Review: Dinner at the Flying Fish Cafe on Disney’s BoardWalk

Welcome back to the Flying Fish Cafe!

While all the dining talk on Disney’s BoardWalk has centered around the opening of the brand new Trattoria al Forno as of late, I wanted to bring you back to the Flying Fish, which is not only my favorite restaurant on BoardWalk, but also one of my very favorites in all of Disney World. Period.

During the interim between the closing of Kouzzina and the opening of Trattoria al Forno, the Flying Fish served a stint as a breakfast location, previewing some of the dishes that are now on the breakfast menu at Trattoria al Forno.

But this signature restaurant is now back to its regular dinner-only schedule, and if you haven’t enjoyed dinner at Flying Fish before, I’ve gotta say it: it’s practically a must-do.

Flying Fish

Flying Fish

Come see what I mean…

Atmosphere

The decor of the Flying Fish pays tribute to two things: first, the atmosphere honors its place on Disney’s BoardWalk through some insanely fun murals depicting things like turn-of-the-century roller coasters, those old school parachute swing rides, and other carnival-style attractions.

Boardwalk murals

Boardwalk murals

Boardwalk murals

Boardwalk murals

The theme is continued as you move further into the restaurant with a gorgeous backlit ferris wheel, and the most enviable seating space of all right underneath the circus tent.

Backlit Ferris Wheel

Backlit Ferris Wheel

Circus Tent seating

Circus Tent seating

The second design element plays on the star of the culinary scene here: seafood. And nowhere is that theme more evident than in the parachuting fish “flying” above as you dine!

Flying Fish!

Flying Fish!

Notice the bait hooks mixed in with some of the underwater themed lighting fixtures.

Lighting fixtures

Lighting fixtures

With everything going on, you may not notice the open kitchen (unless you’re seated at the Chef’s Counter directly in front of the show), but try to take a moment to observe, since what happens in this kitchen is some of the best of Disney culinary feats in action.

Bar seating in front of the kitchen

Chef’s Counter in front of the kitchen

Of course, if you’re just looking for a quick dinner, the bar area is very comfortable, too.

Bar seating in front of the kitchen

Bar area

I have no idea if “upscale-whimsy” is an interior design term, but if it is, that pretty much sums up the Flying Fish. It manages to be both sophisticated and super fun at the same time.

Eats

The name of this restaurant gives guests an idea that there is a focus on seafood at the Flying Fish, but don’t let that scare you or anyone in your party off who isn’t a seafood fan. Remember, I said this was one of my favorite restaurants, and seafood isn’t exactly my ultimate choice in cuisine. There’s plenty of meat and pasta to go around, too.

But I’m getting ahead of myself… let’s start with the complimentary bread served with butter, which was hard to hold back on thanks to the unique touches of herbs and cheese tucked inside the nooks of the rustic bread.

Bread

Bread

My friends and I enjoyed some the bread while scoping out the Appetizer Menu.

Appetizer menu

Appetizer menu

My group opted to go light on the appetizers this time, but one of my friends ordered the Crispy Crab Cake and Caesar Salad. That Romaine Heart you see? It’s good – it is. Surprisingly flavorful for something as basic as a Caesar salad, and the gigantic cheese crouton is a fun twist.

Crispy Crab Cake and Caesar Salad

Crispy Crab Cake and Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

But, really, this one’s all about that delicious Crab Cake — a classic at Flying Fish.

Crab Cake

Crab Cake

Look at the inside: hardly any fillers to be seen — enough just to bind the crab meat within the crispy, well-seasoned breading.

Crispy Crab Cake

Crispy Crab Cake

As for me, while it’s not exactly an appetizer, per se ;), I tried the Strawberry Smash: vodka with a splash of Sprite and muddled strawberries. Gorgeous, no?

Strawberry Smash

Strawberry Smash

Allow me to emphasize the “splash” of Sprite. This was strawberry vodka pretty much all the way. I was surprised (though not unpleasantly!) by the strength of this drink.

My friends and I were so tempted by the side items that we decided to treat them as appetizers in their own right — one of my favorite tricks. We ordered a selection to share around the table prior to our entrees, starting with the Leek, Fontina, and Truffle-laced Trofie “Mac & Cheese.” Because I’m not gonna pass up mac and cheese on any menu pretty much anywhere EVER. (Methinks we need to update our Mac and Cheese at WDW article, don’t you?)

Leek Fontina and Truffle-laced Trofie Mac and Cheese

Leek Fontina and Truffle-laced Trofie Mac and Cheese

The texture was terrific, and the truffle oil was pronounced.  All truths told, though, I think it could’ve used a bit more punch with some additional salt. I’ve enjoyed this more in past visits.

The Aged Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano Potato Gratin hit a little more of the spot, with plenty of cheesy goodness and the well-crisped topping.

Potato Gratin

Potato Gratin

And, oh, how I love risotto — you know this, right? I pretty much always order the risotto on any menu…and if I can’t order a whole version, I ask for a little taste. ;-D The Creamy Risotto di Carnaroli didn’t disappoint. It’s creamy and savory, with chopped vegetables to break up the richness and lend variety to the texture. I thought the color was terrific, too.

