Florida visit, which will be right in the middle of football season so my husband will love those TV monitors in the bathrooms. I want to visit just so I can try that delicious looking Deconstructed Key Lime Pie. YUM!!

  14. JoAnn says:

    I had lunch at the ESPN club in November. It was a Sunday and my friends weren’t getting in until around 4:00 so I headed over there to catch the Steelers game (or Stillers as Beth says). The game was at 1:00, and I arrived around 11:30. I checked in and told the hostest I didn’t care if I sat in the bar or the dining room as long as I got to see the Steelers game. A couple of minutes later she asked if I wanted to sit in one of the recliners. Ahh, ya. The Steelers were playing on the big screen. I had one of the two best seats in the house.

    I started with the ESPN Dingers (teriyake) followed by the reuben sandwich (both were really good). I had ice cream for dessert (nothing to write home about).

  15. Sarah says:

    Do they take reservations or is it walk in only?

  16. Neil says:

    I like this bar – and love the pulled pork sandwiches. My wife and I usually go to the bar inside the Boardwalk Hotel for a civilised glass of wine (or three) and then make our way to ESPN. Classy and divey in one evening. Our kids are old enough now that on our October trip this year they want to come with us.

    One very slight criticism though. I’d love it if they put all the TVs on to one sport or one game to really get the atmosphere going. OK, it would limit choice but I think that would be great. Maybe they do do that for big games???

  17. Ashley says:

    My boyfriend is a sports nut, and I am too (we did attend the University of Florida after all- GO Gators!), so my consolation for getting him to Disney on gameday is by heading to ESPN Club. We’ve never waited in line and just head straight for the bar; seems like we always end up getting a seat in a few minutes. We’ve had the nachos… they are HUGE! We’ve watched many a Gator game here, both basketball and football; however, whenever we cheer on our football team while watching here, they seem to lose. Don’t know if we’ll take the chance again… sports superstitions are fierce, aren’t they? A fun spot to go, then head on to the Rose and Crown in Epcot for a pint, win or lose.

  18. DTZ says:

    Good call on the Hopsecutioner…love their jumbo “Red”wings they serve there. I’ll have to go back and try that sandwich though.

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