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Review: The NEW Gasparilla Island Grill at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Today we’re headed to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort to check out the newly renovated Gasparilla Island Grill!

This counter service spot, tucked in a corner off of the first floor lobby, offers counter service fare.

Open 24 hours a day, it’s a great amenity for guests who arrive early or late in the day for their Disney visit. It’s also a good option for revelers who are enjoying late or early Extra Magic Hours!

The big news regarding Gasparilla, however, is the recently completed refurbishment that has changed the spot up a bit.

Gasparilla Sign

Let’s head in to see what has changed about this counter service oasis amid the finery of one of Disney’s most expensive resorts.

Atmosphere

The Grand Floridian is undergoing lots of construction and refurbishment lately. In addition to the new Disney Vacation Club villas being built and the Beach Pool Bar undergoing updates, Gasparilla was closed from late summer 2012 until early this year, as the space (and the name!) was given an overhaul.

From the outside, however, it still looks very much the same as before. You enter the restaurant through doors from an outside terrace.

Terrace Leading to Gasparilla Island Grill

One complaint guests had about the previous incarnation of this spot was the “Grill and Games” combo. An assortment of arcade games shared space with the seating area. Though convenient for parents, it could get a little loud at times.

The arcade has now been relocated to an adjacent space where the Grand Floridian’s kids’ club used to be. With the arcade gone, the restaurant has been rechristened “Gasparilla Island Grill.” As with many spots around the Grand Floridian, this one takes its name from a Florida locale, Gasparilla Island, a gulf barrier island located on the state’s southwest coast.

Gasparilla Island Grill Entrance

Guests familiar with the old layout of Gasparilla will immediately notice the change to the restaurant’s look. The green and burgundy palette has been replaced with a simpler, more modern green and blue combination.

The seating has been greatly expanded as well, although the actual ordering area remains very similar.

View of the Restaurant Through the Seating Area

Ornate touches remain, however, and these chandeliers are a nice new (almost steampunky) touch. Check out the Hidden Mickeys!

Lighting

Comfortable seating now fills the space that used to house the arcade games. The neutral tile replaces the mixed tile and carpet flooring from before and unites the space.

The chairs are a big improvement over the old wrought iron ones, we think!

Seating

And I really, really love the addition of more booths throughout! There are some full booths like this one, while other seating mixes booth seating and banquettes with chairs.

Booth Seating

The soft blues and greens of the dining room offer a calm, cool respite from the busy resort.

Other Seating Areas

Stacks of high chairs stand at the ready for busy parents and hungry kiddos. :-)

High Chairs

Step outside, and you’ll find the door leading to the new Arcadia Games, located in the space formerly occupied by the Kids’ Club.

The Arcade is Now Where the Kids' Club Used to Be

One of the best amenities remains, however — the beautiful outdoor seating, which overlooks the marina and Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom!

Outdoor Seating by the Marina

Prefer shade? Several of the tables include umbrellas.

Outdoor Seating with an Umbrella

Let’s head back inside to see what’s new with the menu.

Eats

We visited Gasparilla Island Grill for lunch. While the spot is open 24 hours a day, the full menu isn’t available all the time. Breakfast is served 6:30-11:00 a.m. while lunch is available from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Guests can order from the dinner menu between 5-11:30 p.m. The limited late night menu runs from 11:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m.

This represents a major change from prior to the refurbishment, when the same menu items were available for both lunch and dinner. Some fan favorites, like the lobster macaroni and cheese, didn’t make the cut. Much of the previous all-day menu made the move to the dinner hour.

The lunch menu is rather limited, since most guests are in the parks at that time. Still, there are some interesting options, which makes Gasparilla a good choice if you’d like to escape Magic Kingdom for a quiet lunch option.

LCD screens provide details and pictures of the menu items. You’ll find a few standard flatbreads here.

Flatbread Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Three hot sandwiches and additional kids’ choices round out the warm options.

Lunch Menu -- Click to Enlarge

There is also a Create Your Own Salad Station to the right of the main grill station. At night, this area changes over to house a Create Your Own Pasta offering.

You’ll also find some cold sandwich options listed here that can be found in refrigerated grab-and-go area.

Create Your Own Salad Station Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Displays of Kids’ Picks and adult sides show you what you can expect when your meal comes. I always appreciate a good visual aide! Adult options for sides here include house made chips and cucumber salad. You can also get fries.