Creamy Risotto di Carnarolli

Creamy Risotto di Carnarolli

Now, on to the entrees (you’ll see the full selection of sides in this pic, as well)…

Entree and Sides Menu

Entree and Sides Menu

I simply cannot resist the Char-crusted Angus New York Strip Steak at Flying Fish, but this time I thought I’d do you all proud by ordering it as part of the signature entree duo: Char-crusted Angus New York Strip Steak and Potato-wrapped Red Snapper. Again, seafood isn’t my first choice, but this fish is beautifully done. The red snapper was wonderfully prepared and super fresh inside; and that light, crisp potato topper is a stunner. Plus, I love the accompanying sauce.

And don’t worry about the smaller steak being overcooked; it’s just as ideal as the big steak.

Flying Fish Signature Duo

Flying Fish Signature Duo

See? I can change it up ;).

One of my friends got the full entrée version of the steak, so I’ll share those pics, too, because you’ve just gotta see it. I know it looks unusual and you may even question the taste with all that char surrounding the beautiful medium rare meat. But it’s divine — every time. Rather than tasting even remotely burnt, the char lends a terrific bit of crunch and smoky flavor to the tender beef.

Char-crusted Angus New York Strip Steak

Char-crusted Angus New York Strip Steak

Inside the strip steak

Inside the strip steak

Served atop of pearl pasta and a mix of diced vegetables (though accompaniments do tend to change fairly often), self-proclaimed meat lovers have to put this on their dining Bucket List.

My other friend tried the Pasta a la Bolognese, featuring a five-meat ragout. Happy to say, this was another surprise winner. Against all the steak and seafood, this wasn’t anticipated to be a standout.

Pasta Bolognese

Pasta Bolognese

But my friend said the ragout was incredible with its unexpected smoky flavor. She called it a “special occasion dish,” because it was so decadent.

But there is more decadence to come… it’s dessert time! First up: Classic Tahitian Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee Breton French Butter Biscuits with Blackberry and Strawberry “accentuations” (ooh! Fancy!!).

Classic Tahitian Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée

Classic Tahitian Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

All that to say, it’s your standard Creme Brûlée… creamy and vanilla-y, it definitely does the trick.

The deliciousness of the Spiced Bing Cherry and Chocolate Bread Pudding, on the other hand, was unexpected. The chocolate bread pudding was as rich and flavorful as we’d hoped. And the name “Sinful Chocolate Sorbet” was quite fitting :) .

Spiced Bing Cherry and Chocolate Bread Pudding

Spiced Bing Cherry and Chocolate Bread Pudding

But honestly, what really stood out to me were the pleasantly tart spiced bing cherries on the side. Seriously, I could eat these for days. An incredible way to wrap up an excellent meal.

Overall

Okay, so it’s been pretty well established, I think, that I love the Flying Fish Cafe ;) . I’ve simply never been disappointed with a meal here, and I’ve found it to be a wonderful place to meet with friends over the years to enjoy the unique atmosphere and terrific food (though thanks to the sheer amount of whimsy in the decor, I think kids would do fine here, too). Yes, as a signature restaurant, the offerings do change frequently. But I’ve been happy to enjoy a favorite several times with that signature steak, and it’s a great place to try new things as well, simply because I have a lot of confidence that the experience will be good.

If you’re putting together your Disney Dining Resolutions for 2015, I’d highly recommend including a stop at the Flying Fish Cafe on your list! I certainly will.

Have you dined at the Flying Fish Cafe? Please let us know about your experience with a comment!

Comments

  1. Fred says

    Flying Fish Cafe is one of my two favorite restaurants (with Jiko), not only at WDW, but in the world (as far as I know it, which is obviously not a comprehensive worldview)! It provides a fireworks of flavours, bursting in the mouth. One great feature of this place are the wine flights, which allow to taste and compare several 3 wines.

    During my last visit, in Dec. 2014, I was told by my (wonderful) server that an extensive, 6-month refurb of the Flying Fish is scheduled for late 2015/early 2016. A new wall exhibiting wine bottles (as we see at the California Grill) would be part of it. But I suspect that a so long refurb may also involve some structural changes to the building (perhaps an in-door entrance for hotel guests, or a direct access to the restroom). It would be great whether DFB could find more info on this.

  2. Avaitor says

    That steak! That salmon! That everything!

    That price tag, though. Sigh, this will make for a great date night when I can put enough aside.

    Dinner at Flying Fish followed by a nice nighttime stroll through the Boardwalk, only to return to the room the next day and enjoy the pool in the morning for a little before a trip to Epcot. Wow, I need to plan accordingly ASAP!

  3. John says

    We have stayed at the Boardwalk every year for over 10 years but have never eaten at the Flying Fish Cafe. My whole family love fish, but don’t eat fish. We have always enjoyed peering in and seeing the fish decorations, and especially the flashing sign at night. Now this year will be different – we will go inside and mingle with the fish while enjoying the steak and desserts!

