Today we’re headed to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort to check out the newly renovated Gasparilla Island Grill!
Gasparilla Grill and Games
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ornate touches remain, however, and these chandeliers are a nice new (almost steampunky) touch. Check out the Hidden Mickeys!
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!
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.
The soft blues and greens of the dining room offer a calm, cool respite from the busy resort.
Stacks of high chairs stand at the ready for busy parents and hungry kiddos.
Step outside, and you’ll find the door leading to the new Arcadia Games, located in the space formerly occupied by the Kids’ Club.
One of the best amenities remains, however — the beautiful outdoor seating, which overlooks the marina and Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom!
Prefer shade? Several of the tables include umbrellas.
Let’s head back inside to see what’s new with the menu.
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.
Three hot sandwiches and additional kids’ choices round out the warm options.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You’ll also find snacks here as well, including 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.
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!
There’s always an assortment of fresh fruit available.
And this has got to be one of the prettiest displays of cereal and snacks anywhere.
Don’t forget to pick up your Mickey 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.
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.
You can also grab a smoothie here as well. When we were there, the choices were Mango and Creamsicle!
Gasparilla continues to offer self-serve, soft-serve ice cream.
Now we’re down to two flavors and a twist option.
You can still top your ice cream with sprinkles.
An assortment of ice cream novelties are available day and night.
Guests with special dietary needs can also enjoy an assortment of treats and snacks.
Refillable mugs, as well as additional snacks, are located near the cashier stands.
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.
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.)
Creamer is available from this handy dispenser.
And of course, there’s hot cocoa too.
Tea, both hot and iced, are available as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Angus Bacon Cheeseburger was substantial and fresh on the plate, and those chips looked amazing.
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!
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!)
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.
This is gorgeous! Light chocolate cake is crowned with a helping of German chocolate filling and chocolate buttercream.
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.
Our other selection was the Pina Colada Cupcake.
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.
I love the cake-to-stuff ratio here! And the pineapple in the filling — almost a mousse — is delish!
Both of these were way better than the s’mores cupcake, though I liked the pina colada cupcake the best!
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!