Kids' Picks Side Options

Side Options -- House Made Chips or Cucumber Salad

Here’s a good shot of the Create Your Own Salad Station. To the left of the station, you can see the table numbers. After placing your order, you’ll take a number so that your prepared food can find you.

Create Your Own Salad Station. This Switches to Pasta for Dinner!

Once you place your order and take your number, it’s time to have a look around at the grab and go offerings.

The bakery case is well-stocked with both breakfast pastries and all-day desserts, like cookies and brownies, and is self-serve. You’ll find cupcakes in the refrigerated grab-and-go area.

Bakery Case

Bottled beverages include water, sports drinks, and juices. There’s also an assortment of alcoholic beverages, including full bottles of chilled wine.

You can even get a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate an impromptu special occasion! Kids’ Picks beverages are located in the same bank of coolers.

Grab and Go Beverages

Kids' Picks Drinks

You’ll also find snacks here as well, including sushi.

Grab and Go Sushi

Veggies, fruit, and yogurt provide healthy options. But if it’s an indulgence you’re after there is also an assortment of seasonal cupcakes.

Snacks and Other Grab and Go Items

I’ve tried the S’mores Cupcake here and was underwhelmed. It doesn’t hold a candle to the incredible Wilderness Lodge S’mores Cupcake! But we tried a couple of the other cupcakes on this visit — stay tuned!

Cupcakes!

There’s always an assortment of fresh fruit available.

Fresh Fruit

And this has got to be one of the prettiest displays of cereal and snacks anywhere.

Beautifully Arranged Snacks and Cereals

Don’t forget to pick up your Mickey Krispie treats!

Mickey Rice Krispie Treats

While white wine is chilled with the other bottled beverages, you’ll find red wines at room temperature in this rack to the left.

Red Wines by the Bottle

We’ll see the standard beverage offering in a minute, but like other Disney World counter service locations, you’ll find a selection of specialty beverages here. These are available for an additional charge, and are not part of the refillable mug offerings.

A specialty coffee machine dispenses espresso-based drinks.

Specialty Coffee Machine

Specialty Coffee Selection

You can also grab a smoothie here as well. When we were there, the choices were Mango and Creamsicle!

Smoothies

Gasparilla continues to offer self-serve, soft-serve ice cream.

Soft Serve Ice Cream Machine

Now we’re down to two flavors and a twist option.

Soft Serve Ice Cream Flavors

You can still top your ice cream with sprinkles.

Sprinkles for Soft Serve Ice Cream

An assortment of ice cream novelties are available day and night.

Ice Cream Novelties

Guests with special dietary needs can also enjoy an assortment of treats and snacks.

Special Diet Snacks

Refillable mugs, as well as additional snacks, are located near the cashier stands.

Mugs and More Grab and Go Options

Once you’ve gathered all your goods and paid, it’s time to head to the beverage station!!

Standard Coca Cola options are available, as always.

Refillable Mug Station

And we hear from coffee lovers that many of them make a special trip over to the Grand to get a really good cup in their refillable mugs! Check out this coffee grinder!! (No word if this setup will continue when Joffrey’s takes over.)

Coffee Grinder

Coffee Machines

Creamer is available from this handy dispenser.

Coffee Creamer Dispenser

And of course, there’s hot cocoa too.

Hot Cocoa

Tea, both hot and iced, are available as well.

Hot Tea Selection

Ice Tea and Lemons

A mug wash sink and beverage carriers make it a little easier to clean your cups and be on your way with the whole family’s selections.

Mug Wash Sink

The standard toaster and microwave make it easy to heat up leftovers or food that you’ve brought with you, or to toast bagel or bread.

Toaster and Microwave

An assortment of condiments help you to customize your drinks and food items. These include parmesan cheese for your flatbreads as well as peanut butter, jelly, honey, barbecue sauce, and more.

Condiments

Additional Condiments

Soon, our food was ready, and we headed to a comfortable spot in the newly expanded dining room to try our selections.

We started with a Margherita Flatbread. It was served hot and fresh, with a good amount of tomato and basil.

We were pretty much blown away by this, honestly!! It was delicious! The sauce was flavorful and plentiful, and the cheese was perfect. The crust had a great crisp crunch to it. I’d definitely order this again.

Margherita Flatbread

Next up was the Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich, served on a ciabatta roll. We opted for a side of fries in place of the chips or cucumber salad.

chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich and French Fries

Featuring a juicy (not dry at all) chicken breast covered with ham and gruyere cheese and garnished with lettuce, this was quite good! Again, I was very impressed. This was absolutely of table-service restaurant quality.

Cordon Blue Sandwich -- Inside

The Angus Bacon Cheeseburger was substantial and fresh on the plate, and those chips looked amazing.

Angus Bacon Cheeseburger and House Made Chips

The last time I had the cheeseburger here, it was a little dry, but that wasn’t the case this time. Again, we were impressed by this counter service lunch!

Burger -- Up Close

The burger comes piled high with veggies, and everything looked really beautiful. You won’t be able to request a temperature on the burger, but it’s a good solid choice, and will satisfy a burger craving. (Wish there were onion rings to go with it!)

Burger -- Inside

With lunch out of the way, it was time to try a couple of the cupcakes that I’d never had from Gasparilla. To begin, we sampled the German Chocolate Cupcake.

German Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients

This is gorgeous! Light chocolate cake is crowned with a helping of German chocolate filling and chocolate buttercream.

German Chocolate Cupcake

Cut into it, and you see that the cupcake hides a generous helping of the filling inside, too. While there’s nothing terribly original here, the execution is good. It’s a delicious, portable version of a classic. I do wish the cake had been a bit more rich and moist, though.

German Chocolate Cupcake -- Inside

Our other selection was the Pina Colada Cupcake.

Pina Colada Cupcake Ingredients

Guys, this was pretty incredible! The vanilla cupcake houses a center of coconut pineapple filling, which is surrounded by vanilla buttercream and topped with coconut shavings.

Pina Colada Cupcake -- Up Close

I love the cake-to-stuff ratio here! And the pineapple in the filling — almost a mousse — is delish!

Pina Colada Cupcake -- Inside

Both of these were way better than the s’mores cupcake, though I liked the pina colada cupcake the best!

Overall

Gasparilla Island Grill gets high marks for its makeover. Sure, there’s nothing that’s going to make you “ooh” or “ahh” about the decor here, but it’s comfortable and relaxing. There’s plenty of room to spread out, I really love the upscale feel that they’ve brought to the space. The old decor had a certain dated look beyond the retro feel, and it was time for an update.

As far as the food goes, well, that’s solid, too. I actually think it’s gotten better with the new menu, and it now ranks among my top favorite counter service hotel spots. Combine that with the beautiful setting, and you have a good place to stop in for a quiet, enjoyable lunch — and a great escape from the Magic Kingdom.

What do you think of Gasparilla Island Grill’s makeover? Leave a comment and let us know!

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18 Comments

  1. Sandy says:

    WOW those cupcakes look great! Talk about eye candy ;)

  2. Nicola says:

    Im so glad this place has had a make-over. The last version was terrible. We spent 2 weeks onsite in 2011 and on the DDP. We ate at a lot of places, but this was by far the worse meal of the holiday – so any change would have been welcome.

  3. Katie says:

    I was seriously NOT impressed with the cupcakes here. Since the cupcakes are prepackaged and in the refrigerator, the texture of these cupcakes were dry. None of the flavors are unique, nor do they ever change. They had the same cupcake flavors a year ago. Definitely do not get the cherry berry cupcake because it was not good at all!!

  4. Brooke says:

    Great review! I’ve always been curious about Gasparilla. This is one of my favorite resorts to visit, so I’ll definitely be popping over for lunch here. We’ve tried Contempo and Captain Cook’s, so I think it’s time to cross this one off the list. The interior is really beautiful – but then I would think that, since blue and green are pretty much my favorite colors. :-)

  5. Erin says:

    My mom and I ate here in May, and had actually never been to it previously so had no idea it had a refurb. We loved it! We sat in a booth and it was super comfy and roomy with lots of nice light coming in. We had an early lunch so there were only a few other families in there. The flatbreads were delicious and for dessert I had a HUGE apple crumb cake which was a tiny bit dry but mostly delicious. We love the GF so it was a nice break from MK to take the boat over and walk around the grounds a bit and have a nice quiet lunch. Definitely will be back!

  6. Alan says:

    It seems the reviews are running hot and cold but I think the headline to take out of this post is that Disney continues to ramp up the food and beverage services. I’ve been a frequent visitor to WDW for over 30 years and am convinced that that the rate of change, improvement and variety is coming at an unprecedented level. And as a fan of modern machines I love all those beverage dispensers.

  7. AJ says:

    Sandy — I was really impressed compared to the s’mores version I tried last year! :-)

    Nicola — Hope you enjoy it more on your next visit!

    Katie — Thanks for sharing your review of the cupcakes!

    Brooke — Head on over and try it out, my friend!

    Erin — I’m SO glad you enjoyed it!! Thanks for sharing your review! I’ll have to try the crumb cake next time.

    Alan — I was very impressed with the changes here; and the fancy beverages are always welcome!

  8. Eric says:

    Thanks AJ!

    Nicole and I will have to check this place out on our next trip. We hope to stay in the new GF DVC units.

  9. kris says:

    So sad, they took away the lobster mac and cheese….

  10. Wild Wes Willie says:

    AJ, question.
    Is Gasparilla Grill wheelchair accessable?
    None of the reviews liste give any indication as to wether they have steps (some photos do show steps like G’Grill does) or not. When I was younger I did not use a wheelchair or ECV, now I do. And If I go to WDW again, it would help to “know before I go”. This will help othere “guest” also. \If you talk to Cast Members, they are not knowageable about it. If you are not one, it does not exsits. (Wrong)
    Wild Wes Willie

  11. Catherine says:

    Yummy !! I would totally order that yummy flatbread and the Pina Colada cupcake !! there is NOTHING as delicious in my book as a mix of pineapple and coconut – that cupcake had my name all over it !!

  12. tinkymurph says:

    We had dinner here a few years back. It was pretty good. Is the Florida Orange cupcake still available here ( or anywhere)? It was my favorite part of the meal.

  13. Erin M. says:

    I had a wonderful meal at Gasparilla Grill back in May. The chicken cordon bleu sandwich was phenomenal. As you said, the chicken was really moist. And the bread was fantastic! I also tried the German chocolate cupcake, and oh man, it was just so good. It was also a really pleasant respite from the Magic Kingdom. I’m looking forward to going back here next trip, it’s now one of my favorite counter service places on property.

  14. Essie says:

    I’d definitely try this place out. The food looks wonderful for QS and I agree that this would be a welcome break from the park (and a nice ride on the Monorail, too)! The German Choc. cupcake looks yummy and no wonder; read the ingredients and it’s all good stuff with no artificial junk. I love the hidden Mickies on the light, but what I really like is the hidden Minnie on the top of the light! Thanks for a great review.

  15. DisneyMommy says:

    It all looks very nice! I can’t wait to try the remodeled location. In trying to plan food options for my kids, I had a couple questions…

    Do you know if the grilled chicken on the create-your-own-salad is served warm or cold?

    Also, can the chefs make a cheese flatbread (leaving off the pepperoni), or are they all pre-made?

    Thanks for such a wonderful review!

  16. Tina C says:

    Are you able to watch Wishes from that outdoor seating? Do they pipe in the music or anything?

  17. Corey says:

    A few comments…

    Yes, gasparilla is wheelchair accessible. But I don’t remember if it is from the entrance. You might have to take the walkway closest to the main building, not the sidewalk away from the building in the open air.

    Yes you can watch wishes, a fair number of people watch it from here and from the boat dock. I don’t think they pipe music, but I think you can still here it some.

    The flatbread that I saw were not premade, so you should be able to get a plain cheese one.

    We used to stay at GF every year before we joined DVC and have had many visits to GG. The remodel is so much nicer/better than the previous setup with the arcade sharing the space. I couldn’t believe how much seating there was. I had a Cuban and thought it was really good. I’ll be glad to eat here when we stay at GF again (we bought some VGF points).

  18. sue v. says:

    we love the GF so have stayed there often and recall Gasparillas before the remodel also. Last yr during our stay we were pleasantly surprised to see the updates/upgrades and the food was very good! I have a food allergy (gluten and yes I have celiac I did not CHOOSE this diet lol!) and they were extremely accommodating and had gf bread, pizza and snacks. they would make me whatever kind of sandwich I wanted or just substituted the gf bread in one of their sandwiches on the menu. This year we arent staying at the GF during our family vacation, as we let the kids (now older teenagers) pick. They do like GF dont get me wrong lol! Next time we WILL be staying at the GF I will be sure of that lol!

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