  4. Frank says

    Flying Fish is imho the best restaurant on property.
    It’s pricy, but Disney’s a resort, and you really get a nice portion for your dollar.
    The staff there is second to none.
    Menu changes, but there are constants too for those that go to a particular place for a particular dish.
    My only problem is that I get so involved with the dining that there are times I forget to just stop and look at the “scenery.” It IS a cool place.
    Frank

  5. says

    I think Flying Fish has now reached the very top of my “must try” list. I love seafood and that crab cake looks so good. We’ve already booked our meals for this year, but hopefully next year’s trip!

  6. Liana Kopchak says

    I am in agreement with Frank. Flying Fish has the quality of the California Grill at the contemporary, but without any kind of rushed vibe. Ask to speak to someone about the wine selection – you won’t be sorry!

  7. Mike V says

    Looks wonderful.
    Dined here 7-8 years ago and just haven’t made it back since.
    With the downward spiral Coral Reef has continued on, maybe better to stop giving CR chance after chance and return here!!
    As someone that usually visits on the dining plan, is this worth 2 dining credits?
    IDK…Thoughts?

  8. CraigInPA says

    Went there for the first time 2 years ago.

    It was LOUD. So loud that a conversation could not take place across a round table for 6 people.

    The jonah crab cakes, advertised as “no filler”, are made up of shreds of claw meat. No lumps of yummy crab. Just these little wispy pieces held together with a binder. While this might be considered a good crab cake by people who haven’t had fresh jumbo lump crab cakes, it’s a sorry excuse for a crab cake for those of us who have. Disney should send its chef to Baltimore to see what a real “no filler” crab cake is made of. Hint: it’s not shredded claw meat held together with a “binder” of mayonnaise, breaded, and then fried. Disney’s serving the equivalent of a crab hush puppy.

    I made this mistake of ordering the scallops entree. These were 4 of the most expensive scallops I’ve ever purchased. They were nicely cooked, but I would have expected a much larger portion.

    At the end of the meal, four of the six people at my party immediately went to Beaches and Cream to get ice cream, as we were still rather hungry even after having an appetizer (each), entree, and dessert.

  9. Jennie says

    We were here with kids (3, 7, 10 at the time) a few years ago and it was fine. We were lucky enough to get seating by at the kitchen counter so they were entertained by that while we waited, but even if we hadn’t been seated at the counter I remember that there was enough space that they likely could have watched quietly out of the way for a bit if they were restless waiting for food to arrive. They loved the decor too, were super-interested in finding the fish-theme aspects, and if we had been at a window they would have had the Boardwalk hubbub to look at.

  10. Pardonmyfrench says

    AJ – I have a bone to pick with you on your review. The flying fish should not just be one of your favorites it should be your favorite restaurant. Lol It’s my favorite restaurant in the world. Anywhere…. I get the app combo. I get the steak or the steak fish combo. I do love the blood orange drink. It’s awesome. I love the flying fish. it love it love it

  11. Mandi says

    I fel in love with FF a few years ago and have returned every trip since! I am not a huge seafood person (scallops/lobster occasionally) and 99% of meals that I eat in a resturant are red meat. The steak here is absolutel yincredible. I, too, wondered how a charcrusted cut could still be my preferred med-rare inside and I can tell you that this one somehow (magically?) is! The flavor is amazing and the portion is huge. This past trip I actually split the steak and scallops with my boyfriend and it was perfect. I am sad to see a rumored refurb for early 2016 as I was planning on having my 30th birthday dinner here in january!

  12. SarahS says

    We have the Flying Fish booked for my celebration meal after the Princess Half Marathon in February! You didn’t even mention the goat cheese and beet salad that is ridiculously awesome.

  13. Tom says

    Thanks for the article on the Flying Fish I have dined on the boardwalk many times but, I have never tried the Flying Fish café I will try it the next time I’m on the boardwalk. Tom.Orlando.

  14. Frank says

    Just returned from an extended visit to WDW. Ate at Flying Fish three times. Each time was perfect. We just love this restaurant. Their new neighbor could learn lots from their service and food.
    We had their Heirloom Beets, Fresh Goat Cheese, Spiced Pecans, Citrus Supremes, Pecan Vinaigrette, the Crispy Togarashi-scented Calamari and Florida Rock Shrimp, the Artisanal Cheese plate, the Flying Fish Cafés Idaho Potato-wrapped Red Snapper, the Flying Fish Café Signature Crab Cake, the Mozzarella di Bufala alla Caprese, and my favorite, the Grilled Berkshire Pork Tenderloin Buttery Tiny Asparagus, Truffle-laced Trofie Macaroni & Cheese, Truffled Red Wine Sauce.
    Service was great, Cast is so friendly… food is marvelous. We can’t say enough good things about Flying Fish.

  15. Tricia says

    Does anyone know if you can walk in and order a single item “to-go” if you are not having a full meal here? There’s a dessert that sounds a-maze-ing! and I want to try it but already have all my dinner plans made.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *